Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Brown

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.
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 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.
Each day this week I’ll take a look at a stat that will play a key role for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014. It could be something the team must improve or something the team did well that must continue. It will go beyond just the basic stats and provide a more in-depth look at the team.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the prevailing stories throughout OTAs and minicamp was how well quarterback Chad Henne performed.

[+] EnlargeChad Henne
AP Photo/Jack DempseyChad Henne has looked as comfortable and confident as he ever has during offseason workouts.
Coach Gus Bradley and several players spoke of how much more confident Henne was and how much better he looked throwing the football. He was making quicker decisions, good reads, and the ball was getting out faster. Bradley and Henne cited two main reasons for the improvement: He is in his second season in Jedd Fisch’s offense, and he knows he’s the starter and doesn’t have to worry about a competition.

Maybe that means Henne will do something he has never done in his career: Throw more touchdown passes than interceptions. Henne has thrown 55 touchdown passes and 62 interceptions in his six seasons in the NFL. The closest he has come to having more TDs than interceptions came in 2011, when he threw four of each in four games with Miami before injuring his left shoulder and missing the rest of the season.

But there are indications Henne is on the verge of finally hitting that goal. He threw 13 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions last season but threw nine TD passes and had just five interceptions in the final five games. He threw two touchdown passes in four consecutive games in that span, the longest streak of multiple TD passes in his career.

Those numbers might not seem notable when you consider the numbers other quarterbacks posted last season, but consider that leading receiver Cecil Shorts played in only two of the final five games and his main targets were Kerry Taylor, Mike Brown and Ace Sanders -- a trio that began the ’13 season without a single career reception.

Henne will have a lot more options in 2014. Shorts has returned from sports hernia surgery, and Sanders enters his second season after catching 51 passes as a rookie. Brown and Taylor are more experienced, and the Jaguars drafted Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round. In addition, tight end Marcedes Lewis said he’s having his best offseason and should be a major part of the offense, as he was at the end of last season when he posted 22 of his 25 receptions in the final 10 games after recovering from a calf injury.

With the additional help, the benefit of being in the offense for the second season, and the added confidence, Henne has everything in place to finally have a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio.
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 is going to have a lot to prove in camp.

WR Tandon Doss

Doss
Why he'll make the team: The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Doss is a bigger receiver, which is something the Jaguars need. Only second-round pick Allen Robinson (6-3, 210) and undrafted rookie Allen Hurns (6-3, 195) are bigger. He's also one of the more experienced receivers on the roster. He has 26 catches in three seasons, and while that doesn't sound like a lot it ranks fourth on the team behind Cecil Shorts (123), Ace Sanders (51) and Mike Brown (32). Doss brings additional value as a returner. He led the NFL in punt return average (15.3 yards per return) and had an 82-yarder for a touchdown. He also was a standout kick returner in college (he set an Indiana single-season record for kickoff return yardage in 2010) and can compete with Jordan Todman for that role.

Why he should be worried: He missed much of OTAs and the three-day minicamp because of a calf injury. The Jaguars already have a receiver who can't seem to stay healthy for an entire season (Shorts has missed 11 games in his three seasons). Doss was one of seven receivers who missed significant time this offseason and that allowed players like Kerry Taylor, Chad Bumphis and Hurns to get extended reps. Hurns in particular has caught the eye of the coaching staff and is going to get an extended look during training camp. As a receiver, Doss was inconsistent in his two seasons in Baltimore and was given several chances to establish himself as the Ravens' No. 3 receiver and didn't get it done.

The bottom line: Though he was one of the free agents the team signed in March, Doss signed a two-year contract worth $1.505 million ($65,000 guaranteed) and his base salary will $645,000 in 2014 and $745,000 in 2015. That means the team didn't invest much in him at all and it wouldn't hurt to cut him if he underperforms. Doss has to stay healthy in camp and make an impact on special teams to secure his role. The Jags are set with their top four receivers -- Shorts, Sanders, Robinson and second-round pick Marqise Lee -- so Doss is competing with several players for the last two spots.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are some observations from Day 2 of the Jacksonville Jaguars' mandatory three-day minicamp:

Wide receiver Allen Hurns, an undrafted free agent from Miami, has really benefited from the extended playing time he has gotten because of the injuries at receiver. At one point seven receivers were out, and though Mike Brown and Ace Sanders have returned Hurns continues to get reps with the first-team offense. "Allen Hurns has really caught our eye [as] a guy that can play multiple positions [at receiver]," coach Gus Bradley said Wednesday. "We'll see how he handles it when we put the pads on." Hurns made a couple of nice catches during 11-on-11 drills. He's intriguing because of his size (6-foot-3, 196 pounds), which would make him the team's second-biggest receiver behind Allen Robinson (6-3, 210) if he were to make the 53-man roster.

Cornerback Will Blackmon had an interception and deflected another pass during 11-on-11 drills. The Jaguars are trying him out inside on the slot receiver, which is a bit of an adjustment for Blackmon. He mainly played outside last season. "He is doing a good job in there," Bradley said. "There is a lot of communication that takes place there, and that is one of Will's strengths. He is a really good communicator and has a really good idea of what is asked of him in each of our coverages." Blackmon was one of the Jaguars' better signings last season. He was signed as a free agent on Aug. 28 and ended up starting eight games, making 40 tackles, intercepting one pass, and breaking up 10 others.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been solid during the first two days of minicamp. Though he has been getting reps with the third unit he has out-performed rookie Blake Bortles. He had a long touchdown run on Tuesday and looks comfortable in his second season in the offense. It'll be interesting to see what the Jaguars do with Stanzi. General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, but Stanzi isn't eligible to be on the practice squad so he'd have to be on the active roster, meaning the Jaguars would have to carry one less at another position. If the Jaguars choose not to keep Stanzi, that would mean Bortles would be Chad Henne's top backup. But if he's not ready the Jaguars would be taking a risk because he'd have to play if Henne were hurt.

First-year tight end Brandon Barden made nice catches on back-to-back plays, snagging a low throw by Bortles and catching a pass that was behind him near the sideline. Barden, whom the Jaguars claimed off waivers from Tennessee last November, is fighting to be the Jaguars' third tight end behind Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor. Barden, who finished second among tight ends in Vanderbilt history with 107 catches, is a flex tight end and doesn't give the Jaguars much as a blocker.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars return to the practice fields for a mandatory minicamp on Tuesday-Thursday. The workouts on Tuesday (10:40 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET) and Wednesday (10:55 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. ET) are open to the public but fans must register at Jaguars.com.

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.
Ziggy Hood not only changed teams, he's also changing positions. He and the Jaguars are excited about both moves.

Hood spent his first five seasons in the NFL as a 3-4 defensive end with Pittsburgh, but one of the reasons he signed with the Jaguars in March was their commitment to moving him to defensive tackle in Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme. That's where he played -- and excelled -- at Missouri and it's Hood's natural position, writes the Florida Times-Union's Hays Carlyon.

"He's really enjoying it," Bradley said. "... We're seeing great get-up and explosiveness. For him, it's just reps. I think training camp will be really good for him. He's understanding our tempo, learning our defense, what's asked of him, but I think you will see him fine tune it in camp."

Here are some additional pieces of Jagars-related content from around the Web in our Reading the Coverage feature:

John Oehser of Jaguars.com writes that quarterback Chad Henne remained steady throughout organized team activities.

Catherine Byerly of the Jacksonville Business Journal writes that Jaguars fans can get some hometown cooking at games this season.

The Jaguars aren't going to be the subject of the HBO series "Hard Knocks" because the league selected the Atlanta Falcons. Carlyon writes that Jaguars were one of eight teams the NFL could have forced to do the program.

The T-U's Ryan O'Halloran writes that receivers Ace Sanders and Mike Brown returned to the field on Thursday.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars got a little more help at receiver on Thursday.

Ace Sanders and Mike Brown, who were among the team's top seven receivers sitting out organized team activities because of injuries, returned to the practice field for the first time in a week. While Sanders and Brown were glad to be back, an even happier person was quarterback Chad Henne.

Brown

Sanders
"Yeah, it was nice," Henne said. "I’m sure the other guys were happy, too, to get a little break out there.

"It is a big deal [to get those players back]. I think if we had most of our guys out here it would definitely be beneficial, beneficial for the quarterbacks, for them to learn the offense as well, see different coverages and route adjustments. It would definitely be beneficial for them to be out there.”

Sanders (hamstring) and Brown (groin) will be fine for next week's three-day mandatory minicamp. Cecil Shorts (calf) was held out this week as a precaution, but should be back on the field as well.

The status of the other four injured receivers -- Allen Robinson (hamstring), Marqise Lee (ankle), Lamar Thomas (knee) and Tandon Doss (calf) -- won't be known until next week.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- You’ll have to excuse Marcedes Lewis if he’s a little tired early next week. He’s been burning the candle at both ends – and on both coasts.

The Jaguars’ ninth-year tight end will have made two trips from Jacksonville to Long Beach, California, in six days. The first was to see his younger sister graduate high school and the second will be to conduct his annual football camp. In between he participated in OTAs and will be preparing for next week’s mandatory three-day minicamp.

Lewis
All with the encouragement of coach Gus Bradley.

"Unbelievable," Bradley said of Lewis’ whirlwind week, which began last Saturday when his foundation put on a football camp in Jacksonville for the first time for 350 kids at Lee High School. "These guys are amazing and there are many stories like that."

Lewis flew out to Long Beach to surprise his younger sister, Nikia Withers, at her graduation from Long Beach Polytechnic High School. The ceremony began at 7 p.m. PT on Wednesday and Lewis was back on a plane at 10:30 that night.

He arrived in Jacksonville at 9:30 Thursday morning, too late for the team meeting. But that wasn’t an issue because Lewis cleared it with Bradley first and was still able to attend individual meetings before the team hit the practice field at 10:55 a.m.

Lewis will participate in Friday’s final OTA and then take a 3:30 p.m. flight back to Long Beach so he can be there for the Marcedes Lewis Foundation sixth annual free football camp at Long Beach Poly on Saturday. He’s not alone. He said his foundation is flying in the five other tight ends on the Jaguars roster, as well as receivers Ace Sanders and Mike Brown and safety Johnathan Cyprien to help work the camp.

After the camp, which Lewis said will have about 600 participants, he’s having a barbecue at his mother’s house for the volunteers. Then he’s flying back to Jacksonville on Sunday.

He’ll get one day off and then be back on the field Tuesday-Thursday for the team’s minicamp.

"This is a big family so for them to be able to make it possible for me to be able to go home and surprise my sister and then be able to come back and us not miss a beat, it means a lot to me," Lewis said. "They trust me, because it takes trust. Regardless of whether [the OTAs are] mandatory or not, it’s mandatory to me."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars need healthy receivers and they found one on Thursday afternoon by claiming Kevin Smith off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals.

The undrafted rookie caught 72 passes for 1,059 yards in four seasons at Washington. He was waived by the Cardinals on Wednesday. To make room on the roster the Jaguars cut long snapper Trevor Gillette.

Smith should get plenty of work immediately because Jaguars receivers have been besieged by injuries. Seven sat out Thursday's organized team activities, including Cecil Shorts (calf) and second-round draft picks Allen Robinson (hamstring) and Marqise Lee (ankle).

Kerry Taylor, former practice squad player Chad Bumphis, undrafted rookies Damian Copeland and Allen Hurns took all the reps on Tuesday and Thursday. Taylor is the only healthy receiver that has caught a pass in a game. He has 22 catches for 229 yards.

That lack of depth has been somewhat of a hindrance during OTAs.

"It just stalls things because we're not going to run a play and have [them] miss alignments so we just get them aligned and now we run the play," coach Gus Bradley said. "It just slowed down the tempo a little bit but that's OK at this point."

It also is a bit taxing physically on the healthy receivers because they aren't able to take plays off, although the Jaguars did more work with multiple tight ends on Thursday.

In addition to Shorts, Robinson and Lee, the Jaguars are also without Mike Brown (groin), Tandon Doss (calf), Ace Sanders (thigh) and Lamaar Thomas (knee).

None of the injuries are serious, although Robinson could miss several weeks. Lee is expected to be back late next week and Shorts is hoping to return Monday.

"I'm going to try to. We'll see what happens," Shorts said. "… No need to rush anything."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The final period of each OTA workout is what Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley calls the opportunity period. It’s a time when young players or players deep on the depth chart get a chance to get some reps.

Tuesday’s entire OTA pretty much counted as an opportunity period for the young receivers. The Jaguars began the workout with six receivers sitting out because of injuries, and then lost Cecil Shorts because of stiffness in his calf.

Shorts
None of the injuries are considered serious, although rookie Allen Robinson could miss several weeks with a hamstring pull, but losing the top six receivers certainly impacted the workout.

"To say we ignored it or just moved on [would be incorrect]," Bradley said. "Once we adjusted practice we just moved forward. I really thought those young receivers competed really well. They did a great job.

"For us trying to take advantage of seeing those guys, I think we did that."

In addition to Robinson, Marqise Lee (ankle), Mike Brown (groin), Ace Sanders (thigh), Tandon Doss (calf) and Lamaar Thomas (knee) also did not practice. Shorts left the field in the second half of the workout.

That allowed former practice squad players Kerry Taylor and Chad Bumphis, and undrafted rookies Allen Hurns and Damian Copeland to get the bulk of the reps. That additional work is certainly beneficial to those four, who are fighting to earn a spot as the fifth or sixth receiver. Shorts, Lee, Robinson and Sanders are pretty much locked in as the top four, and the remaining seven players are competing for two spots.

Though it is unusual to see one position group affected so severely, it does happen. Cincinnati, for example, is holding out its top two tight ends from OTAs because of injuries. The Jaguars also battled injuries at receiver last season, and didn’t have Shorts for the final three games because of a sports hernia.

Missing significant time, though, would hurt Lee and Robinson the most. The second-round picks are trying to learn the offense, and the loss of valuable reps will only make that harder. Robinson’s hamstring injury might cost him two or more weeks. Lee was wearing a protective boot on his foot Tuesday, but that is to immobilize the joint and speed the healing process, so it doesn’t appear he’ll miss much time.

The Jaguars have another OTA on Thursday, four next week, and then a mandatory minicamp June 17-19 before breaking for the summer. It would be a surprise if anyone but Robinson missed the minicamp.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the expected battles of training camp has already started to play out for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first week of OTAs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide receiver Allen Robinson

Round drafted (pick): Second (No. 61 overall).

Height and weight: 6-feet-3, 220 pounds.

Stat(s) to know: Despite catching only three passes as a Penn State freshman in 2011, Robinson is second in school history with 177 receptions. His 2,474 receiving yards ranks third and his 17 touchdown catches are fourth. ... He is one of only two receivers in school history to record 1,000-yard seasons (2012 and 2013). Bobby Engram did it in 1993 and 1995. ... His 77 catches in 2012 broke the school record of 63 (Engram and O.J. McDuffie) and he topped that with 97 catches in 2013.

Where he fits: Robinson gives the Jaguars something they haven't had since Matt Jones -- a big receiver. He's more physical than Jones, though, and that's an added plus. Most of the Jaguars' experienced receivers are 6-0 or shorter (free-agent acquisition Tandon Doss is 6-2 but he has just 19 catches in three seasons) so Robinson adds another element to the offense. He's going to be especially useful in the red zone, where the quarterback can throw the ball up and let him go get it. With his frame, 37-inch vertical jump, and long arms (32 inches), Robinson will be tough to cover. He has experience in Bill O'Brien's pro-style offense so that should help ease his transition.

Concern(s): He doesn't have blazing speed and he needs to become more fluid in his route running. He also needs to get stronger and work on catching the ball with his hands on the shorter routes instead of catching it with his body.

Rookie projection: Cecil Shorts, Marqise Lee and Ace Sanders are the top three receivers and Robinson will have to battle Mike Brown and Kerry Taylor for the No. 4 spot. His size gives him the advantage there, and it's likely he'll be on the field when the Jaguars are in the red zone. He may need a little more seasoning than Lee, so that will keep his production down a bit: 30-40 catches seems reasonable.
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.

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