Jacksonville Jaguars: Jacques McClendon
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.
ESPN Stats & Information studied all the Pro Bowl selections since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 and determined that 27-year-old players made the Pro Bowl rosters more than any other age. The 27-year-olds comprised 11.6 percent of the rosters.
So if 27 is the prime age for NFL players, the Jaguars are in luck. They’ve got 14 players on the roster who will be 27 years old when the Pro Bowl selections are announced, including several of the team’s top players.
Running back Toby Gerhart and defensive tackles Ziggy Hood, Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller have already turned 27. The Jaguars added Gerhart to become their featured back. Marks is coming off a career season, while Miller fought through a shoulder injury throughout 2013 and had offseason surgery to repair the injury. Hood was another free agent signing added to rotate with Marks and provide interior pass rush.
In addition, defensive end Tyson Alualu, tight end Clay Harbor, safety Chris Prosinski and offensive tackle Sam Young also have turned 27 this year. Alualu, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, now backs up free agent signee Red Bryant. Harbor is the team’s top flex tight end, Prosinski is a key special teams contributor and Young is battling for a reserve spot.
Receiver Cecil Shorts and linebacker Geno Hayes are among the players who will turn 27 this season. Shorts, who led the team in receptions last season, is returning from sports hernia surgery. Hayes played much of the 2013 season with a knee injury, had surgery to correct the problem, and remains the starter at weakside linebacker.
Offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield, guard Jacques McClendon and quarterback Ricky Stanzi also will turn 27. McClendon is competing for the starting spot at right guard. Bradfield appears to be set as the top reserve at tackle.
@GoesslingESPN: Good afternoon, everyone. Hope you're enjoying Super Bowl week and all its excesses. We'll get started here. Geoff, I think it depends on what kind of a role the Vikings can see Chad Greenway still having in their defense. He's made no secret about the fact he's willing to restructure, and when a guy is that open about his willingness to take a pay cut this far ahead of time, he's probably prepared himself for the idea that it could require significant concessions to return to the Vikings. Greenway has said he's managed his money well, and he's more concerned with playing another year in Minnesota than he is with earning big money somewhere else. If the Vikings offered him, say, $3 million guaranteed for next season, I think he'd take it -- and I don't see that being beyond the realm of possibility. It would still free up more than $5 million of cap space, and Mike Zimmer has talked about Greenway's value as a leader and mentor to a young group of linebackers. Greenway has said he wants to play, and I don't know how keen he'd be on the idea of returning as a seldom-used backup. But I also don't think the Vikings would drop his salary to the point where they'd put him on the shelf. If he's back at $3 million, he's probably getting a chance to play. If there's not a role for him, the Vikings have enough respect for him to let him know that and give him a chance to move on. In the end, if the Vikings still think Greenway can start for them -- and Zimmer said at the end of the season he believed Greenway could -- then he will be back. They'll make the money work.
What do you think will happen with Jerome Felton and the fullback situation for the Vikings? #VikingsMail— Adam Carlson (@MNVikingZombie) January 29, 2015
@GoesslingESPN: Adam, James Felton can void his contract for 2015, and he's indicated he plans to do that. The Vikings just didn't have a big enough role for him to want to return, and even though he played at a high level when he was on the field, he doesn't fit in the Vikings' offense as well as he used to. We could see this coming last spring, and Adrian Peterson's absence only made Felton more of a miscast piece in the Vikings' offense. What if Peterson returns, you ask? Felton could be a better fit at that point, but it would still require the Vikings to use two-back sets more often than they did last season, and probably line up with Teddy Bridgewater under center. What's more, if Peterson isn't reinstated until April 15, Felton will probably have found a new team by then. As for the fullback situation? There's a reason the team kept Zach Line on its active roster all season despite putting him on the active roster for just one game. He had an impressive preseason in 2013 and looked like a fullback who could contribute in the passing game. The Vikings clearly didn't want to risk exposing him to waivers by trying to get him on the practice squad, and it appears they're grooming him to be their fullback in 2015.
@GoesslingESPN: Ooh, a nerdy cap question! I'm all over that! Here's the list:
- Matt Cassel has a $500,000 roster bonus due on the seventh day of the league year.
- Kyle Rudolph's $4.9 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year. He also has a $125,000 roster bonus next year.
- Brandon Fusco has $2 million of his $2.6 million base salary currently guaranteed against injury, but it becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year.
- Brian Robison has $2 million of his $4.15 million base salary guaranteed if he's on the roster by the third day of the league year. The other $2.15 million is fully guaranteed if he's on the roster by July 1.
- Captain Munnerlyn currently has $1 million of his $3.45 million base salary guaranteed against injury. It becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year.
