Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 Training Camp Preview
Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 Training Camp Preview
A new era has arrived for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the best fans can hope for is that it not to be slow and grueling. There will however be plenty of change, which can only be good thanks to last year's roster.
New Jags head coach Gus Bradley left his post as Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator and brings his renowned "LEO" edge-rushing role with him. This position and several others will be wide open to competition in training camp, probably with less certainty about starting roles here than anywhere else in the league. Of course, the most-high profile position battle comes at the most critical spot in the game, as often happens with struggling squads.
“I can tell you this: they’re all going to be facing the same situations,” Bradley said on the quarterback battle royale this week, via the team website. “They’re all going to get chances in the red zone. They’ll get their chances in the two-minute situations. They’ll get their chances in seven-on-seven. I don’t know how close it will be to equal, but I know they all will be given chances to compete.
This type of camp-centric meritocracy mirrors how things were done back in Seattle, yet is greatly magnified by how deep into the rebuilding stage this team truly has dived. This makes Jacksonville's training camp and preseason among the most intriguing in the NFL.
Jacksonville's quarterback battle holds the most attention and perceived importance heading in training camp, remaining absolutley wide open after minicamp. Blaine Gabbert has not come anywhere close to justifying the Jags' trade up to No. 10 back in 2011, and will get another chance here under Bradley. Chad Henne sparked the offense here and there last season, but was rather poor for the most part. Jacksonville also add rookie Matt Scott and ex-Eagle backup Mike Kafka to the fold.
Maurice Jones-Drew basically carried this Jags offense for years until his lengthy holdout last offseason and subsequent injuries left them without a leg to stand on. They'll need him back to elite form for this offense to do much in 2013, and if he struggles we could see Jacksonville lean on him a little less. Justin Forsett, De'Leon Eskridge and Lonnie Pryor are among those vying for the extra snaps while rookie Denard Robinson will be all over the place, filed under the "athlete" designation.
Justin Blackmon began flashing hope of justifying his top-10 selection at points last season, especially in topping 200 yards receiving against Houston. Unfortunately, a four-game suspension to start the regular season will set him and the Jags back a bit. Cecil Shorts really came on as a pleasant surprise in 2012 and likely ends up leading the team in targets. Mohamed Massaquoi and Jordan Shipley will battle for Blackmon's role through Week 4. Rookie speedster Ace Sanders also has a shot at getting some snaps. Shipley's experience in Cincy also suggests he could tackle a slot role. Marcedes Lewis hasn't really shined since David Garrard is in town, but is by far the best they got at tight end, barring a huge revelation with undrafted rookies Ryan Otten or Kyler Reed.
The starting five is solid at center and the edges in LT Eugene Monroe, 2012 second-overall pick RT Luke Joeckel and C Brad Meester. This squad was brutal at guard last year and incumbents Will Rackley and Uche Nwaneri will probably claim the starting spots.
Jason Babin is the frontrunner for Bradley's LEO spot given he excelled in a somewhat comparable wide-9 edge role with Philly back in 2011; Second-year man Andre Branch could also snag some snaps away with a strong camp. Tyson Alualu and ex-Patriot Brandon Deaderick can each vacillate between interior and exterior while Kyle Love is another defensive tackle who showed some good things back in New England. Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller should also figure into the rotation.
Starting Paul Posluszny attempts to bounce back from a down year and will find out who surrounds him in camp. Jacksonville cut Daryl Smith loose in the offseason now surveys what they have in Geno Hayes, Russell Allen, Julian Stanford, Maalik Bomar and LaRoy Reynolds. Hayes played under currents Jags defensive coordinator Bob Babich back in Chicago.
After spending the last couple years getting shredded by opposing pass games (when they weren't already down multiple touchdowns), Jacksonville drastically overhauled the secondary in drafting Jonathan Cyprien, Dwayne Gratz, Josh Evans, Jeremy Harris and Demetrius McCray. Veteran slot corner Marcus Trufant comes over with Bradley from Seattle but has plenty of competition. Gratz, Alan Ball and Mike Harris all havea decent shot to start at cornerback but this thing is wide open. Cyprien should start at strong safety opposite Dawan Landry. With rave reviews for Cyprien coming out of Jags minicamp this offseason, the safety unit could actually be sneaky decent in 2013, especially if free safety Evans turns out to be a steal.
The Jags have struggled to spark much from the return game in a while, but that could all chance with rookies Robinson and Ace Sanders in the fold, presumably for kicks and punts respectively. Punter Bryan Anger and kicker Josh Scobee reclaim their roles to form one of the league's better tandems in that regard.