AFC South: Geno Hayes

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.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are off until they have to report for training camp July 24. For some, the break will be relaxing. For others, there's probably a little bit of anxiety. Maybe they didn't perform well in OTAs or minicamp, or because of the development of other players they know they're going to be on the bubble in August. They may not necessarily be front-line players, but they've played key roles in the past. Each day this week I'll take a quick look at one of those players who's going to have a lot to prove in camp.

LB J.T. Thomas

Why he'll make the team: The Jaguars claimed him off waivers Sept. 1 and he became a solid contributor. Injuries forced Thomas into a starting role at weakside linebacker in the final two games of the 2013 season and he responded with 13 tackles and a forced fumble. He's a fourth-year player who can play multiple spots, too. Thomas also is one of the Jaguars' better special teams players. He was tied for third with six special teams tackles and also blocked a punt last season, the latter of which led to the Jags' only points in the season opener.

Why he should be worried: The Jaguars signed Dekoda Watson in March and installed him as the starter at the new otto position, which replaces the strongside linebacker. Second-year player LaRoy Reynolds got the first-team reps at that spot, though, because Watson missed most of OTAs and minicamp with a groin injury. Second-year player John Lotulelei got a lot of reps with the second-team defense. The Jaguars also drafted Telvin Smith, a speedy player the coaches envision getting on the field as a nickel linebacker. Geno Hayes also should return from a knee injury to claim the starting job at weakside linebacker. That doesn't leave much room for Thomas to get a lot of playing time.

The bottom line: Thomas is going to have to be impressive in the limited reps he will get during training camp. His special teams play makes him a valuable contributor and likely will be what keeps him on the team.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With the third pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select ... Khalil Mack, linebacker, Buffalo.

That's what happened early Tuesday afternoon in the NFL Nation mock draft. Each of the bloggers who cover a team with a first-round pick acted as general manager and made picks they thought the team they cover would make. In doing my best David Caldwell impersonation, I grabbed Mack.

I actually went after Jadeveon Clowney. I had some discussions with Houston reporter Tania Ganguli to move up to No. 1 but I felt the price was too high. The Jaguars need to continue to build the roster and I thought losing as many picks as she wanted was not the best approach. Ganguli managed to work out a deal with Buffalo reporter Mike Rodak, though.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesKhalil Mack could be the playmaker the Jaguars' defense sorely needs.
It was a pretty steep price: The Bills gave up their first-round pick (No. 9), their second-round pick (No. 41), their 2015 first- and third-round picks, and their 2016 second-round pick.

Nobody was jumping to No. 1 to take one of the quarterbacks, Mack or receiver Sammy Watkins so when I heard about the trade I knew I wasn't getting Clowney. Sure enough, the Bills took him.

St. Louis followed by taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson, which left me with an interesting dilemma: Mack or Watkins.

I couldn't really lose. Both are elite players and both would fill some pretty pressing needs, but the deciding factor was how deep of an offensive draft this is. While I couldn't get a player of Watkins' caliber later in the draft, the receiver position is pretty deep and I would be able to add a pretty good player later.

The draft isn't deep on elite pass-rushers and linebackers, and Mack fills both needs there.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Mack fits right into coach Gus Bradley's defense as a "leo," a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is to rush the passer. The Jaguars certainly need help there after finishing last in the league the past two seasons in sacks (20 in 2012 and 31 last season). Mack also makes big plays, and that's where he can really help.

In addition to making 327 tackles in four years, Mack also recorded 28.5 sacks and forced an NCAA-record 16 fumbles. Look at what he did against Ohio State in the 2013 season opener: nine tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Take Paul Posluszny out of the mix and the Jaguars linebackers had two interceptions, two sacks, four pass breakups, one forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 2013. That’s from Geno Hayes, Russell Allen, J.T. Thomas, John Lotulelei, and LaRoy Reynolds.

Mack brings a couple of other things the Jaguars desperately need at linebacker: athleticism and speed. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and played in coverage as well as being a pass-rusher at Buffalo.

I didn't really consider taking a quarterback at No. 3 because I wasn't completely sold on any of them that high. It would have been too risky of a pick and right now the Jaguars can't afford to take those kinds of risks.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Red Bryant is never going to forget what it felt like to win the Super Bowl earlier this year.

He also isn't going to forget the 2008 and 2009 seasons, either.

What he experienced then -- going 4-12 in '08 and 5-11 in '09 -- was just as much a part of Seattle's championship run as anything they did last season, he said.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsRed Bryant, who signed a four-year deal with the Jaguars, believes his new team has a similar level of commitment that his former team had.
"A lot of people talk about the great season we had this past season, being able to win the Super Bowl, but a lot of people forget the journey that led up to the Super Bowl," Bryant said Monday, two days after he signed a four-year contract worth $17 million with the Jaguars. "It was a lot of shortcomings, hard falls, and we persevered and I was there during that whole process."

One of the main reasons Bryant signed with Jacksonville is he believes the Jaguars are on a similar path under general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley, who was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator from 2009-12. He sees the Jaguars at the same point the Seahawks were in his first two seasons and believes he can help as the franchise attempts to maneuver its way through the same building process.

"They've got a vision from the owner to the general manager to the head coach to everybody in the program," Bryant said. "They know what their vision it. They're going to be committed to it and they're not going to [deviate from it]. When you have that type of commitment to winning, commitment to excellence, only good things can happen.

"...I know what it takes. I know what type of commitment you have to have from the front office on down and that's the same commitment that I see the Jacksonville Jags have."

That's a pretty big leap of faith considering Caldwell and Bradley are only in their second year in Jacksonville and inherited a roster that was one of the worst in the NFL. The Jaguars lost their first eight games of 2013 by double digits and finished the season ranked 22nd or worse in the six major statistical categories (yards per game, rushing yards per game, and passing yards per game). They were 29th against the rush and 31st in total offense and rushing.

But there is optimism because early returns are solid on the duo's first draft class and they were able to add several free agents who turned into key players, such as defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, cornerback Alan Ball, and linebacker Geno Hayes. Marks signed a four-year extension in December and is one of the players around which the defense will be built.

Bryant is another one of those players. He's a five-technique defensive end, meaning he lines up over the offensive tackle and is responsible for the gaps on either side. The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Bryant began his career as a tackle before moving to end in 2010 and he said he's willing to play inside and outside with the Jaguars.

"I'm pretty sure Gus will have a plan and the defensive coordinator will have a plan on how to use me," Bryant said. "I definitely feel like I can play inside if given the opportunity and I hope moving forward that's in the plan to utilize me inside as well."

Bryant, whom Seattle cut on Feb. 28, had planned on visiting Green Bay and Kansas City and said the Washington Redskins also expressed interest, but when he got to Jacksonville and spent time with Bradley, Caldwell and defensive line coach Todd Wash he felt the Jaguars were the perfect situation.

"I just think it's a great fit for me all the way around," he said. "I know where the vision starts from the top down and I believe Jacksonville is definitely moving in the right direction and I'm excited about being able to help their franchise turn it around."
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on defense and which prospects the team might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. We looked at the offense on Monday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch, and interview prospects at the NFL combine.

Here’s a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on defense and some potential targets:

Babin
Leo: Call this need No. 1A, just barely behind quarterback. The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the last two seasons and desperately need someone that can affect the quarterback on a consistent basis. Jason Babin and Andre Branch manned this spot in 2013 but Babin is scheduled to make $6.175 million in 2014. The 33-year-old Babin led the Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013 but he’s making elite defensive end money and he’s not an elite defensive end. He has said he'd be willing to re-negotiate his contract because he likes it in Jacksonville, but he also can declare himself a free agent because of a clause in the new CBA. It'd be a surprise if Babin is on the roster in 2014 under his current contract. Branch really improved in 2013 because defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Todd Wash got him to become more consistent with his effort. He’s a long way from being a 15-sack player, though, and that’s what the Jaguars need.

Potential targets: Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack.

Outside linebacker: Geno Hayes turned in a solid year in 2013 (78 tackles, two interceptions, three pass break-ups) despite playing through a nagging knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the last two games. But the Jaguars still need to upgrade both outside spots. It was partly due to his knee injury, but Hayes didn’t make very many impact plays and Russell Allen, the starter on the other side, made none. The leo spot is a hybrid end/outside linebacker that specializes in rushing the passer, so the outside linebackers don’t need to be elite pass rushers. They need to be athletic enough to play in coverage and have the ability to blitz if needed.

Potential targets: Ryan Shazier, Telvin Smith, Lamin Barrow.

Defensive end: This is the spot opposite the leo in the Jaguars’ defense and it doesn’t call for an elite pass-rusher. The Jaguars want a big, physical end who can anchor the line of the scrimmage in the run game. Tyson Alualu held the job last season and was solid (44 tackles, eight QB pressures, three tackles for loss), but the Jaguars need more production there. The only other player at that spot is Ryan Davis, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. They’re also hoping for a little more pass rush production than what Alualu had, but it’s not the primary responsibility.

Potential targets: Brent Urban, Jackson Jeffcoat, Scott Crichton.

Defensive tackle: The Jaguars’ two starters are set with Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, but the Jaguars need to add some quality depth here. Marks is coming off a career year and was awarded a four-year extension. Miller battled a shoulder problem all season but underwent surgery after the season concluded and should be fine by the time OTAs begin in April.

Potential targets: Will Sutton, Caraun Reid, Deandre Coleman.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars general manager David Caldwell can be very aggressive in free agency if he chooses because the Jaguars are projected to have the third-most cap room available when the free-agency period begins next month.

According to a Feb. 7 report from Roster Management System, the Jaguars will have nearly $30 million in cap space. The team's cap number -- which includes salaries, penalties, dead money, and futures contracts -- for 2014 is $96,517,190, well below the estimated 2014 salary cap of $126 million.

That leaves the Jaguars with $29,482,810 to spend on free agents and draft picks.

Only two teams in the NFL have more projected cap room: Indianapolis ($33,096,844) and Oakland ($58,242,920).

But just because the Jaguars have a significant amount of money to spend doesn't mean Caldwell will be writing a lot of big checks. The Jaguars will target some offensive and defensive linemen in free agency, especially a center, and will be somewhat aggressive early and then back off in the hopes of finding a bargain later in free agency.

That doesn't mean the Jaguars are going to jump into the competition for Alex Mack, who is one of the league's top centers. Ryan Kalil signed a six-year, $49.12 million deal in 2011 with Carolina that made him the NFL's highest-paid center and Mack's deal is expected to top that.

He may not even be available, either, because Cleveland could sign him to an extension before his contract expires last month. Mack also said he would give the Browns the chance to match any offer he received.

"Some of these guys [available linemen] are going to get signed before free agency becomes available," Caldwell said. "We'll just have to wait and see who becomes available and who's out there. You have the franchise tag and some other methods that teams use to keep their guys so we'll see.

"There will be another influx of guys that become available when teams have to get under the salary cap."

Waiting paid off for the Jaguars last year. They signed four unrestricted free agents from other teams (linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, running back Justin Forsett and defensive tackle Roy Miller) from March 13-15 and then added defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on April 2.

Marks had a career year and ended up signing a four-year contract extension in December.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Each week this season I put together a list of the top 10 playmakers from the previous week's game.

Sometimes it wasn't easy, especially in the first half of the season. With the Jaguars going 0-8 I had to dig deep, and twice I had to use mascot Jaxson DeVille for his dramatic pregame entrances.

Thing were much easier in the second half of the season, though. The Jaguars played significantly better and went 4-4.

At the midway point I gave you a list of the top 10 playmakers for the first half of the season. Now that the season is over, here's the final list.

Remember, this isn't a list of the MVP candidates, but a compilation of the players who made the biggest difference this season.

Following each player's name will be three numbers: their final point total, their first-half point total, and second-half point total. Points were assigned to each spot on the weekly list. The No. 1 playmaker each week got 10 points, the No. 2 got nine, the No. 3 got eight, etc.

[+] EnlargePosluszny
AP Photo/Scott A. MillerPaul Posluszny was the Jaguars' best defensive player and arguably their top player overall.
1. LB Paul Posluszny (83 total, 46 first half, 37 second half): It's no surprise that he tops the list. He was the Jaguars' best defensive player all season and you could argue that he was the team's best overall player. His 161 tackles (121 solo) were second in the NFL. He also had three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

T2. RB Maurice Jones-Drew (77-41-36): It wasn't his best season, but he still was the Jaguars' leading rusher (803 yards) and was the third-leading receiver (43 receptions for 314 yards). He only scored five touchdowns and his 3.4 yards per carry average was the lowest of his career, but he still was the offense's biggest playmaker. He did that despite being less than a year removed from Lisfranc surgery and battling through ankle, knee and hamstring issues.

T2. QB Chad Henne (77-45-32): He finished with 13 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, but he threw for nine touchdown passes and five interceptions in the last five games. He also threw for 3,241 yards, making him the first Jaguars quarterback to surpass 3,000 yards since David Garrard in 2009. Though he wasn't spectacular, he made a lot of good plays and rarely put the Jaguars in a bad situation.

4. WR Cecil Shorts (57-44-13): He fought through shoulder and groin injuries to catch a team-high 66 passes for 777 yards and three touchdowns. He missed the final three games because the groin injury became too severe for him to play through. For nine of the 13 games he was the team's No. 1 receiver and struggled with that role in the first month but handled it much better after Justin Blackmon's second suspension.

5. K Josh Scobee (46-30-16): He missed only two of his 25 field goal attempts. One was a 60-yarder and the other was blocked. He scored 94 points, which led the team for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.

6. P Bryan Anger (45-34-11): He was the team's best offensive player in the first month of the season. His gross average was down 2.1 yards from his rookie season but he equaled his rookie mark of 31 punts inside the 20-yard line.

7. TE Marcedes Lewis (41-6-35): A calf injury kept him out for all but two plays in the first six games and he needed time to get used to the offense and figure out his role. Once he got comfortable, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch made him a significant part of the game plan and Lewis caught 16 passes for 242 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and four touchdowns in the last five games.

8. WR Ace Sanders (40-13-27): He was drafted to be the team's punt returner and because of injuries and Blackmon's suspension ended up playing a key role on offense. His 51 receptions for 484 yards were second on the team. For comparison, Shorts caught only two passes as a rookie and Blackmon caught 64.

9. DT Sen'Derrick Marks (37-15-22): He was the Jaguars' best defensive lineman all season and put together a career year. He set career highs in sacks (four), passes defensed (eight), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (three) in 2013. He had three sacks, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Tennessee. He was rewarded with a four-year contract extension last month.

10. WR Justin Blackmon (34-0-34): He played in just four games but he was the Jaguars' best offensive player in those four. He caught 29 passes for 446 yards and one touchdown. His 29 receptions are fifth on the team and the 415 yards are fourth. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement before the 2014 season begins.

Here are the players who finished 11th-20th:

11. RB/KR Jordan Todman (32-5-27): He finished as the Jaguars' second-leading rusher (256 yards) but made his biggest mark as a kickoff returner. His 27.4 yards per return average was seventh in the NFL. He proved he could be a complementary back as well, rushing for 109 yards against Buffalo when Jones-Drew sat out with a hamstring injury.

12. S Johnathan Cyprien (31-23-9): He finished second on the team with 104 tackles and progressively improved throughout the season.

13. LB Geno Hayes (29-6-23): Played through a knee injury all season and finished third with 78 tackles and two interceptions.

14. WR Mike Brown (26-26-0): He missed four games with a fractured vertebrae but rebounded to finish fourth with 32 catches for 446 yards and two touchdowns.

15. CB Alan Ball (24-3-21): He led the team with 14 pass breakups to go along with 45 tackles and two interceptions.

16. CB Will Blackmon (21-11-10): He was a late-August acquisition who became the leader in the secondary. His strip-sack and return for a touchdown was instrumental in the Jaguars' first victory. He finished with 10 pass breakups, one interception, and 40 tackles.

17. DE Jason Babin (19-6-13): He led the team with 7.5 sacks to go along with 40 tackles.

18. WR Kerry Taylor (18-0-18): He joined the team on Nov. 4 and caught 16 passes for 162 yards in the last three games.

19. LB LaRoy Reynolds (17-0-17): The sight of him assisting on a tackle on a punt return despite losing his helmet will be one of the lasting images of the season.

20. LB J.T. Thomas (15-11-4): He had 17 tackles and a forced fumble. He started the last two games of the season and had seven tackles and a forced fumble against Indianapolis.

 

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 29

Biggest surprise: When the Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last April, they thought he’d be a good fit in coach Gus Bradley’s system. Turns out he was a perfect fit. Marks plays the three-technique, which means he lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, and that position is supposed to provide interior pass rush. Marks finished with four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups -- all numbers that equaled or surpassed the totals from his first four seasons. He seemed to make at least one impactful play every game and he accounted for two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His play earned him a four-year contract extension as one of the building blocks of the defense.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars’ inability to consistently run the ball, especially early in the season, was vexing. The Jaguars switched from a predominantly man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and the offensive line had trouble with the transition. Four of the five starters at the beginning of the season also started in 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. The Jaguars mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed and things got better, but the problem wasn’t “fixed.” In addition, Jones-Drew clearly was not the same player he was two years ago. He missed all but six games last season with a Lisfranc injury and also battled ankle, knee and hamstring issues this season.

Biggest need: The Jaguars have a pretty long list of needs, but two stand out above all others: quarterback and pass-rusher. Quarterback is the top need because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer and neither is Chad Henne, who will be a free agent but wants to return to Jacksonville in 2014. The Jaguars haven’t had a bona fide threat at quarterback since coach Jack Del Rio put Mark Brunell on the bench for Byron Leftwich in 2003. New general manager David Caldwell and Bradley need a player around which to build the franchise, and the Jaguars will have the opportunity to possibly find one when they pick third overall in May’s draft.

Team MVP: The first impulse is to go with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose 161 tackles ranked second in the NFL. He was clearly the team’s best defensive player and arguably the best overall player. However, what Henne did to stabilize the offense earns him MVP honors. Gabbert had played terribly in the first part of the season (seven INTs, one TD) and Henne stepped in and played the most consistent football of his career. He didn’t always light it up and he made some poor decisions and mistakes, but he kept the Jaguars in games in the second half of the season and made enough plays to go 4-4 after the bye. He threw nine touchdown passes -- including the game winner against Cleveland with 40 seconds to play -- and five interceptions over the final five games.

NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 
The Jaguars may not have had anyone voted to the Pro Bowl, but the team is pretty well represented on the All-AFC South team.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, linebacker Geno Hayes, kicker Josh Scobee, and kick returner Jordan Todman made the team, which was chosen by the reporters covering the four teams.

Posluszny finished second in the NFL with 161 tackles (Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict had 171) to go along with 3 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 interceptions. He clearly was the Jaguars’ best defensive player and arguably was the team’s best overall player.

He was the lone Jaguars player who should have earned Pro Bowl honors, but he was hurt by playing for a small-market team that finished 4-12.

Marks posted a career year in his first season with the Jaguars, making 34 tackles, breaking up eight passes, forcing two fumbles, and recovering three fumbles to go along with four sacks and nine quarterback pressures. He had 3 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Tennessee.

The team was so pleased with his performance that last week they signed him to a four-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $22 million.

Hayes played through a right knee injury much of the season and made 78 tackles, intercepted one pass, and broke up three others. The injury got progressively worse but he missed just one game, the season finale against Indianapolis, and will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage and remove some loose particles in his knee.

Scobee made 23 of 25 field goal attempts this season. His only miss came from 60 yards and he had a 49-yard attempt blocked. Scobee was 15-for-15 from 39 yards and in. Todman averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return, seventh-best in the NFL. That was the best mark in the division. Houston’s Keshawn Martin finished eighth in the league (26.3 yards per return.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' lineup in the regular season finale on Sunday is going to look very little like it did in the season opener.

Depending on how some players respond to injuries this week, the Jaguars may only start nine players in Week 17’s game against Indianapolis that started against Kansas City in Week 1. All teams have to deal with injuries to key players throughout the season -- the Denver Broncos just lost linebacker Von Miller with a torn ACL -- but turning over more than half of the starting lineup in four months doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

The Jaguars (4-11) didn’t exactly have a deep roster to begin with, but they’ve somehow managed the through the personnel losses to win four games in the second half despite having to rely on some young, unproven players -- especially at linebacker and receiver.

"We really didn’t make that big of a deal about it, but what we did talk about was to really go in there and sometimes special stories take place with opportunities," coach Gus Bradley said. "We really taught our whole team the mindset you’ve got to have to go in there."

The results have been hit and miss, which is what you’d expect from those players. Good plays -- like receiver Kerry Taylor catching four passes for 45 yards against the Titans -- and bad, like Taylor dropping an easy reception that would have converted a first down against Buffalo.

"You’ve just got to do it all the time," Bradley said. "There’s going to be times when young guys get [out of position or make a mistake] but we just need to limit that. That’s what we’re seeing right now and that’s what happens sometimes with younger players especially if they’re getting their first opportunity."

Here’s a breakdown of the missing starters:

WR Justin Blackmon: Suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, played four games, and then was suspended indefinitely for violating it again.

WR Cecil Shorts*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a groin injury.

LT Eugene Monroe*: Traded to Baltimore on Oct. 2.

LT Luke Joeckel* (started Week 1 at RT): Suffered a fractured ankle against St. Louis on Oct. 6.

G Will Rackley*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a concussion.

LB Russell Allen*: Placed on IR on Dec. 18.

G Mike Brewster: He replaced Rackley in the lineup and suffered a fractured ankle against Buffalo on Dec. 15.

DT Brandon Deaderick: He was on the field for starting DT Roy Miller, who did not play against Tennessee on Sunday, and suffered a dislocated elbow.

Here’s a breakdown of other starters who may miss Sunday’s finale:

LB Geno Hayes*: He did not play last Sunday because of a knee injury. He likely won’t practice this week.

DT Roy Miller*: He has battled a shoulder injury all season and did not play last Sunday. He likely won’t practice this week.

CB Dwayne Gratz*: He suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and likely won’t practice this week.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew*: He fought through a hamstring injury and started against Tennessee last Sunday but will be limited this week.

LT Cameron Bradfield: He joined the starting lineup after Joeckel was injured and suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and will be limited in practice this week.

*Denotes started season opener.

Jaguars' thin defense wears down

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
7:50
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were already banged up on defense before Sunday's meeting with the Tennessee Titans.

It got even worse during the game.

The Jaguars ended up being down five starters and it really showed up in the run defense. Tennessee ran for 182 yards and rallied from a 10-point deficit to down Jacksonville 20-16 at EverBank Field. It was the Jaguars’ third-worst performance of the season behind the 226 they allowed to Oakland in Week 2 and the 198 they allowed last week to Buffalo.

"We had some things we had to clean up, some things maybe that we counted on in the past due to some new personnel in there," coach Gus Bradley said. "We just had to tighten it up a little bit and it was hit and miss. There were some inconsistencies."

That’s to be expected with that many players playing different roles. The Jaguars didn’t have outside linebackers Russell Allen (concussion) and Geno Smith (knee) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder). That meant rookie John Lotulelei and third-year player J.T. Thomas -- mainly special teams players -- had to start at linebacker.

Brandon Deaderick, who had been inactive for the last two games, started for Miller. By the second half, Deaderick was out with an elbow injury and Jordan Miller, who was just activated from the practice squad this week, was getting snaps.

Cornerback Dwayne Gratz had to leave the game with an ankle injury but the Jaguars are much better equipped to handle an injury in the secondary than in the front seven.

The lack of depth really showed in the second half. The Titans ran for 68 yards in the first half but ran for 58 on their second drive in the third quarter. They had 114 yards rushing in the second half. The Jaguars were especially hurt up the middle, which was a byproduct of a worn-down defensive front that had just three healthy defensive tackles: Miller, Deaderick and Sen'Derrick Marks.

"We had some new guys step in but those guys, they’ve been here and they’ve practiced with us so it’s no blame on them for giving up plays," defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. "We gave up some plays and we weren’t as sound as we usually have been. Our thing is if a guy goes down we’ve got to have another guy to step in and make sure them we surround them and make sure he does what he’s supposed to do."

The Titans put together two long drives in the third quarter that lasted 11 and nine plays and resulted in touchdowns. The Titans ran the ball on 14 of those 20 plays, including quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 3-yard scramble on fourth-and-2.

By the time that second drive ended, the Titans had a 20-16 lead just 35 seconds into the fourth quarter. You could see the Jaguars’ defensive players were gassed.

"It always takes something out of you but it’s what we do," Marks said. "You’re supposed to be in shape. You’re a professional football player. We’ve just got to go out and get the stop and try to get off the field."

The Jaguars did that in the first meeting with the Titans. They held Tennessee to 83 yards rushing, including 30 yards by Chris Johnson. He had 90 and Shonn Green had 91 on Sunday.

Bradley understands the limitations he has with his roster, but even so he’s expecting more from the reserves when they do get on the field.

"Even though they got limited reps [in practice] when their number is called upon they have to perform," Bradley said. "I sure we will see some good things that they did on tape. It’s just the consistency. That’s what you have to battle through sometimes."

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
3:53
PM ET

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The Jaguars (4-11) were unable to overcome a slew of injuries and pick up their second victory at EverBank Field this season. It's just the second time in franchise history the Jaguars have won just one game at home. They went 1-7 at EverBank last season and 1-6 this season (they played a home game against San Francisco in London).

Stock watch: The Jaguars' group of no-name receivers did a solid job against the Titans. Injuries have left the Jaguars with little experience at the position. Entering the game, the team's four active receivers (Ace Sanders, Kerry Taylor, Mike Brown and Lamaar Thomas) had a combined 75 catches this season. None of them have more than a year of experience in the NFL. The group responded, especially Brown and Taylor. Brown caught five passes for 71 yards and one touchdown while Taylor had four catches for 45 yards.

Honoring Meester: The Jaguars had a quick postgame ceremony to honor center Brad Meester, who is retiring at the end of the season after 14 years with the team. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch tried to send him out in style by calling a screen pass for Meester that was designed to get him a touchdown. Meester made the catch but cut left instead of right and got tackled at the 4-yard line. Hard to criticize him for making that wrong cut, though. As former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli joked at halftime, it's not like offensive linemen regularly read blocks.

Depleted defense: The Jaguars were already without three starters (linebackers Russell Allen and Geno Hayes and defensive tackle Roy Miller) and they lost two more key players during the game: defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick (elbow) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle). That forced the Jaguars to use defensive tackle Jordan Miller, who was active for the first time this season, and start inexperienced linebackers J.T. Thomas and John Lotulelei. You could see the drop off. The Titans ran for 182 yards and had most of their success in the passing game in the middle of the field.

What's next: The Jaguars end the 2013 season at Indianapolis on Sunday.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew practiced on a limited basis on Friday, but whether he can play against Tennessee on Sunday depends on how his injured right hamstring responds the next two days.

Jones-Drew
Coach Gus Bradley said Jones-Drew will be one of four starters who will be evaluated on Sunday morning before a final decision on their playing status is made.

"I feel better today [about Jones-Drew’s chances of playing]," Bradley said. "He took some actual reps, although the tempo was slowed down."

Jones-Drew is listed as questionable on the injury report, as is safety Johnathan Cyprien (thigh), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), and linebacker Geno Hayes (knee). Miller and Hayes did not practice on Friday. Cyprien practiced on a limited basis.

Bradley also said the team will put reserve receiver Jeremy Ebert (ankle, knee) on injured reserve and will fill two vacant roster spots with players on the practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
4:45
PM ET
 

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