Jacksonville Jaguars: Five Young Players Needing to Step Up this Season

David NelsonCorrespondent IIIJuly 23, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 21: Wide receiver Mike Walker #81 of the Jacksonville Jaguars before a game against the Indianapolis Colts on September 21, 2008 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I know, the NFL is a team sport.  Meaning that in order to win, you need to play as a team. However, there are always guys that when they step up, they make the difference in; a game, a season, a chance at the playoffs.

The Jaguars come into this season with a team full of young, inexperienced talent that could make or break their season.

Although it is rather naive to believe that every single rookie or inexperienced player will step up, at least a few need to step up to a higher level in order for this team to succeed.

Instead of listing the obvious players that need to step up (Garrard, Jones-Drew, Holt), the following is a list of the young members of the team that need to have a solid year in order to give this team a chance to get into the playoffs.

5. Terrance Knighton—Knighton comes into his rookie year from Temple.  Obviously not a large school, the question is whether or not Knighton will be able to deal with the talented offensive lines in the NFL.  If Knighton can fill the void currently left alongside John Henderson, then this team’s defensive line should be able to compete on a weekly basis.

4. Rashad Jennings—Another rookie, but a very important one.  Drafted in the seventh round, nobody outside the Jaguars organization believes Jennings could be a big contributor this season.  Jennings’ size and ability make him a great compliment to Maurice Jones-Drew, and could mean a pretty solid running attack.

3. Derek Cox—What? Another rookie?  Well, lets face it, this team is full of young rookies that may see major playing time this season.  Cox, another small school player, is currently being highly regarded as a great steal in the third round.  If Cox can start opposite Rashean Mathis, and possibly move Brian Williams to strong safety, then we may see a much improved defensive backfield.

2. Mike Thomas—The fourth rookie in a row, but the most important of them all.  Thomas comes in looking to grab the third spot on the depth chart at wide receiver.  With rumors circulating that Troy Williamson may be cut, Thomas will be the favorite to step in and play slot receiver.  At 5′8″, Thomas looks to be a poor man’s version of Wes Welker or Steve Smith, and hopefully he can start to play like one of them.  The Jaguars have lacked a strong receiving corps in recent years, and although this one is very young, it may possess the most talent.

1. Mike Walker—Finally a player that has played at least one year in the NFL.  Walker is looking to start the year opposite Torry Holt in a very young group of wide receivers.  Walker showed, very briefly last year, that he does possess some great skill, but is yet to show he can remain healthy and consistent throughout a season.  Drafted in the third round out of UCF a few years ago, the team still rates him very highly and are hoping for a breakout year.

Although those are the top five young players needing to step up, that does not mean that there aren’t other ones who need to as well.  Some of the other young players on this squad that need to fill in big roles include; Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, Justin Durant, Eugene Monroe, and Sean Considine.


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