Jacksonville Jaguars Preseason 2011: Top Position Battles in Training Camp
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Now that the NFL Lockout is officially over, the Jaguars can get back to work. The free agency frenzy is about to begin, and while that's true there are going to be some position battles that will take place regardless of new additions.
Look for a lot of scrutiny by coaches this year, particularly at quarterback, left guard, slot receiver, defensive end, strong safety, fullback and nickel back.
Many of these position battles will include the rookies drafted in April and some will include young players on the rise. Let's take a look at some of the more intriguing competitions that will play out in training camp and preseason.
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Quarterback: David Garrard or Blaine Gabbert
The Jaguars May Benefit From Veteran Presence at Quarterback After the NFL Lockout
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This will be the most talked about competition in Jacksonville this year. David Garrard, the veteran incumbent vs. Blaine Gabbert, the highly touted first round pick. Garrard has basically said multiple times this offseason, may the best man win.
Likewise, Blaine Gabbert has said he wants to come in and compete and learn all he can from veterans and coaches.
They both have the right attitude going into this thing.
Gabbert is not expected to win the starting job before the regular season, but certainly will benefit by having a veteran like Garrard to push him to excel.
Left Guard: Vince Manuwai or Will Rackley
Can Manuwai Show That He's Still a Mauler In The Trenches?
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Vince Manuwai was a dominant run blocker last year, even after coming back from a 2008 ACL injury. He helped the Jacksonville Jaguars to the third best rushing offense in the NFL. Still, the offensive line is spotty in pass protection and could use some youth to revitalize the interior.
Will Rackley is expected to compete for early playing time at left guard. He has good size, foot movement and hand positioning in pass blocking situations. He is a versatile player that can line up at any of the offensive line positions.
Even though will Rackley is expected to compete for time at left guard this year, it is possible that he could become the Jaguars future center, post retirement of Brad Meester.
If Rackley turns out to be a good selection by the Jaguars, it will mean the rebuilding of the offensive line is nearly complete.
Slot Receiver: Jarett Dillard or Cecil Shorts III
Dillard Broke His Leg In The Game From This Picture, Is He Over His Injury Woes?
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The Jaguars selected Jarett Dillard in 2009 with big plans. Unfortunately, he has spent much of his time injured. He has shown flashes of productivity, particularly on third down. In 2009 he broke his leg and last year he broke his foot.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping those injuries are behind him and that his third year is a breakout season.
Cecil Shorts III will try to crack the number three wide receiver position early on, however. If he does, he will be the second Mount Union receiver to suit up in the AFC South along with Pierre Garcon of the Indianapolis Colts.
Defensive End: Jeremy Mincey or Austen Lane
Austen Lane Has The Look Of A Solid Edge Rusher, Can He Make A Jump In His Sophomore Season?
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Jeremy Mincey had a productive year in 2010 starting in place for the injured Aaron Kampman. He recorded five sacks with eight starts. It is hoped that his time in the starting position will enable him to improve even more in 2011.
Mincey has only played in three NFL seasons. He is still very young and very much on the rise.
Another player with upside is Austen Lane. He created pressure opposite of Jeremy Mincey as a pass rusher following Kampman's ACL injury. Lane was also productive as a run stuffer, and although he did not record any sacks in 2010, he is expected to develop into a big time contributor for the Jaguars defense.
Strong Safety: Courtney Greene or Chris Prosinski
With Veteran Presence At Free Safety, Greene May Develop Into A Top Flight Strong Safety
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Courtney Greene played much better than advertised last season. He recorded one interception, one forced fumble (pictured) and 78 tackles in 2010. He will certainly benefit from the Jaguars acquiring a veteran starting at the safety position opposite to him.
Courtney Greene has been staying in shape this offseason by doing a lot of track work, such as sprints and change of direction drills. This information comes via Rod Issac through a talk I had with him early last month.
Chris Prosinski, the rookie safety out of Wyoming is expected to compete with Courtney Greene for a starting safety position. He was recruited by schools like Harvard, Princeton, Boise St. and Georgia Tech. He's intelligent and skilled.
Two viable options at strong safety will be a good option to have considering the secondary's issues the last three seasons.
Fullback: Greg Jones, Brock Bolen or Montell Owens
After A Stellar Season On Special Teams, Can Owens Finally Unseat Greg Jones?
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Greg Jones is possibly the best fullback in the game. That being said, he carries a high price tag and could be let go if another player steps up this season. At the same time, the Jaguars have the cap room to keep him if they choose.
Jones is a dominant blocker even with two ACL injuries during his college and pro careers.
Brock Bolen nearly beat out Greg Jones last season. He ended up being a player on the bubble that was kept. It was a great story and he played well during the season. It will be interesting to see if he can unseat Jones this year.
Montell Owens and Kassim Osgood are the best special teamers in the NFL in terms of tackling and blocking. Owens is also a competent blocker as a fullback. He will have a chance to compete for a starting role this season as well.
Nickel Back: William Middleton or Rod Issac
Middleton Will Face Immediate Competition Via Rod Issac In Camp
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William Middleton is the incumbent nickel back, but Rod Issac was drafted specifically for that role. The two will battle for what looks to be one of the key training camp competitions in the coming weeks. The player who does not fill the starting nickel job will likely be a major contributor on dime packages and as a substitute.
Issac has hard hitting tackling ability, which is vital when covering players in the slot position that are likely to be making plays in the middle of the field.
If Issac beats out Middleton for the starting nickel back position in training camp, it will show that Gene Smith once again picked another solid small school player. Hopefully, such action will translate to in game success during the 2011 season.