AFC South: Kerry Taylor

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.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the expected battles of training camp has already started to play out for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first week of OTAs.

Seven players are fighting for two remaining spots at receiver behind Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. There are guys who were on the team last season, some practice squad guys, a veteran free-agent signing, and some undrafted free agents all trying to make the 53-man roster.

"That’s going to be a fierce competition throughout [the summer]," coach Gus Bradley said after Thursday’s OTA.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/John RaouxThe Jaguars' receivers, including Marqise Lee, have been competing hard during OTAs this week, coach Gus Bradley said.
Since this is the first week of OTAs, it’s still a pretty wide open race. It would be logical to assume that Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor and Tandon Doss have a bit of an advantage since Brown and Taylor were on the team last season and the Jaguars signed Doss to a two-year, $1.5 million contract in March.

Brown caught 32 passes for 446 yards and two touchdowns and Taylor caught 19 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown playing mainly near the end of the season because of the suspension of Justin Blackmon and Shorts’ season-ending sports hernia injury. Doss has only 26 receptions in his first three seasons with Baltimore but did lead the NFL in punt return average in 2013.

Special-teams play could be the deciding factor on which receivers the Jaguars keep, Bradley said.

"My challenge to our guys is -- especially like the fourth, fifth and sixth spots -- those guys have got to be really good special-teams players," Bradley said. "The competition you’re seeing really even takes place on special teams because they know how valuable that is, so there’s a number of guys in there that are really battling. A guy like Tandon Doss had a really good day [Wednesday], so you’re seeing each one of them really try to maximize their reps."

Bradley really lit up when talking about Brown, praising his work ethic and leadership. The former quarterback at Liberty missed four games after suffering a fractured vertebra in his back in the 2013 season opener but was impressive in his return. He was on the field for all but five of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps against Denver despite only having practiced minimally because of his injury. The following week he caught five passes for 120 yards, including a career-high 43-yarder.

"Mike Brown is really, really solid," Bradley said. "That’s what I would have said last year, but I feel like he’s stepped up his game because of the competition. He’s really taking command and you’re seeing him lead other guys at that position. That in itself tells me he has a better command of things, but he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now."

Brown doesn’t worry about whether that gives him an edge over Doss and Taylor or any of the other players competing for the final two spots: 2013 practice squad players Chad Bumphis and Lamaar Thomas (who also played in two games) and undrafted rookie free- agents Allen Hurns and Damian Copeland.

"It’s the same thing every year," Brown said. "That’s one thing I love about this game. It’s all about competition. We’re all in here competing together, helping each other get better. Our focus is on being the best that we can be personally. Ultimately we don’t control the outcome of who’s here or who’s not, so there’s no use in even really thinking about it.

"You just go out there and you put your best foot forward and you get yourself to be the best that you can be and you kind of live with how it plays out. That’s the mindset you’ve got to take."

Brown, Taylor and Doss have gotten a lot of work during the first week of OTAs. The Jaguars have created what Bradley is calling an "opportunity period" specifically for the younger, less-experienced players to gain additional reps at the end of each workout. Hurns, Copeland and Bumphis have benefited from that extra work. Thomas had limited participation this week because of a knee injury.

There’s a long way to go before any kind of final decision and it will undoubtedly heat up during training camp, but the battle for those final receiver spots will be interesting to watch.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars begin organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday. While the players are only allowed to wear helmets and are restricted to six hours of work per day it marks the first time the veterans and rookies will be together, so it’s the first chance to get a glimpse at how the team may look in September.

Here are five things to ponder during the 10 OTAs and mandatory minicamp over the next four weeks:

Gerhart
The running back depth chart: Despite the Jaguars' confidence in Toby Gerhart, there is still some doubt among those outside the team over his ability to be a feature back. He has not done it since his days at Stanford, spending the past four seasons backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. The plan is around 20 touches per game, but if he’s not able to handle that workload or be productive, there are not a whole lot of options behind him. Second-year player Jordan Todman, who backed up Maurice Jones-Drew last season and ran for 109 yards in his only start of the season, is the only proven ball carrier behind Gerhart. Denard Robinson has to fix his ball security issues. Seventh-round pick Storm Johnson has quickly become a fan favorite, but he was taken that late for a reason. Moments after drafting him, coach Gus Bradley said Johnson really struggles in pass protection and he also has trouble holding onto the football. After Johnson, it’s undrafted rookies Beau Blankenship and Terrance Cobb.

Who’s No. 5-6? There are four locks to make the team at receiver: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. After that, there’s a wide-open competition for the fifth and sixth spots between Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Chad Bumphis, Damian Copeland, Tandon Doss, Allen Hurns and Lamaar Thomas. Doss has more career catches (26) than any of the others, plus he’s got good size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds). However, his issue in Baltimore the past three seasons was running routes consistently and drops. He is a solid kick returner and that gives him an advantage over the others. Brown and Taylor were on the roster last season and have valuable experience in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s system, but so does Hurns, a former Miami standout who played two seasons under Fisch as the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator.

Henne
Bortles vs. Henne: It’s not really a competition between first-round pick Blake Bortles and veteran Chad Henne at this point, but it will be interesting to see them throwing together. The thing to watch will be the 11-on-11, in which Henne should have a significant advantage. He is completely comfortable in the offense and therefore his throws should be quicker and more decisive. If Bortles looks comparable, that may be a clue the competition in training camp may start off closer than most anticipated.

Joeckel’s return: Luke Joeckel spent only about a quarter at left tackle before suffering a fractured ankle that kept him out for the rest of the 2013 season. He spent all of training camp and the first four weeks at right tackle, so this will essentially be his rookie season at left tackle. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich will at times put four leos on the field on third down, so it’ll be interesting to watch Joeckel match up against some of the pass-rushers. One matchup I’d like to see is Joeckel vs. rookie Chris Smith, who doesn't have prototypical leo size (he’s 6-1) but has long arms and is very quick off the line. The Jaguars want to see Joeckel play the way he did before getting injured against St. Louis when he pretty much stoned Robert Quinn, who went on to record 19 sacks last season.

Safety dance: Johnathan Cyprien is the starting strong safety. That’s set in stone. But the situation at free safety is less certain. Josh Evans (sixth round) and Winston Guy (waiver wire) shared the spot last season, but the Jaguars signed a pair of undrafted rookies -- Craig Loston and Jerome Junior -- to compete with Evans and Guy along with Chris Prosinski, Joe Young and Sherrod Martin. Evans really shouldn’t have been on the field as much as he was last season but was forced into action because of an injury to Dwight Lowery in Week 3. That experience should give him an advantage going into OTAs. This position battle will be one of the more interesting ones to watch throughout training camp and preseason.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars begin offseason conditioning on Wednesday. There is minimal on-field work allowed and only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed on the field, so there's not much football coaching going on.

But this is the first look at the 2014 Jaguars. They'll look a lot different after next month’s draft, but here’s an early look at the offensive depth chart. The defensive depth chart will appear Tuesday:

Henne
Quarterback

Starter: Chad Henne.
Reserves: Ricky Stanzi, Matt Scott.

The Jaguars are going to draft at least one quarterback, but the job belongs to Henne. GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have said they don’t want a rookie quarterback to play right away. They want him to take the time to learn the game while not having to worry about winning games each week. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Stanzi the second active quarterback for the first part of the season.

Gerhart
Running back

Starter: Toby Gerhart.
Reserves: Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Delone Carter.

Gerhart was signed to replace Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars believe he can be an every-down back. He’s never done it at the NFL level, though he was a beast at Stanford, so there’s an element of uncertainty. The plan is 15-20 touches per game. The player everyone is watching is Robinson, who struggled holding onto the ball last season. This will certainly be a make-or-break offseason for him. Expect the Jaguars to draft a back as well.

Fullback

Starter: Will Ta’ufo’ou.
Reserves: Shaun Chapas, Bradie Ewing.

The Jaguars claimed Ewing in late March. He was a fifth-round pick of Atlanta in 2012 but missed all of his rookie season with a torn ACL. He played in two games last season before being placed on IR with a shoulder injury. The fullback wasn’t really involved in the offense in 2013. That may change if the talent level improves.

Lewis
Tight end

Starter: Marcedes Lewis.
Reserves: Danny Noble, Clay Harbor, Brandon Barden.

Lewis really came on in the last third of the 2013 season and should be a 50-catch guy in 2014. Harbor is a flex tight end and is better used off the line of scrimmage. Noble had the big catch-and-run against Arizona but otherwise was a blocker. This position needs another weapon, but it’s probably not going to be that high of a priority in the draft.

Wide receiver

Starters: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders.
Reserves: Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Chad Bumphis, Stephen Burton, Tandon Doss, Jeremy Ebert, Lamaar Thomas, Stephen Williams.

This is a position the Jaguars are sure to address in the draft as well. Outside of Shorts, Sanders and Brown, the Jaguars have little experience and not much production. Justin Blackmon is still suspended and the Jaguars aren't counting on anything from him. Doss had more success as a kick returner than receiver in Baltimore and that's likely to continue in Jacksonville. The Jaguars need a big, physical receiver as well as someone who can demand double teams and free up other receivers to make plays. They could find all of that in Sammy Watkins at No. 3.

Offensive line

Starters: LT Luke Joeckel, LG Zane Beadles, C Mike Brewster, RG Will Rackley, RT Austin Pasztor.
Reserves: OT/G Cameron Bradfield, OT Sam Young, C Matt Stankiewitch, G Jacques McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, G Drew Nowak, OT DeMarcus Love.

The question marks are Brewster and Rackley because they’re going to have to hold off challenges from guys already on the roster, as well as any rookies. The Jaguars nearly landed Alex Mack in free agency but when the Cleveland Browns matched the Jaguars’ offer sheet, Brewster inherited the starting job. Caldwell and Bradley publicly said they have confidence in Brewster, a third-year player from Ohio State who suffered a fractured ankle in Week 15, but that was before they signed Mack to an offer sheet. Rackley struggled last season, but he deserves credit for playing much of the season with a knee injury. Expect the Jaguars to draft a center and a guard and bring in several undrafted free agents to compete at those spots. Bradfield started 25 games at right and left tackle but also can play guard, which makes him a valuable reserve.

Free-agency series: Wide receivers

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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Here is the third of a 10-part series breaking down the Jaguars’ free-agency needs, position by position:

Wide receivers

Who’s on the roster: Justin Blackmon, Mike Brown, Chad Bumphis, Jeremy Ebert, Stephen Burton, Taylor Price, Denard Robinson, Jabin Sambrano, Ace Sanders, Cecil Shorts, Kerry Taylor, Lamaar Thomas and Stephen Williams.

Blackmon
Blackmon
Analysis: This position group is solid provided Blackmon is on the field. However, nobody knows when, or if, he’ll get back on the field. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy just before the 2014 season begins. Even if he’s reinstated, there’s no guarantee he’ll avoid another suspension. He is clearly the Jaguars’ best receiver, catching 29 passes for 415 yards in the four games in which he played in 2013. Shorts has played well the past two seasons (121 catches for 1,756 yards), though he has missed five games because of injuries and missed the final three games of this past season and went on IR with a sports hernia. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, though, and had some trouble when he was thrust into that role when Blackmon was suspended. Taylor came on at the end of the season and is intriguing as a No. 4/5 receiver. Brown and Sanders, who caught 51 passes last season as a rookie, are dependable slot receivers. In addition to Shorts, Burton, Ebert, Price and Williams finished the season on injured reserve. Bumphis and Sambrano are on the practice squad. Price’s contract expires next month and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

NFL free agents of interest: Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, Brandon Tate and Golden Tate.

Need meter: 5. The Jaguars could get by without adding a receiver in free agency, because it’s likely they’ll draft at least one. The position group needs an upgrade at the top end, but to get a big-time player the Jaguars will have to spend big-time money, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do that on a receiver. Regardless of whether it’s a free agent or a draft pick, it’s likely to be a bigger, more physical receiver, because that’s one thing the Jaguars lack. Burton (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) fits the description, but has just 15 catches in three seasons and battled a concussion much of last season.
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on offense and which prospects the team might be looking to take a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. A look at the defense comes Tuesday.

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 offense and some potential targets:

Quarterback: There's no question this is the Jaguars' top need, although pass-rusher is only slightly behind. Caldwell wants to re-sign Chad Henne before free agency begins next month, but Henne is a bridge player or someone who can mentor a young quarterback and begin the season as the starter if the rookie isn't ready. The Jaguars haven't completely given up on Blaine Gabbert, either, but he's entering the final year of his contract and it would be surprising if he were re-signed after 2014.

Potential targets: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Aaron Murray.

Interior offensive line: The Jaguars have to find a center to replace the retired Brad Meester and a left guard to upgrade from Will Rackley. The Jaguars will address this area in free agency as well but the team also wants to add some young talent. The Jaguars appear set at both tackles (Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor) and right guard Uche Nwaneri has two more years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to make $4.775 million in each year, though, and could be a cap casualty after 2014. Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon can play guard and center but neither appears, now anyway, to be the long-term answer. It wouldn't be surprising if the team took an interior offensive lineman in the third round, especially if the Jaguars took a quarterback earlier.

Potential targets: G Gabe Jackson, G David Yankey, G Brandon Thomas, C Marcus Martin, C Weston Richburg, C Russell Bodine.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Stephen Morton/AP PhotoThe Jaguars need to find a feature back in the event they do not re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew.
Running back: The Jaguars are more than likely going to lose Maurice Jones-Drew in free agency, which leaves them with Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Delone Carter, and Justin Forsett on the roster. Forsett is likely going to be cut, but even if he's retained none of those players is a feature back. The Jaguars don't need to invest a high pick at this spot because good backs can be found in the later middle rounds.

Potential targets: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk, Dri Archer, Andre Williams.

Receiver: The Jaguars aren't planning on getting anything from Justin Blackmon in 2014 because they don't yet know his status, which is the correct way to approach his situation. Cecil Shorts is entering a contract year but has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Lamar Thomas, and Stephen Burton are complementary players. The Jaguars need to find a bigger, physical receiver. If they do that in free agency, this area drops to the bottom of the offensive needs list.

Potential targets: Josh Huff, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams.

Tight end: Marcedes Lewis came on strong at the end of the season and he should be a 50-catch player in Jedd Fisch's offense if he stays healthy. After Lewis, though, there isn't much. Clay Harbor is a flex tight end but he's a free agent and the Jaguars will have to decide if they want to re-sign him. Danny Noble is raw and needs more work. The Jaguars want a bigger tight end who can line up next to Lewis in two-tight-end formations.

Potential targets: Marcel Jensen, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Crockett Gilmore, Jake Murphy.
Each day for the next two weeks we’ll review how each position group performed in 2013, and take an early look at 2014. Today we’ll examine the wide receivers. We did quarterbacks on Monday, running backs on Tuesday, tight ends on Wednesday, and we will do the offensive line on Friday.

Wide receivers

Breakdown of starts: Cecil Shorts (13), Mike Brown (6), Justin Blackmon (4), Ace Sanders (4), Kerry Taylor (4), Stephen Burton (2).

Shorts
Recap: For four games -- the only four in which Blackmon played -- the Jaguars were in pretty good shape. It was a little rougher in the other 12, however, especially after Shorts went on IR with a groin injury. By the end of the season, though, there were a few pleasant surprises.

Shorts still led the team with 66 catches for 777 yards and three touchdowns despite battling shoulder and groin injuries throughout the season. He struggled in the role as the team’s No. 1 receiver when Blackmon was suspended for the first four games but handled it much better during Blackmon’s second suspension.

He was the only other proven receiver on the roster when the season began but fourth-round draft pick Ace Sanders and first-year player Mike Brown developed into solid complementary receivers. Sanders, drafted mainly to be the team’s punt returner, got more work early because of Blackmon’s suspension and a back injury that kept Brown off the field for four of the first five weeks. His 51 catches were the third-highest among rookie receivers this season.

Brown (32 catches, 446 yards, 2 touchdowns) had the best per-catch average (13.9 yards) among the Jaguars’ wide receivers. He was impressive in his return to the lineup after a four-week absence due to a broken vertebra, catching five passes for 120 yards in his second game back, making him the only receiver beside Blackmon to have a 100-yard receiving game.

Taylor was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. He was signed Nov. 4 and caught 16 passes for 162 yards in the last three games.

Looking ahead to 2014

Players under contract: Blackmon, Shorts, Burton, Sanders, Brown, Taylor, Stephen Williams, Jeremy Ebert, Lamaar Thomas, Chad Bumphis, Jabin Sambrano.

The skinny: Shorts will be in the final year of his contract so he’ll have that as some added motivation to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Sanders, Brown and Taylor will go into camp as the Nos. 2-4 receivers and should be improved in their second season in the offense.

The wildcard is Blackmon. He can apply for reinstatement before the season begins. If he is reinstated, the Jaguars have to decide whether to cut or keep him, knowing that if they do keep him they run the risk of him failing another drug test and being suspended again.

It’s likely the Jaguars also will draft a receiver or try to add one in free agency. It’s also likely that whoever they add will be a bigger, physical receiver, which is something they do not have on the roster. They need a receiver that can go up and win the 50-50 battles for balls, especially in the red zone. Right now tight end Marcedes Lewis is the only player on the roster who has proven he can do that.
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.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s obvious that the Jacksonville Jaguars made significant progress in the second half of the 2013 season.

But it is just as obvious that they still have a long way to go to be competitive in the AFC South.

It was painfully evident in Sunday’s 30-10 loss at Indianapolis. The Jaguars were not dominated as much as they were in a 37-3 loss to the Colts in Jacksonville in Week 4, but it was ugly, especially early. They were down 17-0 and the game was essentially over after the first quarter.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/AJ MastMaurice Jones-Drew fumbled on the Jaguars' first drive, setting up Indianapolis for a touchdown.
"I just didn’t think that we executed very well today," coach Gus Bradley said. "We missed some opportunities, we missed some reads, we missed some wild combinations, we missed tackles, some assignments. I don’t want to make it sound like it was just a complete disaster. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t up to our standard. It wasn’t the consistency that we’re looking for."

It’s going to take a lot more than just another draft and a couple of free-agent signings before they can compete with the Colts, who are clearly the class of the division. Granted, the Jaguars have been banged-up in the final month -- especially on defense, where they were without four starters -- but so are the Colts. They were missing 15 players who were placed on IR this season, including receiver Reggie Wayne. That means injuries cannot be used to explain away Sunday’s rout.

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and Bradley have gotten off to a good start in revamping the roster, but there are still major holes to fill. There are some building blocks in place on defense, especially in the secondary with safety Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz. Defensive tackles Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny give the Jaguars a solid foundation up the middle, too. But the Jaguars have to add a pass-rusher, find another cornerback and get help at outside linebacker.

It’s on offense where more work needs to be done, though. Rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel showed promise before he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5 and was lost for the season, but he still has to prove himself capable of being an elite player. The staff likes right tackle Austin Pasztor, but is he the answer there?

The interior of the offensive line needs an upgrade, too, especially at center now that Brad Meester has retired.

But it’s at the skill positions where the Jaguars really need work, starting at quarterback. Chad Henne had a solid season as a starter, and his 331 yards passing against the Colts made him the first Jaguars quarterback to surpass 3,000 yards since David Garrard in 2009. Henne’s a caretaker, not a franchise quarterback, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next year anyway because he’s an unrestricted free agent. Even if he re-signs, the Jaguars have to address that position in the draft.

The situation at running back also is unclear because of Maurice Jones-Drew’s situation. His contract is set to expire, and while he says he wants to return, it’s likely that he wants to test the free-agent market to see what kind of offers he can generate. Jordan Todman has proven capable of being a complementary back but not a feature back.

The Jaguars have a solid No. 2 receiver in Cecil Shorts, who missed the last three games because of a groin injury, but no No. 1 with Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown and Kerry Taylor (eight catches, 75 yards, one TD against the Colts) are complementary pieces.

The Jaguars need to find a big-play -- and big -- receiver. Only one receiver who has a catch this season is taller than 6-foot, and he’s now on IR (the 6-1 Stephen Burton).

That sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the task ahead shouldn’t overshadow the work that has already been done. The Jaguars (4-12) are a better team now than they were in September, especially when it comes to the culture in the locker room and around the facility.

"There was growth," Bradley said. "I feel like we competed the whole way through. Sometimes you have those days where it doesn’t go exactly how you had hoped, and we’ll learn from it. I asked the team to reflect on everything that we had done this year, and I think some tremendous growth has taken place. I give credit to our team and that our whole objective was to create a new standard, a new standard of excellence and they helped in that, what’s acceptable.

"We’ll take this season, we’ll grow from it and we’ll add to it."

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
4:00
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 30-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

What it means: The Jaguars finished 4-12, doubling their victory total from last season and likely securing the No. 3 draft pick. The Houston Texans (2-14) and Washington Redskins (3-13) have the top two picks, but the Redskins traded their pick to St. Louis, so the Rams will pick in their spot.

Stock watch: Two young players stood out. Safety Johnathan Cyprien has steadily improved this season and broke up three passes to go along with six tackles. The team’s second-round draft pick out of Florida International also did a much better job of patrolling the seam and keeping Colts tight ends Coby Fleener and Weslye Saunders from doing a lot of damage. Fleener caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams but had just one catch for 25 yards on Sunday. The Jaguars have been limited at receiver since Justin Blackmon's suspension and Cecil Shorts' groin injury ended his season. However, Kerry Taylor has stepped up over the past three weeks. He caught a team-high eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Colts and has 16 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown over the past three games. Not bad for a guy who didn’t join the team until Nov. 4.

Farewell? This might have been the final game in a Jaguars uniform for running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and it wasn’t exactly a memorable one. He had averaged 100.9 yards per game rushing against the Colts in his career, but had just 39 yards on 13 carries Sunday. He also fumbled on the game’s third play a turnover the Colts turned into an early 7-0 lead. That was Jones-Drew’s first fumble lost in more than two years (against Baltimore on Oct. 24, 2011). It definitely was the final game for center Brad Meester, who is retiring after 14 seasons in the NFL.

What’s next: General manager David Caldwell will begin the process of evaluating the roster and making decisions on which players are worth re-signing, specifically quarterback Chad Henne and Jones-Drew. Both are unrestricted free agents.
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.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
3:53
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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.

Jaguars top 10: Todman tops list

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
1:00
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The winning streak is over, but this was a different loss than the Jacksonville Jaguars have experienced this season.

They made the same kinds of mistakes that hurt them in the first eight weeks -- turnovers, missed assignments on defense, missed tackles -- but the difference in Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills is that the Jaguars were in the game and had a chance to win it in the fourth quarter.

Unlike their other losses, this wasn’t a blowout. In fact, it was the first loss this season by less than double digits. That means finding the top 10 Jaguars playmakers from the game is significantly easier than it was in the other nine losses.

Remember, this isn’t a list of MVP candidates, but a compilation of the players who are making the biggest difference each week.

Here we go, with last week’s rankings in parenthesis:

1. RB Jordan Todman (7): The first-year back filled in for an injured Maurice Jones-Drew and was the offensive MVP. He ran for 109 yards and caught four passes for 44 yards. He proved he can be a viable No. 2 back.

2. TE Marcedes Lewis (4): Lewis caught a touchdown for the third game in a row for the first time in his career. He led the Jaguars with four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. He was a big factor in the running game pounding out a season-high 159 yards.

3. K Josh Scobee (NR): He hit two field goals, including a season-long 55 yarder that is tied for the second-longest field goal of his career.

4. LB Geno Hayes (3): Hayes picked off a pass for the second consecutive week. He had only one tackle but he played through a knee injury and still managed to deliver a big play that set up a field goal.

5. S Winston Guy (NR): Guy seemed to be all over the field. He made six tackles, sacked EJ Manuel and forced a fumble. He’s still a little wild and lined up wrong several times, but he had worked at strong safety for the first time last week.

6. DT Sen'Derrick Marks (NR): Seems like he makes one or two big plays a game and he did it again against the Bills, sacking Manuel once and recovering the fumble that Guy forced.

7. LB Paul Posluszny (6): It was another typical Posluszny performance. He led the team in tackles (13) and added a quarterback hit. He has been the Jaguars’ most consistent player this season.

8. DE Tyson Alualu (NR): He plays a spot that’s not going to produce a lot of sacks and therefore gets overlooked, but he was solid against the Bills. He had six tackles, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit.

9. WR Kerry Taylor (NR): He rebounded from an early drop to catch four passes for 42 yards, including a couple tough catches. Taylor was forced into significant action because of the groin injury to Cecil Shorts and did a solid job.

10. DE Andre Branch (10): He recorded a sack -- his fourth in the last five games -- and added five tackles, including two for loss. The coaching staff has been lauding his effort and now he’s starting to consistently make plays.

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