@GoesslingESPN: Andrew, I think the way the Vikings handled Robert Blanton at the end of the season tells you they're not completely sold on him as a starter. He didn't start the final two games of the season after returning from a sprained ankle, and even though he stepped in for Andrew Sendejo in Miami, he played just three snaps in the season finale against Chicago. It seemed at times like the Vikings regarded Blanton as the best of their current options, and while he played well at times, he was beaten too often in run support and made a couple big mistakes in coverage. I think they'll try to upgrade the position; I talked about this at length on 1500 ESPN's Purple Podcast the other day. As the game spreads out and teams get more comfortable running the ball out of spread formations, safeties become more and more important. That's especially true for the well-rounded ones who can cover receivers and help against the run. Look at what the Seahawks can do because of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. There's your blueprint, and if the Vikings get another top-flight guy to play next to Harrison Smith, they'll be in really good shape.
@GoesslingESPN: A week from today, federal judge David Doty will hear arguments in the NFL Players Association's lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of Peterson. The NFLPA obviously would like a ruling as soon as it can get one, especially if Doty vacates Peterson's suspension and rules he should be reinstated. But Doty can take his time, and I'd be surprised if we hear a resolution to this case within a matter of days. While we're on the subject, one programming note: I see the Peterson questions coming in from all of you, and I understand the intense interest in his future. It's obviously the biggest story of the offseason for the Vikings and one of the biggest in the league. But we've covered many aspects of the Peterson situation on this blog (check here to get a taste of what we've written), and until there are some new developments, I'm going to use this mailbag to devote some time to other topics surrounding the team. Perhaps we'll find out more about Peterson's future during the court date on Friday. If there are any developments related to Peterson's future, we'll certainly cover them in great detail.
That'll be it for this week's mailbag. Hope you all enjoy the Super Bowl; remember, even if it's a boring game, it's the last taste of football we'll get for six months. Talk to you next week.
Linder signed a four-year contract worth $2.771 million and received a $533,600 signing bonus. The 6-foot-6, 311-pound Linder was drafted to compete for the starting spot at right guard. He is battling with third-year player Jacques McClendon.
The Jaguars took an offensive lineman in the third round, but Miami's Brandon Linder was selected to become the team's right guard. General manager David Caldwell didn't draft a center until he took Virginia's Luke Bowanko in the sixth round.
Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have said before that had confidence that Brewster, a third-year player from Ohio State, would be able to step into the starting spot vacated by the retired Brad Meester. The Jaguars' pursuit of Cleveland's Alex Mack wasn't because they changed their mind. They just took a shot at landing the league's best center and weren't worried if it didn't work out because of their confidence in Brewster.
"When we went after Alex Mack it wasn't anything negative against Brewster," Caldwell said. "It was more of the ability to add an elite player at that position and maybe move Brew to right guard. We actually have some good feeling about Brewster."
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Brewster, however, has yet to play a snap at center in his first two seasons. He has played in 26 games with 10 starts since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but all have been at left or right guard.
In fact, only one of the Jaguars' other options at center has snapped in the NFL. Obviously Bowanko hasn't. Jacques McClendon snapped once against Tennessee when Meester moved to tight end so he could catch a pass in his Jaguars finale. McClendon, a fourth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2010, has played in just nine games, five of which came with the Jaguars last season.
The Jaguars signed Patrick Lewis from Cleveland's practice squad on Dec. 17, 2013. He has yet to play in an NFL game.
Brewster, who was a four-year starter and Rimington Award finalist at Ohio State, missed the final two games of the season after suffering a fractured left ankle. Bradley said Brewster has worked hard in rehab alongside left tackle Luke Joeckel, who missed 11 games after suffering a fractured right ankle, and he can't wait until the team puts on pads to see how much Brewster has progressed.
"Brewster came back and he looks really good," Bradley said. "He's bigger, he's stronger, his mindset and all those things, he's doing a great job now. [Left guard] Zane Beadles next to him and [that] has helped him out tremendously. He just has a different mindset, so we're excited about that."
Provided the Cleveland Browns don't match whatever offer the Jaguars are expected to make to center Alex Mack on Friday, of course.
The Jaguars added Pro Bowler Zane Beadles (6-4, 305) in free agency and installed him as the starter at left guard, lining up alongside second-year tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013. Joeckel (6-6, 306) played in only five games, four at right tackle and less than a half at left tackle. He did show a lot of promise in the short time he was on the left side, keeping St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who had 19 sacks last season, at bay.
When Joeckel moved from right tackle to left tackle following Eugene Monroe's trade to Baltimore, first-year player Austin Pasztor stepped into the starting job at right tackle and held onto the job for the rest of the season. The coaching staff likes the 6-7, 308-pounder and is excited about his potential as a long-term starter.
