Updating the Jacksonville Jaguars' Key Position Battles Early in Training Camp
It’s been a big week in Jacksonville. The Jaguars and EverBank Field revealed their new, gigantic scoreboards and the team also signed a new 10-year extension with EverBank for the naming rights of their stadium.
Above all that, the Jaguars started training camp, which marks the beginning of a very exciting rebuild that has the fanbase buzzing.
Last week, I highlighted the biggest training camp battles surrounding the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite having completed only four practices, it seems that each picture is starting to become a little big clearer.
Let’s check out the latest updates on each team battle.
Backup Running Back
I originally predicted that Denard Robinson would emerge as the primary backup to Toby Gerhart. After a few practices, Robinson has already begun to make waves and appears to be ready to put his big-play potential on showcase.
Jacksonville Jaguars senior writer John Oehser credited Robinson with the most impressive play of the day on Sunday, saying “Robinson ran a 15-to-20 yards route down the right sideline, then made a twisting, falling reception over his back shoulder for the first down.”
There’s never been any doubting Robinson’s ability to make plays. However, his rookie season was plagued with ball security issues and unreliable hands. It appears that Robinson has worked hard this offseason and improved some of the weaknesses of his game.
If he can continue to improve, Robinson could become a big playmaker on this offense. Expect to see him as a primary running back who occasionally plays some receiver in the slot.
Tough news came out of camp this weekend when Cecil Shorts went down with a hamstring injury that will sideline him for at least two weeks, writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com.
One of the biggest battles in camp is for the second and third receiver spots. With Shorts down, the young receivers are going to get a bigger chance to prove they belong.
Among the young receivers, Allen Robinson is really starting to make an impression. Robinson has made a bevy of nice catches and seems to be competing at a high level. John Oehser had this to say about the young receiver: “Rookie wide receiver Allen Robinson continued to impress, continued to improve his route running and getting open on several plays early in an 11-on-11 drill.”
The other wide receivers having good starts to camp include Mike Brown and Marqise Lee. Lee is still adjusting to the NFL but caught a touchdown during seven-on-seven drills from quarterback Chad Henne.
The outside linebacker position seems far less clear than some of the others. The Jaguars feature some young, athletic players who have great potential and some established veterans—all of whom are battling for two starting spots alongside Paul Posluszny.
The guys I thought would eventually win the battle, Dekoda Watson and Telvin Smith, haven’t been able to make an impact yet.
Watson is battling an injury that will keep him sidelined until late August, if not longer. Meanwhile, Smith is still quite small at 218 pounds and still has to prove he can consistently take on NFL offensive linemen and make plays.
It seems that the veterans are benefiting most from the young guys having slow starts. Geno Hayes seems like a lock to start early on because he has a strong track record with the team.
The team is definitely looking to upgrade the position, but I feel like they’ll take time to develop their young talent before rushing them. A guy to keep an eye on when pads come on will be LaRoy Reynolds, a player who has a ton of athleticism and can thrive under Gus Bradley.
The battle at right guard is the most straightforward competition at camp. Brandon Linder and Jacques McClendon are battling for the starting spot.
So far, McClendon has the upper hand and has been starting with the first-team offense. McClendon has the advantage due to his familiarity with the offense and experience starting on this offensive line.
The Jaguars moved up in the third round to select Linder, who has better technique than McClendon. Linder has been working with the second team, and I believe he’ll begin to assert himself as a starter once pads come on.
Stay tuned. This battle is far from over.
Josh Evans is the incumbent starter at free safety despite having a rough rookie season. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Evans ranked 80th among safeties in coverage grade (-7.9 overall) and 78th in overall grade (-11.0).
Needless to say, the position is up for grabs.
Despite being the starter, Evans is off to a rough start considering that he’s been out of camp after surgery for a foot injury.
In the meantime, Winston Guy has been starting at the position. Guy is a balanced, versatile safety who could prove to be a playmaker on the defense. While the safety position has been relatively quiet thus far in camp, when pads come on it could be a different story.
Guy is the major threat to Evans this season. Guy was a dynamic safety in college who showed an ability to consistently improve, especially in coverage. Given reps with the first team, I believe that Guy will separate himself.
There’s a lot to see here, and this week will be crucial for Guy. If he can make some plays this competition could be over early.
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