NFL Nation: Jacksonville Jaguars

ST JOHNS, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Jacksonville Jaguars training camp:
  • After an impressive performance by the quarterbacks and receivers on Sunday, the defense rebounded with a strong day in the Jaguars’ practice at Bartram Trail High School. There were two interceptions -- defensive tackle Roy Miller made a diving catch after Chris Clemons deflected Chad Henne's pass and undrafted rookie Rashaad Reynolds snared an errant throw by Stephen Morris and returned it for a TD -- and four pass breakups (including deflections by Clemons and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks) during 11-on-11. “The other day the offense really came off the ball and did a good job at establishing the line of scrimmage,” coach Gus Bradley said. “The defense came back and said, ‘Alright, not tonight, not tonight.’ They attacked it like that. It went back-and-forth overall, but the defense, I thought, came out really spirited.”
  • Second-year cornerback Demetrius McCray continues to impress while working with the first unit in pace of Alan Ball (ankle). He had another pass breakup in one-on-one drills on Monday. He’s an intriguing player because of his size (6-foot, 185 pounds) and length. If he continues to develop, the Jaguars are going to have an interesting situation after the season. Ball, whom Bradley says may return on Wednesday, has played well as the starter opposite Dwayne Gratz but his contract expires after the season. The team drafted Aaron Colvin in the fourth round despite a torn ACL and the expectation is he would be ready to become the starter in 2015. But McCray may be an option. If neither appears to be ready, the Jaguars may opt to re-sign Ball.
  • Backup tight end Clay Harbor suffered a strained calf and will miss at least several days. He’s the primary backup to Marcedes Lewis and the team’s only flex tight end. He caught 24 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns in his first season with the Jaguars. This will mean more opportunities for undrafted rookies Reggie Jordan, Marcel Jensen, and Brandon Barden. D.J. Tialavea, another undrafted rookie, is out with a quad strain.
  • The Jaguars announced an attendance of 3,239 at Bartram Trail High School, the biggest crowd to watch a training camp practice so far. ... The Jaguars are off on Tuesday and will return to the practice field at 9:55 a.m. ET Wednesday. ... One of the highlights of what was a relatively uneventful practice came during a water break, when Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee tried to hit mascot Jaxson de Ville, who was hanging from the crossbar. He took two playful shots at him but missed both times. ... Here are the QB stats from 11-on-11: Henne was 3-for-8 with an interception; Blake Bortles was 3-for-7; Morris was 3-for-7 with an interception, and Ricky Stanzi was 2-for-2.
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)

With Ace Sanders taking a leave of absence for personal issues and then facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, it opens an additional spot. Doss, whom the team signed as a free agent in March, looks like the favorite to get the last spot, edging out 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 but he led the NFL in punt return average last season and can step right in for Sanders in that role. I have Taylor 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. I thought Sherrod Martin would have an edge over Young and several other players because of his experience (he started 36 games for Carolina in his first five seasons) but Young has been working with the second unit ahead of Martin. 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.

Jaguars Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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Jacksonville, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Jacksonville Jaguars training camp.
  • The highlight of the day may have been Denard Robinson's diving catch of a pass from Blake Bortles down the right sideline. Robinson’s hands have been criticized heavily since his dismal performance in training camp in 2013, but the team revealed in the spring that Robinson was dealing with nerve damage in his hand relating to an injury he sustained during his final season at Michigan. Robinson dropped only one pass in nine OTAs and a three-day minicamp and there is a lot of optimism that he can finally become the weapon the Jaguars envisioned when they drafted him. Today’s catch shows how much he has improved now that the nerve damage has healed. Robinson did later drop an easy pass from Bortles but stayed after practice and ran the same pattern multiple times and caught each pass from Bortles.
  • Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny talked on Friday about the need for the linebackers to make more big plays. Outside linebacker Geno Hayes delivered one when he picked off a Ricky Stanzi pass and returned it for what would have been a touchdown. Hayes read Stanzi’s eyes and stepped in front of the pass intended for tight end Reggie Jordan.
  • Rookie defensive end Chris Smith continues to impress early in camp. The knock on him coming out of Arkansas was his height (he’s only 6-foot-1) but Smith knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage for the second day in a row. "He’s not as tall but he’s got good length in his arms and that’s what’s showing up," Bradley said. Smith also had a nice showing in one-on-one pass rush drills. He got by rookie offensive tackle Josh Wells with a spin move and then came back on the next snap and beat him with a bull rush.
  • There were no new injuries. Receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring), tight end D.J. Tialavea (quad), and linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) did not practice. Defensive tackle Roy Miller was given a veteran day off. ... Kicker Josh Scobee showed off his leg by making consecutive field goals from 50, 56, and 64 yards. Scobee has made 23 field goals of 50 or more yards in his career, including a 59-yarder against Indianapolis in 2010. ... Cornerback Will Blackmon also had an interception during one-on-one drills. He was running stride-for-stride with receiver Damian Copeland and snared Bortles’ slightly-underthrown pass.

