AFC South: Marcedes Lewis

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.
David GarrardGary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Jacksonville Jaguars history. On Monday we featured Morten Andersen’s missed field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale that sent the Jaguars to the playoffs. On Tuesday we featured Mark Brunell’s touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith to clinch the 1996 AFC divisional playoff game over the Broncos.

Score: Jaguars 31, Steelers 29
Date: Jan. 5, 2008 Site: Heinz Field

The Jaguars have won just one playoff game since their run to the 1999 AFC Championship Game, and it came thanks to a gutsy play call, a couple of good blocks and a holding penalty that wasn’t called.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Jaguars' history?

  •  
    14%
  •  
    56%
  •  
    30%

Discuss (Total votes: 24,526)

The Jaguars appeared headed for an easy victory over Pittsburgh in a 2007 AFC wild-card game after beginning the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead and the Steelers facing a fourth-and-12 at the Jacksonville 37-yard line. But Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes hooked up for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh’s comeback got jump-started.

The Steelers eventually took a 29-28 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. After the teams traded possessions, the Jaguars drove into Pittsburgh territory but faced a critical fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 43 with 1:56 remaining.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t choose a pass play or a run by Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew. He called a quarterback draw out of the shotgun formation, putting the season on David Garrard’s feet.

Four players threw key blocks: Center Brad Meester sealed linebacker James Farrior on the inside, left guard Vince Manuwai drove defensive end Brett Keisel backward, right tackle Maurice Williams took down nose tackle Casey Hampton and tight end Marcedes Lewis turned safety Troy Polamalu outside.

That opened a huge hole for Garrard, who put a move on safety Tyrone Carter and ran by him at the 30 before Carter finally ran him down at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. That play set up Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining, and defensive end Bobby McCray sacked Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that defensive tackle Derek Landri recovered with 20 seconds to play to give the Jaguars a 31-29 victory.

Except it shouldn’t have happened.

Officials missed a pretty blatant hold by left tackle Khalif Barnes on linebacker James Harrison. Barnes got his feet crossed as Harrison went outside and then back inside and grabbed Harrison’s jersey by his shoulders. By the time Barnes let go, Garrard was already past the first-down marker.

Steelers players and fans were irate about the noncall. Their complaints were eventually validated when the NFL’s head of officiating admitted the following spring that the crew working that game missed the holding call.

There was obviously nothing the NFL could do about the outcome. That remains the last time the Steelers lost a playoff game at home.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Maurice Jones-Drew decided to sign a free-agent contract with Oakland, he took more than just 8,071 rushing yards and a Jaguars-record 81 touchdowns to the West Coast.

He took the Jaguars’ national identity.

Jones-Drew was the franchise’s most recognizable player. He was one of the few Jaguars players -- and possibly the only one -- who the average football fan in, say, Kenosha, Wisconsin, could pick out of a lineup, mainly because of fantasy football. When Jones-Drew said something interesting or controversial, it was national news.

[+] EnlargeBortles
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsThe Jags are surely hoping that rookie Blake Bortles will soon be identified as the face of the franchise.
He was the team’s unquestioned leader and the person whose name first came to mind when the Jaguars were mentioned.

He was the face of the franchise, and now he’s wearing silver and black.

The Jaguars are entering the second season of the Dave Caldwell/Gus Bradley era, and while the rebuild is focusing on improving the talent level on the roster, they also need to find Jones-Drew’s replacement as the public image of the franchise.

"I think that will just develop," Bradley, the head coach, said. "We don’t talk to our guys about that. Our hope is that they just continue to become the best that they can be, and then that might be a byproduct of it. That’s kind of how we look at it, and we think in due time those things will come."

Every NFL team needs a face, especially a small-market team like the Jaguars. In many cases it’s the quarterback -- think Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. But not always -- think J.J. Watt, Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. It certainly helps from a marketing perspective to have one -- especially when it comes to jersey sales -- but it goes beyond that.

The face of a franchise gives the team an identity. He's the player who rallies the team when things go wrong. It goes hand in hand with leadership, but think of the face of the franchise as the alpha leader. Teams generally have several leaders, and a player can be a leader without being the face of the franchise, but a player can’t be the face without being a leader.

In almost every case, he's a good player -- usually among the league’s elite. That’s the Jaguars’ problem. While they do have some very good players, they don’t have any who would be considered elite. Tight end Marcedes Lewis and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny have been to the Pro Bowl, but neither carries the same national recognition and cachet that Jones-Drew did for the past five seasons. Posluszny even admits that.

