AFC South: Brandon Linder

Examining the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, which means all three will have to be on the active roster, because Stanzi is ineligible for the practice squad. Stanzi should start the season as the No. 2 because he’s more ready to play than Bortles, but that will likely flip-flop at some point. Stephen Morris is a practice squad candidate.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

If the Jags elect to keep only four backs, Todman and Johnson likely would battle for the final spot. That is assuming Robinson continues to be very good in camp. He might end up getting more playing time than any of the other backs after Gerhart if he shows he can be a reliable pass-catcher. Johnson has to prove he can pass block and doesn’t have problems with ball security.

RECEVIERS (6)

The first four players should be locks, but it will be an interesting competition for the final two spots among Brown, Taylor, free-agent signee Tandon Doss, undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, and former practice-squad player Chad Bumphis. Doss missed most of the organized team activities and minicamp because of a calf injury, allowing Taylor, Bumphis and Hurns to get valuable reps. Doss was not a consistent receiver in his three seasons in Baltimore and has more value as a returner, but Sanders’ strength is as a punt returner and the Jags have other options at kickoff returner. I have Taylor narrowly beating out Hurns because of his experience, but I can easily see that being flipped if the Jags want to add more size. Hurns is 6-foot-3; Taylor is 6-0.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jensen flashed during OTAs and gets the edge over three other players. He’s a big kid (6-6, 270) who is a raw version of Lewis, one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. Jensen will need a year or two to develop and likely will be used as an extra blocker more than a pass-catcher.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Some of the battles for starting jobs along the line are going to be intriguing during camp. Joeckel and Beadles are safe, but every other spot is up for grabs. Even Pasztor, who started 12 games last season, is uncertain because we don’t know how his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up during camp. If it’s fine, then he will win the starting job at right tackle. McClendon and Linder are battling for the right guard spot, and Brewster is going to have to hold off Bowanko and two others to be the starter at center. Bradfield has value because he can play both tackle spots.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

This should be the biggest upgraded position on the roster thanks to the additions of Clemons, Bryant and Hood. Despite public perception, Alualu isn’t on the bubble for two reasons: He played solidly last season, and there really isn’t anyone else on the roster as talented as he is to back up Bryant. The Jags are excited about Smith, who could end up playing more than Davis as the No. 3 LEO (hybrid end/linebacker) by the time the season is over.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Either John Lotulelei or J.T. Thomas, two key special teams players last season, could stick if the Jaguars decide to keep an extra linebacker instead of five cornerbacks, or if Hayes’ surgically repaired knee doesn’t respond well. Reynolds did a solid job subbing for Watson (groin) during OTAs and minicamp at the new OTTO position (replaces strongside linebacker).

CORNERBACKS (5)

The Jags will have to decide whether to keep fourth-year player Mike Harris or Jeremy Harris, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury. The 6-2, 185-pound Jeremy Harris is a better fit for what coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks than the 5-10, 188-pound Mike Harris, who was a member of former GM Gene Smith’s final draft class. Blackmon has been working inside as well, which also makes Mike Harris expendable. Fourth-round draft pick Aaron Colvin will begin the season on the PUP list and doesn't count against the roster limit.

SAFETIES (4)
Chris Prosinski has seemingly been a bubble player since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011, but there is too much competition for him to survive this time. Martin started 36 games for Carolina in his first five seasons, and that experience gives him the edge. Evans seems to be the name everyone mentions when talking about the first Caldwell draft pick to get cut, but though he might lose his starting job to Guy, he’s likely to stick around at least another year.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

 NFL Nation's Michael DiRocco examines the three biggest issues facing the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into training camp.

Offensive line: Only one of the five spots is settled heading into camp: Zane Beadles, whom the team signed in March, is the starting left guard. Almost every other spot is up for grabs. I use "almost" because Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, will start at left tackle, and the team drafted him to be the line's cornerstone. He spent the first four games last season at right tackle and played a quarter at left tackle before a season-ending injury. While the Jags believe he's going to be an elite player, he still has to prove it. Mike Brewster is the leader at center, but he has never snapped in his three-year career. Right guard will be a battle between Jacques McClendon and rookie Brandon Linder. Austin Pasztor started 12 games at right tackle last season but will be pushed by Cameron Bradfield, who started the final 11 games at left tackle after Joeckel's injury. Regardless of who wins the position battles, the line has to be better than it was last season. The Jaguars averaged a franchise-worst 78.8 yards per game rushing last season, and a big reason was the play of the interior of the offensive line.

Wide receivers: The Jaguars know what they have in fourth-year player Cecil Shorts (123 career catches). They believe they know what they've got in second-year player Ace Sanders, provided he continues to develop following his 51-catch rookie season. But who are Nos. 3-6? It would seem second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson would naturally be the next two, but both missed most organized team activities and all of minicamp with injuries. They're supposed to be fully cleared for camp, but they missed valuable time working with receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, a technician of the finer points of routes, footwork and hand position. Rookie receivers are a crap shoot in the NFL, and there's no guarantee if both are healthy that they'll be able to contribute as much as Sanders did. Kerry Taylor and Mike Brown combined to catch 54 passes last season. Taylor is a bit bigger (6-foot, 200 pounds) than Brown (5-10, 200 pounds), but both can play in the slot or outside. Taylor might have a slight advantage because he was healthy throughout the offseason, while Brown was one of seven receivers who missed significant time because of an injury. A group of undrafted players, led by former Miami standout Allen Hurns, also will compete for the final two spots on the roster. It's important that this group stays healthy, too, because the injuries really affected the offense during minicamp. It was hard for any of the quarterbacks to move the ball consistently.

Pass rush: The Jaguars have had one of the worst pass rushes over the past five season and finished last in the NFL in sacks in 2013 and 2012. Buffalo led the NFL with 57 sacks last season. The Jaguars have 51 in the past two seasons combined, including 20 in 2012. The team took steps to remedy that by signing defensive end Chris Clemons (58 career sacks) and linebacker Dekoda Watson, a young player whom the Jaguars plan on using in their new otto position and rushing the passer on third downs. However, he sat out OTAs and minicamp with a groin injury and former undrafted rookie LaRoy Reynolds got the reps there. Third-year defensive end Andre Branch came on late last season (five of his six sacks in the last seven games) and had a great offseason, and the coaching staff is counting on him rotating with Clemons. The Jaguars felt good enough about Branch and young players Ryan Davis and Gerald Rivers that they released Jason Babin (62.5 career sacks) on the last day of the minicamp. However, Davis and Rivers have played in a combined eight games and have a combined eight tackles and one sack, so that's making a leap of faith that they'll be able to produce in a reserve role.
Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
 

Jaguars offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

.With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Jacksonville Jaguars' offseason moves:

Best move: It has been forgotten after the moves in free agency and excitement over the draft, but general manager David Caldwell trading Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick was a shrewd move. Caldwell managed to get something for a player who obviously wasn't in the team's plans and was going to be cut before camp anyway. He used that pick to draft Virginia center Luke Bowanko, a player who will compete with Mike Brewster for the starting job. Caldwell essentially got a potential starter -- and at least a player who can contribute at guard as well -- for nothing.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerFormer Vikings RB Toby Gerhart is largely unproven as a feature back at the NFL level.
Riskiest move: The natural assumption would be taking quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, but the Jaguars at least have some insurance in the form of Chad Henne if the Bortles move doesn't work out. There is no such luxury at running back if the free-agent signing of Toby Gerhart doesn't work out. While he did produce in the limited work he got behind Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Gerhart hasn't been a feature back since his days at Stanford. The Jaguars' only somewhat proven option behind him is Jordan Todman, a third-year back with 79 career carries.

Most surprising move: The Jaguars didn't land him, but it was a bit of a surprise to see how aggressively they pursued Cleveland center Alex Mack despite the fact that the Browns put the transition tag on him. The Jaguars put together an offer they felt Cleveland wouldn't match -- $42 million over five years ($26 million guaranteed) with a player option in the third year and a no-tag clause -- but the Browns quickly did. Still, the attempt served as a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren't going to be an afterthought any longer.

Overlooked move: Drafting guard Brandon Linder in the third round didn't move the excitement needle, but he may end up being one of the Jaguars' biggest rookie contributors. The interior of the offensive line was a weakness in 2013, and the Jaguars started to fix that in free agency by signing Zane Beadles to start at left guard. Linder was picked to be the starter at right guard. The proof of how much they are counting on him was the release of guard Will Rackley, the team's third-round pick in 2011, three days after Linder was drafted. Linder played both guard spots and center at Miami, and that versatility is an added bonus.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pick: Brandon Linder, G, Miami

My take: The Jaguars traded their fourth-round pick (105th overall) and a sixth-round pick (179th overall) to the New England Patriots to move back into the third round to select Linder with the 93rd overall selection. The 6-foot-6, 311-pound Linder played under Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, so he’s familiar with Fisch’s offense and the zone-blocking scheme the Jaguars use. Though he played both right guard and right tackle at Miami -- sometimes in the same game -- he will compete for the starting spot at right guard. Linder is durable, having started 49 games, including 37 in a row, in his career at Miami. He should solidify the right guard spot that last season was manned by Will Rackley, who battled knee issues and struggled.

OL is OK: Offensive line apparently wasn’t the high priority many outside the organization thought it was. GM David Caldwell said the team is happy with Mike Brewster at center and is content with the depth, especially after the addition of left guard Zane Beadles in free agency. "We aren’t too overly concerned about it," Caldwell said. "You guys may think we’re crazy, but we have guys that we feel like can step in and be competitive."

What’s next: The Jaguars have five picks remaining: one in the fourth (114th overall), two in the fifth (144th and 159th overall), one in the sixth (205th overall) and one in the seventh (222nd overall).
David FalesJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsThe Senior Bowl gives players a taste of what February's NFL combine will be like.
MOBILE, Ala. -- One of the first things the players did at the Senior Bowl this week was get their official height and weight recorded.

It happened on a stage in an exhibit hall at the Mobile Convention Center in front of hundreds of scouts, NFL personnel people and executives, and members of the media in chairs and bleacher seating. The players stood behind a curtain until their name was called and then walked onstage, wearing nothing but their underwear.

The rest of the week was only slightly less weird.

There were interviews with scouts, team executives, the media, agents and their representatives, vendors and PR reps. Former NFL players wandered around. People with "business opportunities" tried to latch onto players.

It's a hectic, tumultuous experience for the players participating in the Senior Bowl, but it's also great training for what they're going to experience at the NFL combine in Indianapolis next month. This week has given them a taste of what to expect.

"This is a good precursor for the combine," Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said. "They get the interviews. They get their first interaction with coaches and scouts and really kind of digging into their background or family life and everything that they do. It'll school 'em up for the combine a little bit."

As each player's height and weight is announced, heads dip in unison as the hundreds in attendance diligently record the numbers on handouts that already include each player's hand width, arm length, and wingspan. That's not so bad considering what they'll experience at the combine, when they can be examined by the doctor of each of the NFL's 32 teams.

"We got into the big auditorium in the back and it's dead quiet and it's just the players back there, so we're like, 'Ah, there's no one. There's a couple people out there,'" offensive lineman Brandon Linder said. "And I guess someone got a picture on their phone of what was out there and they started showing around. It was an amphitheater of people. But it wasn't a big deal.

"It was pretty cool, walking across all serious, you get your height and weight and you walk off trying not to trip."

At least that doesn't require much thought. The interviews, however, are another matter. Some are planned, but others are pretty much spontaneous. After team meetings, practices and meals, players have to walk through the lobby and second-floor Senior Bowl headquarters of the team hotel, where at any moment a scout, agent, vendor, PR rep or member of the media can appear and ask for a few moments.

The meetings with the scouts and team officials are obviously the most important and most are pretty straightforward.

"It was very chaotic at the hotel and it still is," offensive lineman Jon Halapio said in the middle of the week. "I was used to interviews and stuff at Florida, but it was always about the games and stuff, but this was the first time I've had an interview asking about who I am as a person, about my personal life and stuff like that. It made me feel like, wow, this is an actual interview for a job."

And, as in any job interview, some of the questions are a bit unusual.

The Cleveland Browns, for example, dropped this one on some of the players they interviewed: Name as many uses as you can for a brick in one minute.

"I named a couple things," offensive lineman Cyril Richardson said. "I named paperweight, counter-balance, and stuff like that.

"Somebody warned me about it. I was like, 'Really?'"

Unusual for sure, but certainly less shocking than being asked if your mother is a prostitute as Dez Bryant was in an interview with the Miami Dolphins.

Players can expect the interviews at the combine to be even more intrusive. Each will meet with a representative from every team but the top players will often meet with the general manager and head coach as well. By then teams will have done more research on the players' pasts and will probe for answers about character issues, off-the-field issues, and any other potential red flags.

"I know it's a little bit more intense at the combine -- a lot more intense -- but this kind of gives you a taste and a feel for what you're going to get," San Jose State quarterback David Fales said.

One of the more infamous parts of the combine is the Wonderlic test, which is a timed 50-question test given to each player to assess their aptitude for learning and problem-solving ability. The players aren't given that test in Mobile, but they do take some similar exams.

One of the questions on this year's test was to determine to which of five people a fish belongs. Players were given clues.

"Those [tests] are a little off-the-wall," said receiver Jeff Janis, who admitted he didn't get the correct answer to the fish question. "I'm not sure what they're for, but I just filled them out and did my best."

While this week is a good trial run for the combine, it's particularly beneficial for small-school players who have not been exposed to this kind of environment. Players from LSU, Oklahoma, USC and Wisconsin have dealt with intense media coverage and have had numerous NFL scouts on their campus and at practice.

That's not the case for a guy like Janis, who played at Division II Saginaw Valley State, or cornerback Pierre Desir, who played at Lindenwood University in Missouri, another Division II school.

"It's been a crazy experience, something I'm going to remember forever," said Janis, who received his combine invitation a month ago. "I've just kind of been soaking everything up. This isn't something that happens very often where I'm from. I'm just trying to learn from everybody and take in as much as I can.

"It's different, but I realize that it's part of the game. I just kind of sit back and just enjoy it and have fun with it."

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