AFC South: Jeremy Harris

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.

Jaguars cut Cain, put Harris on IR

August, 25, 2013
8/25/13
4:14
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The Jacksonville Jaguars got their roster down to 75 Sunday afternoon, well in advance of Tuesday’s deadline.

Seventh-year long snapper Jeremy Cain was the lone veteran released. One of the team’s two seventh-round cornerbacks, Jeremy Harris, was placed on injured reserve with a back injury.

Gone are:
We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine defensive backs.

Williamson’s AFC South defensive backs rankings:
1) Texans (Johnathan Joseph, Danieal Manning, Ed Reed, Kareem Jackson, Brice McCain, D.J. Swearinger, Brandon Harris, Roc Carmichael)
2) Titans (Jason McCourty, Bernard Pollard, Michael Griffin, Alterraun Verner, George Wilson, Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh)
3) Colts (Vontae Davis, LaRon Landry, Antoine Bethea, Greg Toler, Darius Butler, John Boyett, Cassius Vaughn)
4) Jaguars (Dwayne Gratz, Johnathan Cyprien, Dwight Lowery, Alan Ball, Josh Evans, Mike Harris, Marcus Trufant, Jeremy Harris, Demetrius McCray)

I think this order is virtually impossible to debate, and you should be clicking the top entry in the poll to the right.

SportsNation

Matt Williamson's ranking of AFC South defensive back units is:

  •  
    68%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    11%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,681)

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:

Your overall assessment please:

“Overall thoughts are I really like Houston's secondary and really dislike Jacksonville's. The other two? I would say are pretty much the definition of middle of the road.”

What's the gap between Texans and Titans?

“The gap between Houston and Tennessee is substantial. That isn't to say that the Titans have a poor secondary -- and I would say they did improve it at both corner and safety.”

What's Ed Reed have left and what can he do for the Texans?

“Reed's best days are long behind him, but I love the addition to the Texans for one huge reason: He is a winner from a great organization and what he brings behind the scenes could pay off HUGE. The Texans really are not that far from being an expansion team and most of their best players are all home grown players-that have never won the big one. Reed, a future Hall of Famer coming off a SB win brings instant credibility to the locker room and even if he doesn't play at a real high level, is a great addition-and something Houston should have done long ago.”

If you were just ranking CBs what order would you have them in? If you were just ranking safeties?

“Just CBs: I think I would keep it exactly the same. Just safeties? Tough to really gauge Jacksonville, but they still have to be last and again, I think I would keep the order the same. More so than some of the other position groups in the division, this order is pretty clear to me.”

What rookies do you expect to have the biggest impact?

“The rookie defensive back that I expect to make the biggest impact is definitely Cyprien. I think he will be a star in this league, was a great value where Jacksonville took him and will been all around impact player, even early in his career.”

The Titans view McCourty as a solid No. 1 and the Colts feel the same about Davis. Can you compare and contrast them?

“I think both are good cornerbacks, but neither is truly a No. 1. To me, Davis is more talented and more equipped to play coverage against the opponent's No. 1 receiver, but also is more inconsistent overall.”

Can you rate the nickel situations?

“Butler has played well at times for the Colts, but I would say they are a little deficient when they go to sub packages, where Tennessee should be in better shape with their top three corners, as I think Wreh-Wilson should do a fine job (despite some rookie struggles) on the outside in nickel, but this makes the Titans' slot situation very good.”

As for me…

Jackson really blossomed last season when Joseph dealt with a bunch of injuries. If a healthy Joseph returns to form, they could be one of the best cornerback duos in the league. I’ve written about Reed’s swagger and like Williamson, I expect he’ll have a great effect even if he isn’t always playing or isn’t playing quite up to his standards.

Pollard has been outspoken and brings an attitude the Titans have been lacking on defense. He’s an upgrade for certain on early downs. But George Wilson may be the better overall player. I know the Titans will find snaps for all three of their guys and not just in a three-safety nickel or dime package.

The Colts secondary improvement is likely to hinge on health. Can Toller stay on the field after dealing with elbow, back, foot, hip and hamstring injuries in his first four seasons? Landry has a repaired Achilles but recovered for a complete season last year with the Jets. Without either of them, depth would quickly be tested with guys like Cassius Vaughn or Joe Lefeged potentially in nickel and dime packages.

