Jacksonville Jaguars: Andre Branch
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.
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)
- Luke Joeckel
- Zane Beadles
- Mike Brewster
- Jacques McClendon
- Austin Pasztor
- Cameron Bradfield
- Brandon Linder
- Luke Bowanko
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)
- Chris Clemons
- Sen'Derrick Marks
- Roy Miller
- Red Bryant
- Andre Branch
- Ziggy Hood
- Abry Jones
- Tyson Alualu
- Chris Smith
- Ryan Davis
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.
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).
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.
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.
These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
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.
The answers were diverse and interesting.
Today we find out about former Clemson defensive end Andre Branch, a third-year player from Richmond, Virginia.
Branch: My mother [Paulette Battle] and both my grandfathers [Orlandus Branch and Lucion Battle]. Because I do this for my mom and both my grandfathers, who are deceased. That’s who I play for. I pray to them before every game and I owe them that. They always were there for me, so this is how I’m changing my family around.
So they helped you learn the game?
Branch: My mom never missed a game. Ever. She never missed a game, no matter what. If I redshirted, she didn’t miss. No matter what state I was in, she didn’t [miss]. My grandfathers, they made me the man I am now. Not having my father there every day, they picked that up. That’s who I do it for.
So it wasn't necessarily football skills. They were your biggest supporters?
Branch: Through the highs and lows.
@ESPNdirocco: If Aaron Colvin's torn ACL wasn't landing him on the PUP list to begin the season then I think Jeremy Harris wouldn't make the roster. But with Colvin unavailable, it opens a spot on the roster and Jeremy Harris and Mike Harris will battle for it. Mike Harris is a Gene Smith pick and really doesn't fit the bigger physical profile that coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks. Jeremy Harris missed his rookie season with a back injury but got a lot of work during organized team activities and minicamp along with fellow 2013 seventh-round pick Demetrius McCray. I think he makes it over Mike Harris.
@ESPNdirocco: It could happen before the season starts, but I think a more reasonable time frame would be sometime in the first half of the season. There have been preliminary discussions, and the Jaguars do want to have Cecil Shorts around long term, but how quickly the deal gets done depends on what Shorts believes he's worth. I agree with the Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran that a general starting point would be the three-year, $13 million ($8.5 million guaranteed) deal Seattle gave Doug Baldwin, which is a little more than $4 million per year. Things might get delayed if Shorts wants No. 1 receiver money. He is the Jaguars' top receiver, but he's not a No. 1 receiver by NFL standards.
@ESPNdirocco How many D lineman do you think will have more than 5 sacks on the squad this year?— Jeremy Smith (@snivlem77) June 26, 2014
@ESPNdirocco: I think we can eliminate Red Bryant, Roy Miller, Tyson Alualu, Abry Jones, Chris Smith and Ryan Davis. Bryant being on that list might be a surprise to some, but remember, the end spot he plays doesn't produce a lot of sacks. Besides, Bryant has just 3.5 sacks in his six-year career. Chris Clemons and Andre Branch are a definite, and I think Sen'Derrick Marks hits that mark, too. He had four last season despite playing way too many snaps. The addition of Ziggy Hood will cut Marks' reps down and he will theoretically be fresher and even more productive. Hood is intriguing because the Jags signed him to play inside, which is where he played at Missouri. The Steelers had him playing end in his first five seasons.
@ESPNdirocco: They still live in the Jacksonville area.
@ESPNdirocco: I'll give you one definite thing to be excited about and one potential thing that could really energize Jaguars fans. The defensive line is much better, especially when it comes to rushing the passer. The Jaguars finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the past two seasons, but the addition of Clemons and Dekoda Watson (who will play the new OTTO position) and the continued development of Andre Branch should result in more pressure on the quarterback. Adding Bryant and Hood will help in run defense, too. As for the potential excitement, how about Denard Robinson? He dropped just one pass in nine OTAs and a three-day minicamp. If he is indeed able to be used in the passing game, the Jaguars will have a dynamic edge playmaker.
@ESPNdirocco: Because he has earned it. He's a good special teams player and he was solid enough as a safety to warrant making the team for the past three seasons. That being said, I think his spot is in jeopardy this year. The Jaguars brought in several undrafted safeties, including Craig Loston and Jerome Junior, and signed Sherrod Martin, who started 36 games for Carolina from 2009-12. Chris Prosinski needs to have a very good camp to make the team..
Big Al (Hangover city Fl): What players are you looking forward to seeing the most when the pads go on? For me it's [Andre] Branch since they been singing his praises, and they feel so confident that they released [Jason] Babin.
DiRocco: Andre Branch is one. So are Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Telvin Smith, Chris Smith, Dekoda Watson and Toby Gerhart.
james KY [via mobile]: I just wanted to throw out a scenario and curious as to your response! Say if the Jaguars decide to carry 3 QBs into the regular season on the 53 man roster (Henne, Bortles, Stanzi) and say week 6 or later [Chad] Henne goes down with an injury and the staff decides to put [Ricky] Stanzi in over Bortles should we be concerned at [Blake] Bortles' progress or does that just speak to what Caldwell and Bradley are trying to do and also keeping to their plan/word that Bortles wouldn't play until 2015?
DiRocco: I think it speaks more to the latter. Stanzi may not have any game experience, but he is in his second season in the offense and that gives him a huge advantage. I really believe they want to keep Bortles on the bench all season.
Gary Alexander (Cleveland): Is Allen Hurns simply a good story coming out of minicamp or does the potential exist for him to stick? Love the chats.
DiRocco: He took advantage of the reps he got while the other WRs were injured and that has earned him a longer look at training camp. He still faces an uphill battle to make the roster.
Dirk (Jax, Fl): It was stated that [Gus] Bradley met with the heads of the organization to discuss the situation at WR, and that he came up with a plan going forward. What are they doing differently now so that they don't have more injuries? Please don't give me the injuries are part of the game this I know, I want to know what specifically are they doing if your aware of the plan he mentioned. The Jags have been hit hard by injuries year after year so this is why I ask.
DiRocco: Well, they are a part of the game and the only way to 100 percent prevent injuries is to never practice at anything more than a walk-through pace. But the Jaguars are going to limit the number of full-speed reps they do and spread the reps among the depth chart. But honestly, some guys are just injury prone. Cecil Shorts is one. He's missed 11 games in his first three seasons.
Brian Downing (Anaheim): As a season ticket holder, what stadium upgrade should I be looking forward to the most this season? Thanks for the chats.
DiRocco: Depends on where your tickets are. If you're a club seat holder then the four-top tables outside the club are pretty cool. There's also field-level seating, although that's not as good a seat as many would think because it's hard to see. The pools are going to be cool regardless of where you sit. Plus, the Wi-Fi is getting an upgrade, too. But the biggest has to be the video boards. You'll love them.
Coach Gus Bradley has consistently praised third-year player Andre Branch, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2012, throughout OTAs. His burst off the ball and quickness around the edge is noticeable, and he has consistently been in the backfield during 11-on-11 drills. Though the players are only wearing helmets and prohibited from full contact, Branch appears to be ready to become the kind of consistent player he was during the second half of the 2013 season, when he recorded five of his six sacks in the final seven games.
"You see Andre Branch really focused and really capturing every opportunity," Bradley said.
Fifth-round pick Chris Smith doesn’t fit the Jaguars’ typical measurables for what they want in a LEO -- a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is rushing the passer -- but they liked what they saw from him during Senior Bowl week so they took a chance. The 6-foot-1, 266-pound Smith is a little shorter than ideal, but he has long arms and runs well.
"He had a couple good rushes [Wednesday] and I think he’s a guy that the more comfortable he gets and the more reps he gets we’ll see what he’s doing," Bradley said. "He’s got the traits we’re looking for. Now we just need to see it in training camp."
Second-year player Ryan Davis played in seven games last season and had one sack and made one huge play: an interception that sealed the Jaguars’ victory in Houston. He is another player who doesn’t have the typical LEO size (he’s 6-2, 260) but he’s an effort guy and the Jaguars are intrigued by his development.
Gerald Rivers is another second-year player that has worked at LEO. He has the prototypical LEO size (6-5, 258).
The key traits Branch, Smith, Davis and Rivers all share are youth and potential. At 34, Babin wasn’t going to get any better. It’s likely, even with reduced snaps because of the addition of the 32-year-old Clemons (58 career sacks), that he was going to be less effective. But there is room for improvement for the four younger (and cheaper) players, and that is better for the health of the roster beyond the 2014 season.
