Jacksonville Jaguars: Craig Loston

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

June, 28, 2014
6/28/14
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Have questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I’ll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

@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: 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..

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

S Josh Evans

Evans
Why he'll make the team: Evans started 11 games as a rookie after an injury to Dwight Lowery forced him onto the field. He wasn't ready to play that much and struggled at times but fought through and finished with 54 tackles, although he didn't break up a pass. He also made four special teams tackles and played well in that area. He's a smart player and he played better at the end of the season as he became more comfortable.

Why he should be worried: Evans didn't participate in any of the nine OTAs or the three-day minicamp because he was rehabbing after surgery to remove a bone spur in his foot. It was an issue that bothered him throughout his rookie season and he anticipated that it would heal during the offseason, but when it didn't he notified the team and had surgery May 20. He's expected to be cleared for training camp, but Winston Guy took all the first-team reps in his absence. Guy rotated with Evans during the last third of the season and now has the advantage. The Jaguars also signed several safeties (Sherrod Martin, Joe Young, Craig Loston, and Jerome Junior) and Evans will have to hold them off as well. Two have more experience. Martin has played in 59 games, all with Carolina, but missed the 2013 season after tearing his ACL and MCL late in the 2012 season. Young has played in 36 games (all with Indianapolis).

The bottom line: Evans will have to prove early in camp that he's completely healthy and is more consistent than he was as a rookie. If he doesn't, he'll lose reps and could end up being the first David Caldwell draft pick who gets cut.
Got questions about the 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 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. -- Coaching in the Senior Bowl is not something an NFL team wants to do because it means they had one of the worst records the previous season.

It can be beneficial, though, because it allows teams to get a hands-on look at the players. That’s valuable additional scouting and the Jacksonville Jaguars took advantage of that in the NFL draft.

General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley drafted four players who were in the Senior Bowl and signed four more as undrafted free agents. Six of those players were ones the Jaguars' coaching staff worked with as part of the South team.

"We took a little bit of chance. We opened ourselves up at the Senior Bowl," Bradley said. "We let them into our world. We talked to them about our philosophy, how our approach is.

"... We didn’t want to miss that opportunity to compete. We went in there, we competed, we shared with them and hopefully it gets them a step ahead."

The Jaguars drafted guard Brandon Linder, who played for the North team despite attending Miami, in the third round and followed that with three consecutive players from the South team: cornerback Aaron Colvin (fourth), linebacker Telvin Smith (fifth) and defensive end Chris Smith (fifth).

The Jaguars signed three former South team players as undrafted free agents on Monday: defensive tackle Deandre Coleman, tight end Marcel Jensen and safety Craig Loston. They also signed quarterback Stephen Morris, who played for the North team.

It’s not just the Jaguars who benefit from getting players they’ve already coached. The players head into this week’s rookie minicamp with a head start on the offensive and defensive systems that the other rookies don’t have. In trying to learn the system, adjust to the speed of the game and adapt to a new life in a new city, the week these players spent with the Jaguars in late January was a huge benefit.

"I feel like I’m kind of lucky because I got a head start at the Senior Bowl, kind of got a jump on the system," Chris Smith said. "I’m kind of already ahead of everybody on the playbook. I’m just going to keep on building on that."

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