 

Jaguars Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Jacksonville Jaguars training camp.


  • After having an inconsistent first day, rookie quarterback Blake Bortles rebounded with a good practice. His throws were more crisp and on target during drills, but he was really impressive during the two-minute drill. He led the Jaguars to a touchdown in just three plays, completing passes to Kerry Taylor, Clay Harbor, and Damian Copeland. The pass to Taylor went for a big gain down the left sideline. Bortles completed all six of his passes during the 11-on-11 work. “I thought he had a nice day today, especially in that two-minute situation,” coach Gus Bradley said.
  • In fact, all the quarterbacks had a pretty good day. Chad Henne completed 7 of 10 passes during 11-on-11 work. Ricky Stanzi went 8-for-10 and Stephen Morris went 5-for-6. None of the QBs threw an interception. One lowlight: Morris’ only incompletion was on a horrendous pass to the left sideline. The ball wobbled and fluttered and landed about 5 yards out of bounds. It was the worst pass of the first two days of camp but he rebounded with a nice throw on his next pass.
  • The competition at safety will be fun to watch over the next month. Strong safety Johnathan Cyprien and free safety Winston Guy were the starters and it was interesting to see Joe Young working with the second unit at strong safety. The fourth-year player from Rutgers played in 36 games (five starts) with Indianapolis.
  • Injury report: In addition to the news that receiver Cecil Shorts has a grade two hamstring strain and will be out at least two weeks, linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) and tight end D.J. Tialavea (quad) also left practice. Thomas left the field on a cart.
  • Cornerback Demetrius McCray, who is filling in for Alan Ball (ankle) on the first team defense, had a nice pass breakup of Henne’s deep sideline pass to Allen Robinson. … Rookie defensive end Chris Smith was responsible for one of the six incomplete passes in 11-on-11 situations. He knocked down Stanzi’s pass at the line of scrimmage. … There were 2,133 fans in attendance.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If there’s a snake bit position group on the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster, it has to be the wide receivers.

Seven sat out all or significant parts of OTAs and minicamp with injuries. Ace Sanders has taken a leave of absence to deal with personal issues and also is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Justin Blackmon, who is still serving an indefinite suspension, was arrested last week in Oklahoma.

And now Cecil Shorts -- the only proven receiver on the roster -- is going to be out for at least two weeks with a grade two right hamstring strain. It’s the latest in a string of injuries that have cost the fourth-year player 11 games in his first three seasons.

If I were the Jaguars, I’d encase second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in bubble wrap. Immediately.

The development of those two rookies, who were among the players that missed time in the spring with injuries, has now become one of the most important issues of the early part of training camp. Any setback, particularly an injury, will certainly impact the passing game and as a byproduct affect the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

Shorts has 123 career catches. The remaining receivers on the roster have a combined 80, so there’s not a lot of experience available. That means Lee and Robinson -- whom general manager David Caldwell said Friday were drafted to complement, not replace, Shorts – are under more pressure to learn the offense and adjust to the speed of the game so they can be significant contributors.

Based on Shorts’ injury history, they both may need to be in the starting lineup Week 1.

Robinson was already working with the first unit on Friday at the X receiver spot. Lee worked in the slot but he also will spend time at the X and Z spots. And while the Jaguars do feel much better about their depth at receiver than they did last season, Lee and Robinson are the players the offense needs to step up.

Mike Brown, Tandon Doss and Kerry Taylor are solid but Lee and Robinson bring the game-breaking ability the offense lacks. Lee caught 248 passes for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career at Southern California, including 118 for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs in 2012. He’s a speedster who has the ability to stretch the defense and can take a short pass and turn it into a long gain.

Robinson caught 177 passes for 2,474 yards and 17 touchdowns at Penn State. He’s a bigger target (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), which is something the Jaguars haven’t had at receiver since Matt Jones.

"They're coming along well," Shorts said. "I know it was tough for them sitting out a month, being high draft picks and wanting to play, wanting to contribute. They did a good job of getting back healthy, and they looked good on the first day.

"They understand the game and understand how to study, and a lot of guys from college don't understand that."

They're going to have to progress quickly. The passing game may depend on it.
Jacksonville, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Jacksonville Jaguars training camp.
  • Blake Bortles had a typical rookie practice: a few good throws, a few decent throws, and a few bad ones. But he ended on a good note, hooking up with Damian Copeland on a touchdown pass on a back-shoulder throw. What impressed coach Gus Bradley, though, was the way Bortles responded to the interception. “[Bortles] threw a seam route with two guys on him and he put it right between them,” Bradley said. “He made a great throw. That tells me something right there: He has no fear of failure and that’s a really cool sign for a quarterback.” Bortles’ biggest problem at this point, other than some fundamentals issues, is consistency, but that’s something all rookie QBs battle. Seeing if he can develop some will be something to monitor throughout camp
  • The day didn’t get off to a great start. When the team arrived at the facility they found it without water because of a broken water main near the stadium. Jacksonville Electric Authority crews worked on the problem and had it repaired within several hours.
  • Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny talked on Thursday about the need for the linebackers to make more plays and make an impact on the defense, and one of them delivered. Nate Stupar picked off Bortles and returned the ball up the sideline. That was one of three interceptions thrown by Bortles, Ricky Stanzi, and Stephen Morris.
  • Receiver Cecil Shorts was pulled from practice because of tightness in his hamstring, but the Jaguars made it through the first practice without any other injuries. ... Denard Robinson made a nice run off the right side and put on a quick burst into the secondary for what would have been a long gain. The play earned Robinson a pat on the rear from coach Gus Bradley. ... Winston Guy was at free safety and Demetrius McCray at one corner with the first-team defense. It’s not surprising to see Guy out there because he manned the spot throughout OTAs and minicamp with Josh Evans (bone spur in his foot) out. It was a bit of a surprise to see McCray out there in place of Alan Ball (ankle) instead of Will Blackmon. The Jaguars have been working Blackmon in the slot, though, so that may have played into the decision. ... Jacques McClendon was at right guard with the first-team offense and third-round pick Brandon Linder was working with the second unit. ... A crowd of 1,652 attended practice.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' streak of having a full complement of healthy receivers didn't even last two hours.

Shorts
Cecil Shorts left the team's first training camp practice with a tight hamstring. The injury isn't expected to be serious and coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars pulled Shorts as a precautionary measure.

Shorts said he expects to be back on the field this weekend.

"Things are going to pop up," he said. "It's football. Things happen. I'll continue to take care of my body. If I'm able to practice [on Saturday], I'm practicing."

Shorts missed most of OTAs and minicamp with tightness in his calf. He was one of seven receivers who were sidelined in the spring with injuries. All but Ace Sanders, who took a leave of absence in the wake of a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, reported to camp completely healthy.

This is a critical season for Shorts, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. His agent has had preliminary talks with Jaguars GM David Caldwell but there's no timetable to get a deal done.

Caldwell said Shorts is in the team's long-term plans and that his injury history won't play a role in the negotiations, but it's something that the team has noted. Shorts has missed 11 games in his three seasons for various injuries and finished last season on IR with a sports hernia.

"Cecil plays so hard that maybe sometimes he gets hurt because he plays so hard and tries so hard and works so hard," Caldwell said. "We don't want him to lose that. That's not a thing that we're concerned about."
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Justin Blackmon's latest arrest has done nothing to change the Jacksonville Jaguars' plans regarding the former first-round pick’s status with the team: They aren’t going to cut him.

Owner Shad Khan, speaking after the team’s Back to Football charity luncheon on Thursday afternoon, said he was disappointed to hear the news of Blackmon’s third arrest but said he plans on keeping the troubled Blackmon on the team’s reserve/suspended list.

"I think we want to keep him as a player," Khan said. "He’s not part of the team, obviously, but I think it’s very important for him to get the help. I think that’s the most important thing.

"I think it’s good for him to be [under contract with the team] and frankly it’s good for us. We want him to get the help and really beat this."

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon had 29 receptions in the four games in which he was available last season.
It appears, however, that Blackmon doesn’t, and that’s why the team should cut the former Oklahoma State standout.

General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have repeatedly said they care about Blackmon and want him to receive help to get his life in order. There are numerous resources available for Blackmon to get help through the NFL and the NFL Players Association, whether it’s counseling or help finding a treatment center. In order to get better, Blackmon first has to admit that he has a problem and wants to get better, and it's clear he isn't willing to do that.

Players in the NFL's substance-abuse program are subject to additional random drug testing. Testing positive will result in additional penalties, possibly even a lifetime ban. Blackmon knows that, yet he still made the decision to smoke marijuana while driving, which eventually resulted in his arrest in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Wednesday evening.

Either Blackmon has a more serious problem with substance abuse than many believed or he just doesn’t care. It appears to be more the latter based on the fact Blackmon maintained minimal contact with the team after being suspended indefinitely on Nov. 1. NFL rules prohibit teams from contacting suspended players, but players can contact the team, and the Jaguars had hoped Blackmon would keep them informed of his progress and whereabouts.

He did neither, aside from an occasional text to Bradley. It was disappointing because the Jaguars believed Blackmon had made progress during his four-game suspension to start the 2013 season. A new NFL rule allowed Blackmon to be with the team during his suspension for meetings (no practice or games), and Bradley and Blackmon met almost daily. Bradley said he was encouraged by their deeper relationship and said he believed Blackmon was heading in the right direction.

That is obviously not the case based on what happened Wednesday in Oklahoma.

The Jaguars have perfectly logical reasons for not cutting Blackmon. He is serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse program, which means he isn’t being paid and doesn’t count against the salary cap or roster limit. His career essentially is paused, meaning he still owes the team 2 years of service if he ever were to return. Plus, if the Jaguars do cut him they will be unable to recover any bonus money they have already paid.

However, those are football reasons and this is no longer an on-field issue. It’s about making a stand that the kind of behavior in which Blackmon is engaging is unacceptable. The Jaguars stood by and supported him through his May 2012 arrest, his four-game suspension and the current indefinite suspension. That is enough chances, more than many of us would receive if we found ourselves in the same situation.

Blackmon has become an embarrassment to a franchise that is riding a huge swell of momentum and positive energy thanks to the EverBank Field renovations and the enthusiasm surrounding draft picks Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Forget the money and the slim chance that he will turn things around and become the player he was projected to be. The best thing for the franchise at this point is to cut Blackmon loose.

Jaguars' under-the-radar players to watch

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
10:00
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Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco talks about three under-the-radar guys to keep an eye on as the team heads into training camp.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first step in beating any kind of problem with substance abuse is admitting that a problem exists.

Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Ace Sanders is doing that.

Sanders
It was certainly big news that Sanders admitted on Tuesday night that he’s facing a four-game suspension, which a source close to the team confirmed was for a second violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. But the bigger story is how Sanders has chosen to deal with his issue.

He’s putting his football career on hold and devoting his complete attention to making sure he gets the help he needs. NFL rules allow Sanders to participate in training camp and the preseason and to also participate in team meetings during his suspension, but Sanders has chosen instead to get counseling.

It’s not a route that most players choose. Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine said earlier this week that he expects receiver Josh Gordon to report to training camp on Friday and be on the field despite the fact that he’s facing what could be an indefinite suspension for his latest violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon remained with the team throughout training camp, the preseason, and his four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2013 season. The team also got special permission from the NFL to allow Blackmon to travel to the West Coast for a week with the rest of the team between road games at Oakland and Seattle. All that was done in the hope that being around his teammates and coaches would help Blackmon better handle the suspension.

It obviously didn’t work because Blackmon was caught again after four games and is now suspended indefinitely. Remember, too, Blackmon's repeated denials that he has a problem with alcohol or substance abuse.

Sanders, though, believes counseling is more important than trying to hold onto his spot as the Jaguars’ No. 2 receiver, which he will undoubtedly now lose to either Marqise Lee or Allen Robinson, the Jaguars’ second-round draft picks. That’s why he won’t be on the field when the Jaguars begin camp on Friday.

"This is just solely something that I felt I needed to do," Sanders said. "… I’ve made some mistakes that I do regret, that I do honestly regret. I could have handled situations a little differently. I’m still just dealing with it. I’m trying to be a better person and a better teammate for everybody and everybody around me.

"I decided to go seek that help, get that attention that I need. Hopefully, somebody can help me out and I should be okay. I should be fine. I just want to get better and come back and be ready to play."

Sanders was poised throughout a roughly 10-minute conference call with reporters -- which he initiated -- but he is undoubtedly worried about his future. But it seems he’s more concerned about his health and his family, which includes an infant daughter, than his football career. That should be an indication that he really does want to get help.

That doesn’t excuse the fact that Sanders made a stupid decision, one which clearly impacts everyone else on the team. The offense had few proven receivers and it now has one less and will have to rely even more upon two rookies.

But give Sanders credit for publicly acknowledging his mistake and apologizing. Give him even more for recognizing he has a problem and making getting better the No. 1 priority.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without three starters when training camp begins Friday.

The team announced Tuesday that it had placed receiver Ace Sanders on the non-football injury list and that it had also placed cornerback Alan Ball (ankle) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (groin) on the physically unable to perform list.

As expected, the team also placed rookie cornerback Aaron Colvin on the PUP list. Colvin, whom the Jaguars drafted in the fourth round in May, suffered a torn ACL during Senior Bowl practices in January.

Sanders, who caught 51 passes as a rookie in 2013, was one of seven receivers to miss time during OTAs and minicamps because of injuries.

Watson, whom the team signed as a free agent in March, missed nearly all of OTAs and minicamp with the groin injury. He is the starter at the team's new OTTO linebacker position, which replaces the strongside linebacker. LaRoy Reynolds took the bulk of the snaps at that spot in Watson's place and likely will continue to do so when camp begins.

Ball started 15 games last season and led the Jaguars with 14 pass breakups. His absence probably means more work for second-year corners Demetrius McCray and Jeremy Harris.
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.
Bortles
For the Jacksonville Jaguars to have success -- over the next three seasons and beyond -- Blake Bortles has to develop into the quarterback general manager David Caldwell envisioned during the pre-draft process.

Caldwell took Bortles with the third overall pick because he and coach Gus Bradley believed Bortles was the best quarterback in the draft and could become the cornerstone of the franchise the way Matt Ryan did in Atlanta during Caldwell’s five seasons with the Falcons. But unlike Ryan, who started 16 games as a rookie, the Jaguars want Bortles to stay off the field in 2014 and instead learn and develop behind Chad Henne.

Bortles will need to adjust to the speed of the NFL game and learn a new offense, but that’s not what is holding him back. He has some mechanical issues, specifically with his lower body, which he must improve. Bortles said the biggest issue is his footwork, particularly when he throws to his right. He’s not stepping in the direction of the throw with his left (front) foot, which leaves his upper body parallel to the line of scrimmage on his release. That’s costing him velocity and accuracy, he said.

There also are other minor technique tweaks and issues that offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo are working on with Bortles. The plan is to use this season to fix these issues so Bortles can take the field in 2015 as a fundamentally sound quarterback who knows the offense completely.

That’s when the Jaguars will find out if Bortles has some of the other qualities needed to be a great quarterback. Can he feel and elude the rush in the pocket? When he’s under pressure, will he step up into the pocket to make the throw or bail out? Is he capable of putting a team on his back? Does he come through in big situations or does he wilt? Is he a consistent player? Do his teammates believe in him?

Those aren’t questions that can be answered now, and they might not all be answered in 2015, either. But the franchise’s future success depends on Caldwell and Bradley being able to answer “yes” to most of those questions.

Jaguars' top training camp competitions

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
10:00
AM ET
video 
ESPN.com Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco delivers a preview of important training-camp battles, including the competition between Winston Guy and Josh Evans at free safety.

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