Here are five things to watch during the minicamp:
The health of the receivers: At one point the Jaguars were down seven receivers because of injuries, which forced the team to sign undrafted rookie Brandon Wimberly and claim Kevin Smith off waivers from Arizona. That really impacted the offense during the final two weeks of organized team activities because the Jaguars were forced to rely on undrafted rookies, former practice squad players, and only one receiver who had caught a pass in a game (Kerry Taylor). Mike Brown (groin) and Ace Sanders (hamstring) returned to the field last Thursday and Cecil Shorts (calf) said he was hoping to return this week. The status of second-round picks Allen Robinson (hamstring) and Marqise Lee (ankle), Tandon Doss (calf), and Lamaar Thomas (knee) won't be known until Tuesday.
The running back battle: Denard Robinson, Jordan Todman and Storm Johnson are fighting for playing time behind starter Toby Gerhart. Robinson looked very good in OTAs and dropped just one pass in the nine workouts -- a significant improvement from his rookie year. Johnson was impressive as well, but he still has to prove he can take care of the ball and can pass block. Todman is the only proven player behind Gerhart but he's going to have to hold off Robinson and Johnson to stay No. 2.
Blake Bortles' progress: After a shaky performance early in OTAs the Jaguars' first-round draft pick bounced back nicely and finished strong. Coach Gus Bradley said Bortles is beginning to look more poised in the huddle and on the field. The interesting thing to watch is how comfortable he is getting with the offense. He's had time to assimilate what they've installed so far so he should be more decisive in his decisions and throws when they run that part of the offense. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and Frank Scelfo are working with Bortles on his lower-body mechanics as well, which should help with velocity and accuracy.
Branching out: Defensive end Andre Branch is one the players that Bradley has consistently praised throughout OTAs. It's hard to judge offensive and defensive linemen until the pads go on, but Branch's quickness off the ball has been noticeable. Branch may never be the elite pass-rusher the Jaguars envisioned when they took him in the second round in 2012 but he's far from the bust he looked like in the first season-and-a-half of his career.
Center of attention: I get a lot of Jaguars fans absolutely crushing center Mike Brewster in my weekly chats, but Bradley said he did solid work in OTAs. Again, it's hard to tell how well linemen are playing until they're in full pads, but the fact that Bradley has praised Brewster should be encouraging.
@ESPNdirocco: There really aren't any front-line guys that are on the bubble, to be honest. Defensive end Jason Babin and Tyson Alualu should make the team unless several younger players have outstanding training camps, but I still think they're pretty solid to be on the 53-man roster. Defensive backs Mike Harris and Chris Prosinski are going to be pushed by some undrafted guys. There may be a surprise or two but I really don't see many front-line guys on the bubble.
@ESPNdirocco: I know that the thought of Ace Sanders getting cut has gained legs recently but I'd be very surprised if he didn't make the roster. He caught 50 passes as a rookie and it's even more impressive when you consider the Jaguars really hadn't planned on using him that much as a receiver but were forced into it by injuries. The only way I see Sanders being iffy to make the roster is if he continues to be just average as a punt returner. That's his forte and that's why the Jaguars drafted him. The expectation is that he'll have a smaller workload at receiver because of the addition of the two rookies and that should allow him to concentrate more on returning punts.
@ESPNdirocco: The pass rush should be significantly better with the additions of Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood and Dekoda Watson. When healthy, Clemons is a double-digit sack guy even at 32 years old. Hood returns to his natural spot as a three-technique defensive tackle and that should boost the interior rush significantly. Watson is playing the new otto position, which replaces the strongside linebacker and includes some pass-rush duties. Coach Gus Bradley has consistently praised Andre Branch throughout OTAs and the 34-year-old Jason Babin should be more effective by playing less snaps. The Jaguars had 31 sacks last season and it'd be a surprise to me if they didn't top 40 in 2014.
@ESPNdirocco: There is no date. Blackmon has to petition the NFL to be reinstated and then it's up to commissioner Roger Goodell to determine what additional punishment -- whether it's a further suspension or a fine -- he would face.
Two collectible figures of Robinson in Michigan home and road uniforms in action poses. He’s throwing the football, of course, since he was a quarterback for the Wolverines.
That sounds neat to someone like you and me, especially since they don’t make sports writer action figures, but it apparently violated one of those unwritten locker room codes and Robinson’s teammates good-naturedly jumped all over him once they were alerted to the figures’ presence.
Said defensive end Andre Branch: "That’s a bit much."
Running back Jordan Todman smiled when he saw the action figures and immediately deemed them a fineable offense.
"It’s called reminiscing," Todman said as he called Toby Gerhart over to Robinson’s locker to see them. "We can’t talk about what we did in the past. We’ve got to move forward."
If there was going to be one person in the locker room who had Robinson’s back it would have to be quarterback Chad Henne, the only other Michigan alum on the roster. Not so much.
"He’s big time now," Henne said.
The Wolverine camaraderie apparently has a limit.
"Take it out of the locker room, at least," Henne said. "I mean, c’mon."
Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, whose locker is on the row that backs up to the row that includes Robinson’s locker, said he and the rest of the defensive linemen had no idea about the action figures. Those skill guys live in a different world, he said.
"I don’t go over to that side [of the locker room]. I stay in the hood," he said. "We don’t go over there to Hollywood."
But does he have a problem with Robinson having action figures of himself in his locker?
"We haven’t been on the cover of a game," said Marks, referencing Robinson’s appearance on the cover of EA Sports’ "NCAA Football 14" video game. "When you’ve been on the cover you can do that."
All of these comments were compiled while Robinson was lifting and not at his locker so he was unaware that he was going to have to explain himself when he did return.
"One of the fans [at the Jaguars’ open OTA last Thursday] gave it to me out there when I was coming in," Robinson said. "He gave me another one before. Actually he gave me a Jacksonville one last year."
Okay, but you left them on a shelf in your locker? You had to know that was not going to end well.
"Actually, I was trying to take them home but I didn’t want to take them upstairs [where the players eat lunch]," he said. "I’m trying to be low key.
"I should have hid them, right?"
Then Robinson found out about his impending fine.
"Man, that’s messed up," he said.
Robinson did finally defend himself, and he does make a good point.
"I mean, not a lot of people get a chance to have one of these so I’m glad I could collect that and have fun with that," he said.
Not nearly as much fun as his teammates are having.
Jaguars coaches have been raving about defensive end Andre Branch, nicknamed the Windmill, because of the arm-twirling move he does at the end of a quick dance after each sack, throughout OTAs and believe he's primed to have a good season, writes Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union.
"He's busting his hump harder than anybody on our squad," defensive line coach Todd Wash said. "We're real pleased with the maturity he's gone through over the last year. We think he's going to be an excellent pass-rusher for us this season."
Here are some additional pieces of Jaguars-related content from around the Web in our Reading the Coverage feature:
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks breaks down the best- and worst-case scenarios for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles in 2014.
Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com projects that Bortles takes over for Chad Henne as the Jaguars' starter in Week 11.
The T-U's Vito Stellino writes that the Jaguars started this week's OTAs much better than they did last week.
The Jaguars signed third-round pick Brandon Linder and also added another receiver on Monday.
Big Al (Eating a big pizza pie): I found your answer to my question last week rather puzzling. I don't understand how you can say that the Jags wouldn't spend the money on [Maurkice] Pouncey to upgrade a position that they tried to do just that in acquiring Alex Mack. The Jags have over 20 million, which I gotta believe they will roll over into next year’s cap, which would give them plenty of money to acquire Pouncey or any other big time FA. That is not even counting the cap increase and the money they will have to spend in 2015. I be pleasantly surprised if [Mike] Brewster can at least be an avg C, but why not upgrade the position with Pouncey? He is much younger than Mack, plays at about the same level if not better, and will cost the Jags about the same amount they offered Mack. Did Pouncey steal your lunch money at Florida loll
DiRocco: They went after Mack because he is by far the best center in the game and they felt they could take a shot. But notice they didn't go after any other centers in free agency and only drafted one in the sixth round. That means they felt confident Brewster could do the job and they didn't view it as a need position. Going after Mack was just a "let's take a chance" move. Let's see how Brewster plays this season before we decide the Jags need to go after someone else. If he plays well and they like him it'd be a waste of money to go after Pouncey when they could use that on another position (maybe a tight end?). That's all I'm saying.
Willie (DUVAL): How are ticket sales? How’s my boy Andre Branch looking? Heard Gus rave about how much quicker he is. Did you see that in practice?
DiRocco: At the team's state of the franchise news conference a couple weeks ago, president Mark Lamping said season-tix renewals are about 10 percent higher than a year ago and new season-tix sales are up 15 percent. As for Branch, he had a good first week. I did notice his quickness, but that has never been his issue. It's his consistency, and so far that seems to not be an issue any longer. But it's early.
Jordan (Duval): 31 sacks last season. With the additions made via free agency and the draft, what is a realistic total for this unit in 2014?
DiRocco: It's tough to put a number on that, but I agree with you that the pass rush should be much better than it was the last two seasons. The Jags were actually much better in 2013 (31 sacks) than they were in 2012 (20). So let’s say anything in the 40-50 range would be pretty good.
James (KY): Are there any "under the radar" guys that haven't been talked about much that could not only make the roster but have a larger impact than expected/haven't taken notice of?
DiRocco: Keep an eye on TE Marcel Jensen. He's big (6-6, 270), strong, a solid blocker, but raw as a receiver. Another guy would be S Jerome Junior. The Jaguars need to upgrade FS and find some good depth behind [Johnathan] Cyprien at SS and he's a guy to watch.
Wally (Grand Rapids, Mi): What’s up with Chris Clemons not being there? I thought he was brought in to be a role model for the younger players. Doesn't look like he is making a good first impression.
DiRocco: He's been dealing with some personal issues (that the team hasn't disclosed) but Gus [Bradley] said he is 98 percent sure he'll be here for Monday's OTA. Gus said he's not worried about Clemons not being in shape but he would like him here because of the team/competition mantra he preaches. It is disappointing.
It's no secret that Denard Robinson had a hard time catching and holding onto the football during his rookie season, but the former Michigan quarterback had a great first week. He did not drop a single pass. Didn't even bobble one, either. If he continues to show improvement in that area, as well as becoming a better blocker, Robinson will have a chance to move up the running back depth chart and get significant playing time in 2014.
With Josh Evans out after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur, Winston Guy is getting more reps at free safety. The two rotated at that spot in the latter part of the 2013 season after Evans started to struggle. Guy, whom the team claimed on waivers in September after he was cut by Seattle, made two starts in December and has apparently kept that momentum in the offseason. Evans is expected back for training camp but it would seem Guy has the lead in their battle to be the starter.
Several defensive players told me they're really impressed with rookie linebacker Telvin Smith, especially with how well he runs. He's not that big (6-foot-3, 228 pounds) but he more than makes up for that with his speed. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich is going to have fun figuring out ways to use Smith in coverage and as a pass-rusher. Smith made some plays during the rookie minicamp and while he wasn't as noticeable this past week there were times when he flashed and caught the eyes of his teammates.
Get ready for some more windmills. Defensive end Andre Branch had a really good first week and coach Gus Bradley singled him out as one of the standouts during the first three OTAs. Branch really came on at the end of the 2013 season, recording five of his six sacks in the last seven games. Babich and defensive line coach Todd Wash really worked with Branch on being consistent in his effort and it seems to have continued into the offseason.
There hasn't be a lot of attention paid to the tight end spot but there's some decent competition behind starter Marcedes Lewis. The Jaguars re-signed Clay Harbor (24 receptions in 2013) to be a flex tight end but also brought in four undrafted rookies. The best of that group is Marcel Jensen, who caught 46 passes for 699 yards and eight touchdowns at Fresno State. He is recovering from sports hernia surgery and missed the first two days but participated on Thursday. He's a big target (6-6, 270) who is a solid blocker but raw as a receiver. His potential is intriguing.
Cornerback Aaron Colvin, the team's fourth-round pick, signed his contract Wednesday afternoon. He receives a $453,153 signing bonus and the four-year deal is worth $2,673,152.
UPDATE: The Jaguars signed fifth-round pick Chris Smith on Wednesday as well. The former Arkansas defensive end agreed to a four-year deal worth $2,407,252 with a signing bonus of $187,252. Smith is projected to play the leo spot, which is a hybrid end/linebacker, but enters training camp fourth on the depth chart behind Chris Clemons, Jason Babin and Andre Branch.
The Jaguars signed sixth-round pick Luke Bowanko on Monday and seventh-round pick Storm Johnson on Tuesday.
Colvin is probably going to begin the season on the PUP list because he suffered a torn right ACL on the second day of Senior Bowl practices. He's likely not going to be cleared for full contact until later in training camp and GM David Caldwell is planning on Colvin getting on the field in the second half of the season, though how much depends on his grasp of the defense.
The 6-foot, 192-pound Colvin fits the Jaguars' profile for defensive backs and should become the eventual starter opposite Dwayne Gratz.