"Maurice is a national figure, and playing the running back spot, Pro Bowl player, offensive guy, great personality -- so whether you can fill his role in that aspect, I don’t know," Posluszny said. "Maybe it’s going to be by committee. Marcedes Lewis is a huge name, and then you look at Chad Henne and how he’s going to be able to lead, so as far as the leadership aspect of it there are several guys that’ll definitely step up to fill that void.

"Who’s going to be the guy? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine."

The most logical pick would be quarterback Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in last month’s draft. He’s the most high-profile player on the roster right now. However, it’s hard to be the face of a franchise when you’re sitting on the bench, which is what general manager Caldwell and Bradley want Bortles to do in 2014.

Henne is well-liked in the locker room and has become more of a vocal leader now that he is assured of being the starting quarterback, but he doesn’t have the star power. Neither do receiver Cecil Shorts and running back Toby Gerhart.

The Jaguars’ most notable player may actually be wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who is serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy for the third time, but he wouldn’t be considered the face of the franchise.

Right now, the most visible and prominent Jaguar is owner Shad Khan, and not just because of his handlebar mustache. He has put $31 million of his own money into improvements at EverBank Field -- $11 million to renovate the locker room and weight room and $20 million to help finance the $63 million in stadium upgrades that include the world’s largest video boards and two pools in the north end zone.

The mustache helps, though. It is featured in advertising campaigns and on T-shirts, and you can spot fans sporting fake ones throughout the stadium on game days.

It’s clever and it’s funny, and it’s obvious that the fan base has completely embraced Khan, who purchased the team from the beloved Weaver family in late 2011. But how long will that last if the Jaguars continue to struggle on the field? And can an owner truly be the face of a sports franchise? It has happened with Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner, but those three men share the same traits: huge egos and dominant, aggressive personalities. That’s not Khan.

It appears that Caldwell and Bradley have begun adding good players. They need one to become the franchise’s new face.
Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
 
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.
video
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sometimes the popular decision isn't the correct decision, and that's the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Chad Henne.

The team needs a franchise quarterback and fans are clamoring for the team to draft Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles and hand over the keys to the offense. The last thing fans want is the status quo at quarterback.

However, that's likely what they're going to get now that Henne and the team have agreed to a two-year extension. General manager David Caldwell has been hinting at it over the past two months. Even if the Jaguars do draft a quarterback, Caldwell said it's unlikely he'll be ready to play right away. Caldwell also said that with another year in the offense, some additional playmakers, and better offensive-line play, Henne could keep the team afloat.

That's a pretty good indication Henne will take the first snap in the 2014 season opener and for a significant length of time after, as well. Possibly even the entire season.

If Caldwell is correct and whichever quarterback the team drafts is not ready to play for the first part of the season or longer -- whether it's one of the big three in the first round or someone else in the second or third round -- then sticking with Henne is the correct decision. He gives the team the best chance to win games in that scenario.

Henne did a solid job under less-than-ideal circumstances last season: He started 13 games and threw for 3,241 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, becoming the first Jaguars quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season since David Garrard in 2009. The 28-year-old Henne led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record in the second half of the season after an 0-8 start, and he had nine TD passes and five interceptions in the final five games.

He did it with a depleted cast, too. He lost his best receiver (Justin Blackmon) to an indefinite suspension, didn't get much from tight end Marcedes Lewis because of a calf injury, and then lost his second-best receiver (Cecil Shorts) for the final three weeks because of a sports hernia.

Henne's signing doesn't guarantee the Jaguars won't take a quarterback in the first round, but the team could choose to address a similarly pressing need by taking a pass-rusher, whether it's Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack.

If the Jaguars do take a quarterback in the second or third round -- which seems a near certainty if they draft a pass-rusher in the first round -- Henne can serve as a mentor to the young quarterback, a role that wouldn't be suited for Blaine Gabbert.

Henne isn't the long-term answer, but he is the team's top option heading into the 2014 season -- popular or not.

Free-agency series: Tight ends

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
12:00
PM ET
Here is the fourth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:

Tight ends

Lewis
Who’s on the roster: Brandon Barden, Clay Harbor, Marcedes Lewis, Danny Noble and Allen Reisner.

Analysis: Lewis was pretty much MIA the first half of the season because of a calf injury and trying to find his spot in the offense, but he came on late in the season and caught 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns in the last five games. If he's used the same way in 2014, he should have a 50-catch season. He is by far the team's best blocker, and Harbor and Reisner are flex tight ends who combined for 29 catches in 2013. Noble is a young, raw player with good size (6-foot-5, 248 pounds) and seems to be OK as a blocker, but he needs refinement. He flashed his potential with his 62-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against Arizona. Barden signed a futures contract with the team in late December.