The only question mark is what the team will do at right guard. The Jaguars released Uche Nwaneri last month and could move left guard Will Rackley, who started 12 games last season, into that spot. The Jaguars also could try Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon or Cameron Bradfield there as well, or draft a guard in the middle rounds.
Another possibility -- which seems unlikely at this point -- would be for the Jaguars to draft Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews at No. 3 and slide Pasztor to right guard.
Even taking the uncertainty at right guard into consideration, the Jaguars' new-look line has the potential to be pretty formidable over the next several seasons, as long as Joeckel continues to develop and Mack and Beadles continue to play at a Pro Bowl level.
The Jaguars haven't had a truly dominant offensive line since the 1999 season. That group was anchored by left tackle Tony Boselli, generally recognized as the best left tackle in the game at the time, and right tackle Leon Searcy. Ben Coleman, Zach Wiegert and Rich Tylski were the guards and John Wade started every game at center.
The '99 team didn't set any rushing records but long-time Jaguars observers consider that the best offensive line in team history. The Jaguars did go 14-2 that season and lost to Tennessee in the AFC Championship game.
The potential lineup in 2014 and beyond has a chance to be better than any group the Jaguars have had in the last decade. At the very least it's pretty much a guarantee that newly-acquired running back Toby Gerhart is going to be spending a large amount of time running behind the left side.
They’re confident they can find a starter among the players already on the roster, beginning with third-year player Mike Brewster.
"We felt like going through our end-of-season evaluations that Brew could hold the fort down," Caldwell said during the NFL owners’ meetings this week. "This is a big year for him. He’s going into his contract year and it felt like that it could be a year for him to really excel and be the guy. I know the players feel comfortable with him. I know our coaching staff feels comfortable with him.
Jacques McClendon, whom the Jaguars claimed last September and ended up playing in five games (two starts) at guard, also can play center. But Brewster, who was a four-year starter and Rimington Award finalist at Ohio State, gets the first chance. He missed the final two games of the season after suffering a fractured left ankle, but is expected to be healthy in time for OTAs in April.
Bradley said Brewster has worked hard in rehab alongside left tackle Luke Joeckel, who missed 11 games after suffering a fractured right ankle, and appears to have gotten bigger and stronger.
"I think that he’s in the mindset that he has the opportunity right in front of him and he’s really going to take advantage of this opportunity," Bradley said. "We’ll see. He looks the part, coming off of his injury very well, but it’s going to be competitive. We have confidence in him to play that position. We’ve talked in our offensive staff meetings and our overall staff meetings specifically about that one position, and his name keeps coming up."
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Brewster, however, has yet to play a snap at center in his first two seasons. He has played in 26 games with 10 starts since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but all have been at left or right guard.
In fact, only one of the Jaguars’ other current options at center has taken a snap. McClendon snapped once against Tennessee when Meester moved to tight end so he could catch a pass in his Jaguars finale. McClendon, a fourth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2010, has played in just nine games, five of which came with the Jaguars last season.
The Jaguars signed Lewis from Cleveland’s practice squad on Dec. 17. He has yet to play in an NFL game.
There are still 13 free-agent centers available -- led by Kyle Cook, Brian de la Puente, Mike Gibson and Rich Ohrnberger -- so the Jaguars might still add one on a bargain contract before the draft. Even if they do, however, they’ll still likely draft one in May. Starting a rookie center is not ideal because of the responsibilities of making line calls and adjustments, but signing veteran guard Zane Beadles and re-signing quarterback Chad Henne makes it more palatable, Bradley said.
"The center spot is always dangerous," Bradley said. "If you start with a rookie center and a rookie quarterback, I think that makes it difficult. But if you have a veteran quarterback and it happens to be a rookie center, you’ll still go through some growing pains, but it’s not to the extreme of both being rookies."
It’s Brewster’s job for now, but the Jaguars are obviously keeping their options open.
General manager David Caldwell has signed five new players, brought back two others, and signed quarterback Chad Henne to an extension. But Caldwell said last week he’s not done yet.
Here are some areas which still warrant his attention:
Center: If training camp started today the Jaguars would be working Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and a drafted rookie at center. That’s not ideal, since Brewster and McClendon have not played a snap at center as pros. The Jaguars need to upgrade here but there aren’t many option available, with the best being Rich Ohrnberger, Brian De La Puente, Ryan Wendell and Mike Gibson. If the Jaguars don’t feel good about any of those players then center becomes a bigger priority in the draft. The player to watch there is Arkansas’ Travis Swanson, who is a player the Jaguars liked at the Senior Bowl.
Guard: The Jaguars signed Zane Beadles on the first day of free agency but they still need another starter because Will Rackley was unable to seize the job last season. Like center, there are slim pickings at guard, with John Jerry, Paul McQuistan (hey, another Seahawks player!), Wade Smith and Davin Joseph topping the list. Expect the Jaguars to draft a guard even if they do add one in free agency.
Receiver: The Jaguars brought in Emmanuel Sanders for a visit, but he ended up signing (after a lot of drama) with Denver. It’s not a big whiff because he doesn’t give the Jaguars anything more than they already have in terms of style of receiver. The Jaguars need a bigger, physical receiver, but there aren’t many of those available, either. One possibility is Sidney Rice (6-foot-4, 202 pounds). He’s had injury issues the last several years and is coming off a torn ACL so he won’t cost a lot of money. If he gets healthy he’s a 50-catch receiver the Jaguars got cheap. If not and he’s cut, it’s not a wasted investment.
Outside linebacker: Signing Dekoda Watson could be one of those under-the-radar moves that people around the league are praising in October. He’s going to play strongside linebacker on first and second down and leo on third down. He instantly upgrades the linebacker spot with his speed, which is something the defense desperately needs. Other than Geno Hayes, the Jaguars’ other outside linebackers are below average. The Jaguars need to continue to upgrade this spot both in free agency and the draft.
The offensive line was the Jaguars' top priority in free agency because of the retirement of center Brad Meester and the release of right guard Uche Nwaneri last week. The team obviously wanted an upgrade over Will Rackley, Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and Drew Nowak.
It's a good move by Jaguars general manager David Caldwell. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Beadles is a tough, durable player who has started 62 of a possible 64 games in the regular season since the Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. The Broncos led the NFL in total offense and were 15th in rushing (117.1 yards per game) last season.
UPDATE: Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said Beadles was the team's primary offensive line target.
"He’s very intelligent, he’s very competitive and he’s very smart," Caldwell said. "We did a lot of work on him in Atlanta when he was coming out. He’s had a heck of a career to-date. I think he’s played in every game possible in his four years in Denver. He played in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s a guy with a proven track record. He’s still only 27 years old. He’s very passionate about football. I think he checks the box for everything we look for in a player and I think you guys know what that is in this culture.”
Beadles, who will play left guard, is a good fit for the Jaguars because like the Broncos they also use a zone-blocking scheme.
Interior offensive line is the Jaguars' biggest need after quarterback and pass-rusher. The group struggled early in the 2013 season with the transition to a zone-blocking scheme and the Jaguars eventually mixed back in some man-blocking schemes.
The strength of a team's running game comes from the center and two guards and those spots weren't very productive in 2013. The Jaguars finished 31st in the NFL in rushing (78.8 yards per game) and running back Maurice Jones-Drew's 3.4 per-carry average was the worst of his career. Meester was in his 14th season and not playing at the same level as he had in the past several seasons. Nwaneri played through torn cartilage in his knee in 2012 and dealt with the lingering effects from the injury in 2013 and Rackley battled a knee injury throughout the 2013 season.
Who is on the roster: OT Cameron Bradfield, G/C Mike Brewster, OT Luke Joeckel, C Patrick Lewis, OT DeMarcus Love, G Jacques McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, G Drew Nowak, G Uche Nwaneri, OT Austin Pasztor, G Will Rackley, and OT Sam Young.
NFL free agents of interest: C Alex Mack, C Ryan Wendell, C Brian De La Puenta, G Jon Asamoah, G Geoff Schwartz, and G Rich Ohrnberger.
Need meter: 9. After quarterback and leo, the interior of the offensive line is the Jaguars’ biggest need. GM David Caldwell has said the team would like to address that in free agency, and it would be a surprise if the Jaguars didn’t sign at least two starters, including a center, within the first few weeks of free agency. It’s unlikely the Jaguars would target the big names that are available, mainly because of cost, but if those players linger on the market and the price drops, the Jaguars would get involved. Even though Joeckel is talented and seemed to thrive in the very limited time he spent at left tackle, there are still questions about him, so the Jaguars might opt to add some experienced depth at tackle. Competition for roster spots on the line will be among the more interesting training camp battles.
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.
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.
The biggest need is center since Brad Meester has retired after 14 seasons. The Jaguars could opt to enter the bidding war for free agent Alex Mack, sign a cheaper option (like Ryan Wendell, for example), or try out current players Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon. Uche Nwaneri should return at right guard, but the team needs to improve at left guard.
If the Jaguars do address those spots in the draft, three potential targets are players that Scouts Inc.'s Kevin Weidl said caught his eye during film study over the past several weeks: USC center Marcus Martin, North Carolina center/guard Russell Bodine, and LSU guard Trai Turner. Weidel breaks each player down in the latest Who We're Watching post on ESPN's NFL Draft blog.
One thing that stood out from reading Weidl's breakdowns: All three players have a bit of a nasty attitude on the field, which is an often overlooked trait.
You can read Weidl's complete blog here.