A lot of people are going to have terrible expectations of the Jaguars. But kids can play well quickly in the secondary, and from what I saw at minicamp, Cyprien is my pick for defensive breakout player in the division. Gratz looked good too. Lowery is solid as the other safety. They need cornerbacks to emerge but could surpass expectations.
How does each AFC South team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Houston Texans

News that No. 1 cornerback Johnathan Joseph had sports hernias repaired early in the offseason was actually a good development. He was even more hurt than we knew last year, which serves to explain why he was hardly the player in 2012 he had been in 2011. A healthy Joseph will be much better. Kareem Jackson blossomed as the second corner, and Brice McCain returns as a fairly steady nickel. Danieal Manning is the strong safety with Ed Reed roaming and ball hawking as the deeper guy. Rookie D.J. Swearinger should work as the third safety and be an upgrade over the two guys who played in that role a year ago. He’s also insurance for the aging Reed. Corner depth is a concern, but isn’t that the case for almost every team? I expect big things from this group.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are counting on free-agent addition Greg Toler as a starting corner opposite Vontae Davis. If he pans out as they project, they will improve. If he doesn’t, the depth is poor with Cassius Vaughn still in the mix. Darius Butler is a quality nickel cornerback. Antoine Bethea should be back to form when given a better partner at safety in free-agent acquisition LaRon Landry, provided Landry stays healthy. Safety depth has Joe Lefeged at the head of the line. He can be productive in spot duty, but if they need him for a long stretch, it’ll be an issue. Toler’s production in an expanded role and Landry’s health are the two big keys.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have an incredibly young group. Safety Dwight Lowery and likely starting cornerback Alan Ball are entering their sixth seasons. The other starting safety will be John Cyprien, a second-round pick, and the other starting cornerback will be Dwayne Gratz, a third-rounder. Depth is a major question. The nickelback could be the wise old man of the group -- Marcus Trufant -- or second-year man Mike Harris or a player to be determined. Primary depth will come from three more rookies: corner Demetrius McCray and Jeremy Harris and safety Josh Evans. Cyprien already looks excellent, and Gratz was very good in minicamp. Still, inexperience will be a big factor in this defensive backfield.

Tennessee Titans

Free safety Michael Griffin's game has dropped off significantly in recent years. At least part of it has been the team’s inability to allow him to be the center fielder, which is what he should be best at. With veterans Bernard Pollard and George Wilson added to man the strong safety spot, Griffin has a chance to be a lot better. Jason McCourty is a topflight corner. The other job can be wrestled away from Alterraun Verner as the Titans look to play more man coverage with Tommie Campbell or rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson in contention. Coty Sensabaugh is a developing nickel, and Verner has a knack for the job as well. They need a better push up front to help them all out.

Cap and rookie signing report

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
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An update on cap space and rookie signings around the AFC South:

Jacksonville Jaguars -- $26.95 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: CB Jeremy Harris (seventh round), Demetrius McCray (seventh round).

Draft picks unsigned: Six.

Tennessee Titans -- $9.69 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: OLB Zaviar Gooden (third round), C Brian Schwenke (fourth round), DE Lavar Edwards (fifth round), CB Khalid Wooten (sixth round), S Daimion Stafford (seventh round).

Draft picks unsigned: Three.

Indianapolis Colts -- $8.5 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: G Hugh Thornton (third round), C Khaled Holmes (fourth round), DT Montori Hughes (fifth round), S John Boyett (sixth round), RB Kerwynn Williams (seventh round), TE Justice Cunningham (seventh round).

Draft picks unsigned: One.

Houston Texans -- $2.8 million under the cap.

Draft picks signed: OLB Sam Montgomery (third round), OLB Trevardo Williams (fourth round), OT David Quessenberry (sixth round), WR Alan Bonner (sixth round), DT Chris Jones (sixth round), TE Ryan Griffin (sixth round).

Draft picks unsigned: Three.
Johnathan CyprienRobert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsSecond-round safety Johnathan Cyprien is one of five draft picks the Jags added to their secondary.
With the second pick in the first round, the Jacksonville Jaguars got themselves a rock of an offensive tackle in Luke Joeckel.

What did they get with the first pick of the second round?

A team in dire need of cornerstones might have found one for the defense in Johnathan Cyprien, the strong safety out of Florida International.

Initial reports out of Jacksonville are very solid. It’s obviously early, but Cyprien could be the linchpin of a young secondary that grows up together, helping slow the run and cover the sort of tight ends who are increasingly posing matchup issues around the league.

“The thing we really enjoyed about evaluating him was his football instincts," said DeWayne Walker, the Jaguars' defensive backs coach. “Some guys, they have that halo effect where they kind of feel the game, and he has a real good feel for the game.

"We’re going to have to smooth him out, and we’re going to have to polish him up a little bit. At the same time, he definitely brings a lot of good tools to the table.”

Not too may years ago, the AFC South had a major dearth of quality safeties. Gradually, the position has gotten better. If Cyprien can be an impact guy, he and free safety Dwight Lowery can make the position one of the Jaguars’ most solid.

Cyprien comes across as a polite, confident young man eager to learn and to prove himself. He grew up admiring Sean Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas, who went to the same high school and ranks as a friend who has offered a great deal of encouragement.

A late bloomer at North Miami Beach (Fla.) High School, Cyprien dreamed of playing at Texas, but had just two scholarship offers -- from Central Michigan and FIU. He stayed in Florida, and a big senior season in college turned him into a borderline first-round pick.

The Jaguars surely could have gotten good value by trading out of the 33rd position in the draft, but stayed put and jumped on him.

“It’s a big position, a big role in this defense,” Cyprien said. “You’re allowed to do a lot of things. You’re allowed to have a lot of fun. I’m planning on having a lot of fun playing that position.

“I guess you could say it could be hard for a rookie to be a leader. I wouldn’t define it as that, personally. I’m just taking it head on.”

Of eight picks in the draft, the Jaguars spent five on defensive backs: Cyprien in the second round; UConn cornerback Dwayne Gratz in the third; Florida free safety Josh Evans in the sixth; and New Mexico State cornerback Jeremy Harris and Appalachian State cornerback Demetrius McCray both in the seventh.

The Jaguars have a handful of guys with experience for the kids to look to.

Marcus Trufant, a 10-year veteran corner, played on coach Gus Bradley’s defense in Seattle, and could be the nickelback. Another free-agent cornerback, Alan Ball, has played five seasons, but struggled in Houston last year. Safety Chris Prosinski, a fourth-rounder from 2011, should be a backup at best with Cyprien on board. Mike Harris could be a nice nickel candidate in his second season.

Given the uncertainty at the position, I rank the Jaguars’ cornerback group as the most competitive unit in the division.

If Jacksonville is going to be any good on the back end, it’s likely to be because of the draft class’ contribution.

“I think it’s fun for all of us,” Walker said. “These guys were needed. We’re going to be pretty young. It’s fun for all of us to get this group and develop it and prove people wrong …

“Being able to talk with them about the league, these guys are pretty mature. Coach Bradley, [defensive coordinator] Bob Babich, all of our coaches do a good job saying the right things to these guys to get them acclimated. So I think all of our rookies, not only the rookies in the secondary, have come into a situation where we are here to help them, we are here to develop them to be competitive football players.”

Walker, who was the head coach at New Mexico State from 2009 to 2012, where he posted a 10-40 record, left in January to join Bradley's staff. Previously, Walker coached defensive backs for the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, New England Patriots and at Cal. He was also defensive coordinator at UCLA.

The assistant coach is a straight shooter who has been telling the rookies about the identity he wants his players to have, Cyprien said. They need to be sound in the techniques they are taught, and they should all look the same on tape.

“I think it’s a challenge for him, I think it’s good for him,” Cyprien said of the influx of youth in the secondary. “I know we have him excited, because we just want to run around, and we’re hungry to learn and we’re asking a lot of questions.”
Today, I set out to sketch out a list of the 10 most competitive position groups in the AFC South.

Putting them in order was more difficult than coming up with the list, but after some juggling, I feel pretty good about what’s below. I’m sure you’ll offer me input on what’s out of order, shouldn’t be included or should be.

The more overall uncertainty and the less sure we are of a starter or starters right now, the higher I ranked a spot.

10. Jaguars quarterbacks -- Blaine Gabbert would really have to blow this opportunity and Chad Henne would really have to have a good camp for Gabbert not to be the opening-day starter, I believe. Undrafted rookie Matt Scott could make the team as a third option, and if things go poorly for the veterans and the rookie shows well, he could get a chance at some point.

9. Titans interior offensive line -- Michael Roos is a lock at left tackle, Andy Levitre is a lock at left guard and Chance Warmack is a lock at right guard. David Stewart should be the starter at right tackle, though he’s coming off a broken leg and has a bad ankle. Center could be a good battle between fourth-round draft pick Brian Schwenke and Fernando Velasco. There will be huge battles for the interior backup slot(s), where the Titans loaded up with Rob Turner and Chris Spencer. (If they signed Eric Winston to fight with Stewart, this position would move up some.)

8. Titans defensive tackles -- Sammie Hill and Jurrell Casey are locks, and Mike Martin should rank third. If they keep five, who are the other two out of Karl Klug, Antonio Johnson, DaJohn Harris and Zach Clayton? Ropati Pitoitua is an end, but comes from a 3-4 in Kansas City and will also get a look inside, so he could factor in here, too.

7. Texans right side of offensive line -- I think they would have been fine sticking with Derek Newton, but he’s not healthy. He had major knee surgery and offensive line coach John Benton said during the draft that Newton’s status is up in the air. Enter Brennan Williams, a third-round pick out of UNC that the Texans feel could be fine as the starter. At right guard, Brandon Brooks could displace Ben Jones in a potentially nice battle of second-year players.

6. Titans wide receivers -- Nate Washington got himself in the doghouse with his work late last year, and he’s pricey. But it would be hard for the team to part with him yet as the Titans are an injury away from potential depth issues. If second-round pick Justin Hunter takes off early, he could start ahead of Washington at Z opposite Kenny Britt at X. Kendall Wright is the primary slot guy. Also in the mix for snaps: Damian Williams, Kevin Walter and maybe even Michael Preston.

5. Colts offensive line -- Anthony Castonzo is the left tackle, Gosder Cherilus is the right tackle. The three spots in between them and the depth will see a lot of competition. Donald Thomas should win a guard spot and I’d think third-rounder Hugh Thornton could as well. They will battle with incumbent left guard Joe Reitz and incumbent right guard Mike McGlynn. Fourth-rounder Khalid Holmes could push Samson Satele out of the center spot.

4. Colts inside linebackers -- If Jerrell Freeman is as good as he was last season, he’s certain to start. A healthy Pat Angerer should make a strong bid to retake his old job, but the competition could be really good with Kavell Conner trying to stay in the lineup and newcomer Kelvin Sheppard in the mix as well.

3. Texans linebackers -- Rookies Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams have a chance to win the strongside linebacking spot, which would mean Brooks Reed moves inside. Or Reed could stay on the strongside setting up Darryl Sharpton vs. Tim Dobbins to slug it out for the Mike spot inside next to Brian Cushing. This will be a good one to monitor for sure. The injury histories of Sharpton and Dobbins could be at play. Can they both stay on the field for their reps to compete?

2. Colts nose tackle -- What a revamp the Colts have put together here. The guys who can play inside were limited last year. Now there are plenty: His knee healed, Josh Chapman is the favorite at nose tackle right now. Also available are Aubrayo Franklin, rookie Montori Hughes, Brandon McKinney (once healthy) and versatile veteran Ricky Jean Francois, who can play inside or out.

1. Jaguars cornerbacks -- This gets the top slot because there is the most uncertainty. I don’t have much faith in Alan Ball based on what he did with his chances in Houston last year. Mike Harris has one year of experience, playing some as the team’s nickel. Dwayne Gratz should be a starter. There is room for seventh-rounders Jeremy Harris and Demetrius McCray to carve out roles. [UPDATE: Apologies for initially forgetting Marcus Trufant, the recent veteran addition. If he's competing for much more than nickelback, the team's got even bigger secondary issues than feared.]
Ideally Marcus Trufant is part of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ nickel package and helps buy time for some of the kids to develop.

But if their kid corners struggle, they’ve now got a veteran who gives them an additional option.

Trufant’s the first addition to the Jaguars who comes from Seattle’s defense, where he was part of the unit Gus Bradley coordinated for the Seahawks.

Bradley, of course, is now the rookie coach of the Jaguars.

New coaches typically like to bring over a veteran player or two who can be a bit of a locker room disciple of a new system.

Trufant played a lot of nickel for the Seahawks last season. They’ve got two big, young corners in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.

The Jaguars want to find their own pair of big, athletic corners.

They signed Alan Ball, who struggled in chances with the Texans last year. He’s 6-foot-2, 191 pounds. They drafted Dwayne Gratz (5-11, 201) in the third round out of UConn. Two seventh-round corners will also vie for roster spots and roles -- Jeremy Harris (6-2, 181) and Demetrius McCray (6-1, 187).

Trufant is heading into his 11th year. He was a first-round draft pick in 2003 and measures in at 5-11, 197.

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