NFL free agents of interest: Ed Dickson, Garrett Graham, Dustin Keller and Andrew Quarless.

Need meter: 3. Lewis is among the league's best blocking tight ends and is a weapon in the passing game. He's not as much of a threat up the seam as some of the league's elite tight ends, but as long as he stays healthy the Jaguars are in pretty good shape. Harbor is an unrestricted free agent and he could be the Jaguars' best option. The tight end market is pretty thin after the top two or three, and the Jaguars are unlikely to invest a lot of money in this spot since Lewis already has such a high cap number ($8.25 million). Expect the Jaguars to draft a tight end.
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 this week I'll provide an answer to a key question facing the Jaguars in the offseason.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are projected to be roughly $50 million under the salary cap in 2014, so GM David Caldwell doesn't have to worry about re-negotiating any deals or cutting high-priced players to fit under the cap.

Posluszny
Lewis
But that doesn't mean the Jaguars don't have any out-of-whack salaries. They certainly do, and it begins with linebacker Paul Posluszny.

Posluszny is scheduled to count $9.5 million against the cap in 2014. Though he has been the Jaguars' best defensive player since he signed a six-year deal with the team in 2011 and is coming off his first Pro Bowl, that's a pretty significant cap number for a middle linebacker. In fact, he'll be the Jaguars' highest-paid player in 2014.

That's not much of an issue now because the Jaguars don't have a high-paid quarterback, receiver or defensive back to worry about within the next few years. But Posluszny will count $9.5 million against the cap in 2015 and $7.5 million against the cap in 2016 and those are numbers that are too high and it's likely the team will try to re-work the deal at some point after 2014.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis will be the Jaguars' second-highest paid player in 2014 with a cap number of $8.35 million. It appeared during the 2013 season that Lewis would be a cap casualty because he missed nearly six full games with a calf injury and really didn't make much of an impact in the passing game when he did return. But he was certainly a weapon over the final five games, catching 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch got Lewis more involved over the final five weeks and with a full season in the lineup Lewis could reach 50 catches in 2014.

Even so, it'd be a surprise if Lewis were back in 2015 because he is scheduled to count $8.3 million against the cap and that's a lot of money to invest in a tight end not named Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski.

Other players with high cap numbers in 2014 are defensive end Jason Babin ($6.175 million), right guard Uche Nwaneri ($5.894 million) and receiver Justin Blackmon ($5.048 million). 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.

Blackmon is under an indefinite suspension and won't count against the cap unless he is reinstated. He can apply to commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement before the 2014 season begins.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis is looking forward to the 2014 season because he believes he can make an impact on offense -- for the entire season.

Lewis
Lewis was certainly a weapon over the past five games of 2013, catching 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns. He could have been doing that all season had a calf injury not stalled his progress, he said, and it’s proof that he can have a one of the most productive seasons of his career next year.

"This last five-game stretch, I don’t remember making plays like that in 2010, and I went to the Pro Bowl in 2010," Lewis said. "I feel like at a point it just started clicking, and it just started being a routine. I look forward to that [next season]."

Lewis said he was having the best camp of his eight-year career when he suffered a strained calf during pregame warmups for the Jaguars’ second preseason game. He re-injured it during practice on Sept. 5 and missed the first three games.

He tried to return against Indianapolis in Week 4, but he played just two snaps before aggravating the injury. He missed the next two games before finally getting on the field in Week 7. His first catch was a 27-yarder, but he found he really wasn’t fitting into the passing game as well as he’d hoped.

It took another five games, but eventually Lewis and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch meshed.

"It sucks that I had the calf injury, because I wasn’t able to grow with the offense," Lewis said "The timing was off. It was just a whole big old debacle about how I was going to be getting used. The last month-and-a-half Jedd has just really taken the time to be, ‘Okay, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to make it a point to get you the ball here.’ I really just started using my size to my advantage."

If Lewis can do that in 2014, he could be headed for one of the best seasons of his career. He averaged 3.2 catches for 48.4 yards per game over the final five games of 2013. Apply that to a 16-game schedule and Lewis would end up with 51 catches for 774 yards -- his third-50-catch season of his career and a career-high in receiving yards.

"During the spring and summer time I was really excited about what Marcedes could bring to the passing game,” Fisch said. "I remember there was some talk that he’d be able to really impact the passing game.

"Clearly you guys can see that when people start coming back and people start becoming more comfortable [in the offense] we’re moving the ball a lot better."
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.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 16

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
8:00
AM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

Lewis
Keeping Lewis involved: Marcedes Lewis caught a touchdown pass in his fourth consecutive game and finished with four catches for 50 yards. He has been much more involved in the offense over the past month, which has really helped the Jaguars overcome an injured and now-missing Cecil Shorts. He should have been more involved earlier in the season but he needed time to adjust to the system after missing so much time because of a calf injury. His past month also highlights an interesting decision the Jaguars have heading into 2014: Do they keep Lewis, who is scheduled to make $6.7 million in base salary next season and $6.65 million in 2015? He has proved he is still a productive player and probably could catch 50 passes in Jedd Fisch’s offense in a full season, but that’s a lot of money to devote to a player who will be 30 next year and isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans.

Meester’s TD: It was a feel-good move for offensive coordinator Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley to try to find a way to get center Brad Meester, who is retiring after 14 seasons, a touchdown. Although Meester didn’t score, the play call will pay off in an even bigger way: It further cemented the players’ belief, respect and admiration for Bradley. That he’d be willing to do that for Meester has won him the locker room for years. How could a player not want to play hard for a coach like that? Very few coaches would be willing to do that. I asked one former Jaguars player after the game whether former coach Tom Coughlin would have done that. His response: “Hell no. He wouldn’t have even considered it.”

QB situation: Chad Henne played a solid game -- 24-of-34, 237 yards, two TDs, one interception -- and the way he has played the past two months also presents the Jaguars an interesting possibility. His contract expires at the end of the season but he is definitely worth re-signing, especially if the Jaguars aren’t going to draft a quarterback in the first few rounds. Henne has shown he can function within the offense and not put the team in bad situations. If the Jaguars decide to go defense with the first several picks and take a quarterback late, Henne is good enough to be a caretaker for another year.

Farewell MoJo? Sunday could have been the final time Jaguars fans see running back Maurice Jones-Drew wearing teal and black. His contract expires after Sunday’s season finale at Indianapolis. He said in the locker room after the game that he’d like to be back, but it will depend on whether he and the Jaguars can reach an agreement on both a salary and length of contract that would allow him to possibly finish his career in Jacksonville. "If it is [my last game as a Jaguar], it is, and if it isn’t, then I had a great run," said Jones-Drew, who has 8,032 career rushing yards. "This is just part of this game. We all know that. It’s the business aspect of it that nobody wants to talk about. It is the pink elephant in the room. Sometimes you have to walk away and sometimes you can stay. Hopefully I can be like Meester and be back. We have a couple months to figure that out after next week. We’ll see how it goes."
video
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When the call came in from the sideline, Jaguars center Brad Meester got nervous.

But not because he was going to get a chance to score a touchdown in his final game at EverBank Field in front of his family.

He was worried he would embarrass himself in front of 60,559 people.

"The thing that ran through my head was, 'Don't drop the ball,'" Meester said following the Jaguars 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans. "I knew I would catch a lot of flak if I got open one time in my life and I dropped the ball. That was the one thing I was focusing on is catching it."

You can understand his uneasiness. Offensive linemen don’t get to catch passes or score touchdowns very often. Tackles sometimes do when they line up as extra tight ends. But centers never do.

Until Sunday, when offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and head coach Gus Bradley decided to give Meester a shot as a way to say “thank you” for being a vital part of the Jaguars franchise for the past 14 seasons. They put the play -- called Pass 5 Weak Screen to Brad -- in the game plan and practiced it all week.

On second-and-8 from the Tennessee 13-yard line late in the first quarter, they called it.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Brad Meester
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCenter Brad Meester made his first NFL catch in the final home game of his 14-year Jaguars' career.
Left guard Jacques McClendon moved to center and Drew Nowak, who was just activated from the practice squad this week, went in at left guard. Meester lined up to the right of tackle Austin Pasztor.

He went about 3 yards down field, turned around, and caught the pass from Chad Henne, just like he had done all week. Every time they practiced the play he caught it. Not a single drop. Even if he had been tackled immediately he would have been a hero to his linemen teammates.

"Have you seen his hands?" Pasztor said. "His fingers are all bent every which way. It is remarkable that he can hold onto the ball."

The rest of the play was an example of why offensive linemen don’t catch passes. Meester ran into the back of right guard Uche Nwaneri, tried to juke a defender, and cut inside instead of outside, where Pasztor was waiting to make a block. Had he done that, he may have scored.

"He’s a lineman. You think he’s going to see that?" Nwaneri said. "He’s just like, ‘RUN! RUN!' That’s how I would have been."

Meester admitted he maybe sort of panicked.

"I couldn't figure out what to do," he said. "Am I going outside? Am I going inside? Is he moving? I stuck there for a while and finally went inside, and there were a couple of guys waiting for me."

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said he probably would have cut outside.

"Yeah it was [free outside] but his speed and my speed are a little different," he said. "I think he’s running 7s not 4s."

Jones-Drew, though, is partly to blame. At no time this past week did he give Meester any tips on reading blocks. It’s not like that’s something an offensive lineman is supposed to know.

"If you ask Drew [Nowak] he would say he played running back so he’d probably tell you he does know how to read blocks," Pasztor said. "I think the majority of us probably don’t."

Meester eventually was tackled after a 9-yard gain, giving the Jaguars a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Henne hit Marcedes Lewis on the next play for a touchdown.

Meester wasn’t bummed about not getting to score. He said it’s a play he’ll always remember, not only because it was a chance to live out every offensive lineman’s dream but because it was a sign of how the coaching staff and franchise feels about him. He’ll also never forget the crowd after the play, either.

"It also meant a lot when after the catch they started cheering, ‘Meester.’" He said. "That was pretty cool. I never had anything like that happen in my life, except maybe at the house."

Had he scored, though, it would have been pandemonium, Jones-Drew said.

"The whole team was ready to get a penalty so it was kind of good that he didn’t score because I think everyone was going to run on the field if he got in," Jones-Drew said. "The bench probably would have emptied."

The catch, as it no doubt will go down as in Meester’s household, was part of a bigger tribute to the 14-year veteran, who announced earlier this week that this will be his final season. He was the only Jaguars player introduced before the game and the team held an on-field ceremony after the game in which he and his family were presented with four framed No. 63 jerseys.

That was a fitting tribute to a player who owns the franchise record for most games played and started (208) and the two longest streaks of consecutive starts (92 and 89). Meester was grateful for the pregame and postgame honors and for Bradley and Fisch giving him a chance to live every offensive lineman’s dream.

"I didn't break down and cry," Meester said. "I did get emotional. It was an emotional time. It really started to get me when I went out for pregame warm-up. I could hear people yelling at me and I could see some signs out there. That was awesome. I never had a sign for myself and there were several.

"There was even a Fat Head out there, which my kids have outside and are excited about."

Probably more than had their dad scored a touchdown.

Five things to watch: Jaguars-Titans

December, 21, 2013
12/21/13
8:00
AM ET
Here are five things to watch in Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.:

Stopping the run: The Jaguars’ improved rush defense in the second half of the season started against the Titans, who managed just 83 yards on the ground. Chris Johnson had 30 yards on 12 carries and fumbled early in the game. The Jaguars slipped a bit last week and gave up 198 yards on the ground to the Bills. Can they rebound against the Titans and corral Johnson, who is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball?

Fitzpatrick Part II: Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was forced into action in the last meeting when Jake Locker went down with a foot injury and he carved up the Jaguars’ secondary and nearly led the Titans to a comeback victory. He’s coming off a 400-yard, four-TD performance against Arizona and the Jaguars have given up an average of 301.8 yards passing in the last five games. It looks like safety Johnathan Cyprien will be able to play, so that should help some, but the Jaguars are going to have to get pressure to slow down Fitzpatrick.

MoJo’s health: Maurice Jones-Drew is questionable with a hamstring injury and is going to test it on Sunday morning to see if he can go. Even if he does play, it’s likely he won’t have a full load, which means we’ll see more Jordan Todman. He filled in pretty well for Jones-Drew last week (109 yards rushing).

TE play: From the Jaguars’ perspective, it’d be best to see more of Marcedes Lewis and less of Delanie Walker. Lewis has caught a touchdown pass in the last three games and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he wants to see Lewis more involved in the passing game now that Cecil Shorts is done for the season. Tight ends have hurt the Jaguars all season and Walker caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting. Can they limit his damage in this game?

Goodbye Brad: This will be the last home game for center Brad Meester, who announced earlier in the week that this would be his final season. The 36-year-old Meester, who is in his 14th season, owns franchise records for games played (207) and game started (207) as well as the two longest steaks of consecutive starts (92 and 88). The Jaguars selected him in the second round of the 2000 draft out of Northern Iowa and started at left guard the first three seasons before moving to center to begin the 2003 season. The team is going to have a post-game ceremony to honor him.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

AFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD