AFC South: Chris Smith

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.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- His name was still atop his locker and there were a few items still in it -- some shirts, a towel, toiletries -- but that was the extent of Jason Babin's presence with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday afternoon.

The team cut the defensive end early in the morning, a move coach Gus Bradley said was done now because of the development of some of the younger pass-rushers, but also as a sign of respect for the 34-year-old Babin to give him a chance to land with another team before training camps begin next month.

Babin
Marks
"We had to ask some tough questions about eventually the 53 guys that are going to be up on Sundays," Bradley said. "We feel that he still has some good games in him and some really good play in him. We were just juggling to try to find a way to get it done within our system. We feel like it was best to give him the opportunity to get out there and hook on with another team.

"I don’t know if there ever is a right time or how to do it. We try to do the best we can, but when we’re dealing with a man like Jason Babin that is tough on both sides."

Babin led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2013 and had nine sacks, 57 tackles and five forced fumbles in 21 games with the Jaguars. His teammates will miss him for more than that, though.

"Just the leadership he brings, the knowledge he brings," said defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who had the locker next to Babin. "Knowing everybody and how we were with Babs, Babs left a lot behind just by the things he used to teach and the way that he carried himself. I’ll talk to Babs probably for the rest of my life just because of the type of guy he is.

"He was the same way every single day. I don’t want to sit here and talk like he passed or he died or something, but Babs -- he was just a great guy. He always was willing to teach and he’s always willing to help."

Second-year defensive end Ryan Davis is one of the younger players -- along with rookie Chris Smith and second-year player Gerald Rivers -- who will benefit from Babin’s release. He was still surprised by the move, though.

"It was shocking," Davis said. "Jason was a key piece of this team, definitely helped this team in leadership. We were such a young team and he helped in my development. ... Whenever I needed to know something I’d go ask Babin and Babin would direct me or tell me what the best move was or pre-snap keys and stuff like that. [He taught me] how to prepare for a game. Babin was very instrumental in stuff like that. Not only that, he’s a great guy."

Babin might have come to Jacksonville in 2012 with a bit of a reputation as a surly guy, but that was not the case with the Jaguars. In fact, Bradley called Babin a "tremendous" leader and said he was a big help to him during the team’s rough start to the 2013 season.

"He ended up being one of our strongest leaders," Bradley said. "We went through some tough times and I leaned on him. He did a great job.

"... He’s a big part of what we’re building here and always will be."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jason Babin's release is a mild surprise only in that the 34-year-old defensive end didn’t even make it to training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was going to be a bubble player after the addition of several pass-rushers via free agency and the draft.

Babin
That he was released Thursday morning is an indication the Jaguars are not only pleased with how veteran Chris Clemons, whom they signed as a free agent, has performed in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, they are excited about several other young pass-rushers.

Coach Gus Bradley has consistently praised third-year player Andre Branch, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2012, throughout OTAs. His burst off the ball and quickness around the edge is noticeable, and he has consistently been in the backfield during 11-on-11 drills. Though the players are only wearing helmets and prohibited from full contact, Branch appears to be ready to become the kind of consistent player he was during the second half of the 2013 season, when he recorded five of his six sacks in the final seven games.

"You see Andre Branch really focused and really capturing every opportunity," Bradley said.

Fifth-round pick Chris Smith doesn’t fit the Jaguars’ typical measurables for what they want in a LEO -- a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is rushing the passer -- but they liked what they saw from him during Senior Bowl week so they took a chance. The 6-foot-1, 266-pound Smith is a little shorter than ideal, but he has long arms and runs well.

"He had a couple good rushes [Wednesday] and I think he’s a guy that the more comfortable he gets and the more reps he gets we’ll see what he’s doing," Bradley said. "He’s got the traits we’re looking for. Now we just need to see it in training camp."

Second-year player Ryan Davis played in seven games last season and had one sack and made one huge play: an interception that sealed the Jaguars’ victory in Houston. He is another player who doesn’t have the typical LEO size (he’s 6-2, 260) but he’s an effort guy and the Jaguars are intrigued by his development.

Gerald Rivers is another second-year player that has worked at LEO. He has the prototypical LEO size (6-5, 258).

The key traits Branch, Smith, Davis and Rivers all share are youth and potential. At 34, Babin wasn’t going to get any better. It’s likely, even with reduced snaps because of the addition of the 32-year-old Clemons (58 career sacks), that he was going to be less effective. But there is room for improvement for the four younger (and cheaper) players, and that is better for the health of the roster beyond the 2014 season.
MOBILE, Ala. -- Here are 10 observations/thoughts from Monday's Senior Bowl practices and interviews:

1. Though there was only one period at the end of South team practice in which the entire offense faced off against the entire defense, Monday was a good day to evaluate the quarterbacks. It was mainly from a mental standpoint, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. The offense was put in Sunday night and Monday was the first chance to see how well the quarterbacks transferred it from the meeting room to the field. Fisch said he was pleased with the way Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), Derek Carr (Fresno State) and David Fales (San Jose State) handled that. There were mistakes and issues, but all the quarterbacks did a solid job.

2. There isn't a lot of size among the quarterbacks for either team, with the exception of Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), who measured in at an impressive 6-5 5/8 and 250 pounds. Fales (6-1) and Carr (6-2) were both listed at 6-3 on the pre-measurement roster.

[+] EnlargeDee Ford
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillDee Ford, who had 2 sacks in the national title game against Florida State and 10.5 sacks for the season, impressed on Monday at Senior Bowl practices.
3. Maybe it's my SEC background (I covered Florida and the league for 13 seasons), but defensive ends Dee Ford (Auburn) and Chris Smith (Arkansas) were noticeably quicker than the other defensive linemen. It really showed during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Offensive tackles Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt), Ja'Wuan James (Tennessee), Morgan Moses (Virginia) and Billy Turner (North Dakota State) really struggled with those two players on the edge. Turner had a particularly hard time, which is partly to be expected because of the step up in competition. However, it was a bit surprising to see Johnson, James and Moses have issues. The layoff is partly to blame.

4. Ford had 10.5 sacks, including two in the national title game against Florida State, and was consistently beating the tackles around the edge. It'll be interesting to see how he handles coverage responsibilities. He's not really big enough to play a down end (6-2 1/4, 243 pounds) so he'd likely fit in the Jaguars' scheme as a leo.

5. Jon Halapio (Florida) had a rough start in one-on-one run-blocking drills -- defensive tackle Will Sutton (Arizona State) threw him aside pretty easily -- but he rebounded to have a solid performance in the pass-rushing drills. He handled Sutton and tackle Deandre Coleman (California) in pass-rush drills.

6. From the Don't Read Too Much Into This Department: Jaguars GM David Caldwell wandered over to watch some of the one-on-one run-blocking drills and stood next to end Ed Stinson for a while. The two appeared to be chatting while Stinson was sitting out some drills. Stinson weighed in at 292 pounds so he'd be a better fit for the spot that Tyson Alualu plays. The Jaguars were satisfied with the way Alualu played the run last season but they'd like more pass-rush production out that spot.

7. Here's a name to keep an eye on as the draft rolls into the later rounds: defensive tackle Caraun Reid (Princeton). He had a really strong day in run-blocking and pass-rushing drills. He moves very well for his size (6-2 1/8, 301 pounds) and showed good strength and quickness. He tossed guard Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) aside and got underneath center Bryan Stork (Florida State) and drove him back.

8. Another small-school player that caught my eye was running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina), mainly because he's the biggest running back participating this week (6-0, 231 pounds). He had a couple nice runs during the short 11-on-11 period. He ran for 1,742 yards and 27 touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season. He has lost only 20 yards in 356 career carries.

9. Receiver Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) made a nice catch with a DB all over him during 11-on-11. Matthews (6-2, 209 pounds) is a physical player who caught 201 passes the past two seasons. He has good hands, knows how to use his body, and will make the tough catch. He doesn't have top-end speed, but he'll be one of the first several receivers drafted.

10. I wasn't that impressed with fullback Jay Prosch (Auburn), who struggled whenever he had to block an end or on the edge. Granted, there were only a few live periods but he seemed to be much better whenever he had to take on an inside linebacker.

Jaguars Senior Bowl primer

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
1:15
PM ET
MOBILE, Ala. -- Nearly the entire Jaguars football staff is on hand for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The Jaguars will coach the South team and the Atlanta Falcons will coach the North team, but each will switch rosters for a day on Thursday so they can interact with all the players.

Here’s a primer of what to expect:

Help wanted: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he expected his staff to remain intact, but linebackers coach Mark Duffner left the team on Sunday night to take the same position with the Miami Dolphins. Duffner just finished his eighth season with the team. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich, who spent seven seasons as a linebackers coach with the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, will work with the linebackers this week. In addition to being a college all-star game, the Senior Bowl is also part coaches convention. Unemployed assistants are here trying to land jobs and head coaches are also here trying to fill staffs.

Keep your eye on: The Jaguars certainly have a lot of needs to fill, beginning with quarterback and pass rusher. So naturally all the quarterbacks -- particularly Derek Carr, Tajh Boyd and David Fales -- are players to watch during the practices and games. Though he is unable to play because of a torn ACL he suffered in late November against Kentucky, Aaron Murray is here to participate in meetings and interviews. It’s a smart decision and one that GMs will like.

As for those pass rushers, Jeremiah Attaochu (who played linebacker at Georgia Tech), Michael Sams, Kareem Martin, Chris Smith, and James Gayle are defensive ends to watch. At outside linebacker, Trent Murphy and Christian Jones are worth watching.

Unfortunately, two of the country’s top pass rushers won’t be here. Buffalo’s Khalil Mack has opted not to participate and UCLA’s Anthony Barr will miss the week because of an undisclosed injury. Both are considered top-10 draft picks.

Some other players to watch: WR Jordan Matthews, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE Jacob Pederson, G Cyril Richardson and C Weston Richburg.

What you’ll get: Each day I’ll provide Jaguars news and notes as well as observations from practice. I’ll concentrate on players at positions that correspond to the Jaguars’ top needs (QB, DE, OLB, interior OL, RB, WR) but there will be other players as well. I’ll have several blog posts a day and you also can follow me on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

ETC.: Among the other players who either opted out or cannot participate because of injury are RBs Carlos Hyde (opted out), Andre Williams (injury) and Tyler Gaffney (injury), OTs Jake Matthews (opted out) and Taylor Lewan (injury), WR Tevin Reese (injury), and DT Dominique Easley (injury).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars were announced as one of the two teams that will coach in the Reese’s Senior Bowl later this month.

Head coach Gus Bradley and the staff will coach the South team while Atlanta head coach Mike Smith and his staff will coach the North team. The game will be played Jan. 25 at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

This should be a huge benefit for the Jaguars (4-12), who have the No. 3 overall pick. Getting a firsthand look at some of the country’s top senior talent, as well as getting hands-on coaching experience with them, is valuable additional information that should give the Jaguars and Falcons a leg up over other teams.

"I think it’s awesome," Bradley said. "I think it’s a great opportunity. I did it one year and was part of it when we did it in Tampa and I think it’s great.

"It’s a great evaluation tool. It’s maybe better for us as coaches instead of sitting in our rooms watching tape over and over again. We can evaluate all aspects of the game. I don’t want to make a habit of it but as long as we have this opportunity we need to take advantage of it."

Coaching in the game should provide valuable insight into how each player handles himself in the locker room and meeting room and how well they handle being pushed at practice. The game plans will be stripped down and simplified, but it will still give the coaching staff a chance to see how quickly players can pick up and adjust to NFL concepts.

That’s especially important for the quarterbacks, which is the Jaguars’ most pressing need. Rosters won’t be released until mid-January but so far six quarterbacks have accepted invitations to play in the game: Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, San Jose State’s David Fales, Miami’s Stephen Morris, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Georgia’s Aaron Murray. Murray will not play because of a torn ACL.

The Jaguars’ No. 2 need is pass-rusher and so far eight defensive ends have accepted invites: Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu, Auburn’s Dee Ford, Virginia Tech’s James Gayle, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, Missouri’s Michael Sams, Arkansas’ Chris Smith, Louisville’s Marcus Smith, and Virginia’s Brent Urban.

This is Bradley’s second chance to coach the Senior Bowl -- he was part of a Tampa Bay staff that coached in the Senior Bowl in 2006 -- and he’s hoping the Jaguars do a better job of capitalizing on the opportunity than the Bucs did. Their No. 1 pick, Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph, developed into a Pro Bowler and second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood just finished his eighth season (he’s now with Atlanta).

Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, whom the Bucs took in the sixth round, has been a backup for five teams. The other seven draft picks lasted three or fewer seasons.

This is the second time the Jaguars have coached in the game. Jack Del Rio and his staff coached in the game in 2009. Six of the nine players the team drafted that year are still active -- all with other teams. First-round pick Eugene Monroe was the lone remaining player from the Jaguars’ draft on the roster this season until he was traded to Baltimore a month into the season.

Offensive tackle Eben Britton (Chicago), defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (Denver), cornerback Derek Cox (San Diego), receiver Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) and running back Rashad Jennings (Oakland) are also still active.

Receivers Jarett Dillard and Mike Thomas and tight end Zach Miller are out of the league.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider