NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

NFL Nation: Jacksonville Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The more you can do on the football field, the better the chance you will find a home. That is why J.T. Thomas made the Jacksonville Jaguars' 53-man roster and Nate Stupar didn’t.

The Jaguars chose Thomas for the sixth linebacker spot because Thomas has the versatility to play inside and outside linebacker. Stupar, who did a solid job last season as middle linebacker as Paul Posluszny's backup and is a very good special teams player, is strictly an inside player.

"We knew that he [Thomas] could play Will [weakside linebacker]," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "We wanted to see if he could play Mike, because in our linebacking situation, we need a swing guy. That was the competition between him and Stupar: Who could play both and give us the best opportunity?"

It’s easier to take an outside linebacker and ask him to play inside than to take an inside linebacker and ask him to play outside. Thomas was an outside linebacker at West Virginia, although he did play inside on third downs, and that is where he spent his time in his first two seasons in Chicago after the Bears drafted him in the sixth round in 2011.

He played outside linebacker and special teams with the Jaguars last season, but went into organized team activities and minicamp hoping to get some work inside to help increase his value.

"I had kind of been eying that position a little bit since the spring, just making myself a little bit more versatile, and I know that that can help the team and help myself as well," Thomas said. "I just embraced it. From the moment they told me I’d be playing a little bit of middle linebacker, I was rather excited for it. And I’ve been able to grasp concepts pretty easily."

He's had a lot of help. Thomas said he learned a lot from playing with Brian Urlacher in Chicago and from spending time with Posluszny last season. Plus, his father, J.T. Thomas Sr., was a middle linebacker at West Virginia from 1994-95, and he talks to him often.

Thomas isn’t built like a middle linebacker -- he’s 6-foot-1 but only 236 pounds -- but he has the traits that are more important than size: he’s athletic and he can run.

"You have to be [versatile] and you have to be able to run, and those are my strong assets," said Thomas, who made 17 tackles on defense and six on special teams last season. "I can be athletic in the inside and be able to make some plays on the perimeter. I definitely use my speed and quickness to my advantage."

Thomas is still going to see a lot of playing time on special teams this season. But in addition to backing up Posluszny he will also back up starting weakside linebacker Geno Hayes, who is coming back from knee surgery. The Jaguars are going to use Thomas to help manage Hayes’ reps.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacques McClendon has been cut so many times that he is not looking at being named the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting center as any kind of milestone.

He knows it could end rather quickly.

"I don’t think we have any time to revel in that," McClendon said Monday afternoon. "... It’s just an opportunity to build on what I’ve started to build over the past year. I don’t really reflect on it. I think when you look back too much you can’t see what’s right in front of you, and what’s in front of me is a great opportunity."

Third-year player Mike Brewster began training camp as the starting center and McClendon was the starting right guard. But Brewster struggled and McClendon and rookie sixth-round pick Luke Bowanko got work at center. The Jaguars chose to go with the third-year player from Tennessee. Brewster was cut on Friday.

"His experience and where he’s at right now [is the reason they chose to go with McClendon]," coach Gus Bradley said. "We feel that Luke still has an upside. He’ll continue to compete in the reps that he gets, but we just felt at this point in time, Jacques is the guy."

It has been a long road for the 6-foot-3, 324-pound McClendon, who has played in nine games (two starts) with Jacksonville and Indianapolis. The Colts drafted him in the fourth round in 2010 and he played in four games as a rookie. Since then he has been cut seven times, including twice by the Jaguars.

He has been with the team continuously since Sept. 30, 2013, and started the final two games of last season at left guard. He did play one snap at center, moving over when the Jaguars sent center Brad Meester out to catch a pass in his final home game.

Now center is McClendon's home, beginning with Sunday’s season opener in Philadelphia.
Most significant move: Center Mike Brewster went from starter to the street. The third-year player from Ohio State was the starting center when training camp began but never seized control of the spot and eventually was passed by Jacques McClendon and rookie sixth-round pick Brandon Linder. Brewster’s biggest issue is he’s not a powerful player at the point of attack, and that also led to him getting pushed back into the quarterback in pass protection. Plus, he had two high snaps in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay and bounced one in the second half against Atlanta on Thursday. He was already in jeopardy of making the roster before that game and that likely sealed his fate. If the Jaguars do not add another center early in the week, then it’s likely McClendon will get the start in the season opener against Philadelphia.

Five WRs: The Jaguars opted to go with five wide receivers for the first month of the season -- Ace Sanders is suspended for the first four games -- and that leaves the offense with little experience at the spot. They’re in essence only going with four because rookie second-round pick Allen Robinson has missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury and hasn’t practiced fully since he was injured July 31. Rookie receivers can have a difficult time adjusting to the NFL and missing the entire preseason all but guarantees Robinson will have minimal impact in the early part of the season. Two of the other receivers that made the roster are also rookies (Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee), meaning the Jaguars have only two receivers who have caught passes in a game: Cecil Shorts (123) and Mike Brown (32).

Two QBs: General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, but he’s only going with Chad Henne and rookie Blake Bortles, waiving Ricky Stanzi and Stephen Morris. That undoubtedly has to do with Bortles' quicker-than-expected development throughout training camp and the preseason. Had he not progressed from the way he was throwing the ball in OTAs and minicamp, then it would have been a surprise if the Jaguars had not kept Stanzi on the active roster. Stanzi is entering his fourth season but still has practice squad eligibility. If he isn’t claimed by another team, I’d expect the Jaguars to sign him to the practice squad.

What’s next: The Jaguars will try and sign several of the players that they waived to the 10-man practice squad and also will mine the list of players cut from other teams to fill out the squad. Caldwell is expecting to lose a couple players that he released and had targeted for the practice squad to other teams. We will have the updated depth chart and roster posted shortly.

Jaguars moves: TE Brandon Barden (waived/injured), OT Cody Booth, C Mike Brewster, WR Chad Bumphis, DL DeAndre Coleman, WR Tandon Doss (IR), CB Jamell Fleming, DT Ricky Havili-Heimuli, FB Eric Kettani, S Craig Loston, S Sherrod Martin, QB Stephen Morris, G Drew Nowak, K/P Kasey Redfern, CB Rashaad Reynolds (IR), DE Gerald Rivers, QB Ricky Stanzi, LB Nate Stupar, WR Kerry Taylor, TE D.J. Tialavea and LB Marcus Whitfield.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Center Mike Brewster knows he may have played his last game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He has gone from being the team’s starter when training camp began to playing in the second half of the final preseason game, and his play in Thursday night’s 24-14 loss to Atlanta at EverBank Field didn’t help. Brewster bounced a snap past quarterback Ricky Stanzi and the play ended up costing the Jaguars three points.

[+] EnlargeMike Brewster
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsAnother poor snap on Thursday may have doomed Mike Brewster's chances of making the Jags' roster.
"It’s obviously something I’ve got to get out of my head," said Brewster, who had two high snaps in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. "I don’t know if I was trying to compensate for last time going high and I was trying to make sure I didn’t go high and I went low."

Brewster was already in jeopardy of not making the 53-man roster before Thursday night’s game, and coach Gus Bradley said the low snap didn’t help. Brewster’s biggest issue is that he’s not a powerful player at the point of attack and he had several chances to seize the starting job and never did.

The Jaguars gave guard Jacques McClendon and sixth-round pick Luke Bowanko reps over Brewster in the third preseason game at Detroit. The Jaguars are likely to keep eight offensive linemen, with the five projected starters (Luke Joeckel, Zane Beadles, McClendon, Brandon Linder, Austin Pasztor) plus swing tackle Cameron Bradfield and Bowanko, who also can play guard. That leaves just one spot remaining and that may go to rookie tackle Josh Wells or veteran tackle Sam Young because Pasztor is going to miss several weeks with a broken right hand.

So Brewster may be out.

"When you have a couple bad snaps in the first game and then you throw a low one back there in the last game, I mean, yeah, it’s not a comforting feeling," Brewster said. "But I know I can play in this league. I have played in this league. I’ve played a lot of guard. I’ve got to get my mind off the snap thing. I feel like I have too much talent to waste it doing something like that. It’s tough. So, we’ll see.

"Whatever happens, happens. I can’t blame anybody but myself and whatever the problem is I’ve got to move beyond that."

Bradley and GM David Caldwell said in late March at the NFL’s owners meetings that they believed Brewster could be the replacement for 14-year veteran Brad Meester, who retired after the 2013 season. However, several weeks later they signed restricted free agent Alex Mack to an offer sheet ($42 million over five years). The Cleveland Browns matched the offer and the Jaguars went into training camp with Brewster as the starter.

He has dropped down the depth chart since and may not survive the roster cut to 53, which has to be done by 4 p.m. ET Saturday.

"I’ve just got to clean this issue [bad snaps] up," Brewster said. "It’s not like it’s a problem throughout the week. Just got to stop thinking and stop thinking so much and just make it more natural and not worry about it, I guess. Stop compensating.

"I want my main position to be center. Obviously, they’ve got to be able to trust you and, obviously, they probably don’t at this point."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It wasn’t as easy as it has been for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, but the former Central Florida standout still put together another impressive preseason performance in the Jacksonville Jaguars24-14 loss to Atlanta at EverBank Field Thursday night.

Bortles started, but had to play behind a makeshift offensive line that was without two starters and had two others at different positions. He was sacked twice and was banged around twice more, but hung in there and completed 4 of 6 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown pass came on his final play of the night -- and possibly the entire season -- when he came off his primary receiver and found rookie Marqise Lee running open behind the coverage for a 57-yard bomb.

"It was a good play," Bortles said. "I had him on a seam and threw a little later than I wanted to, but he did a good job staying alive and running down the field to make a play."

Here are some other thoughts on the Jaguars’ final preseason game of the year:
  • Because of injuries and healthy scratches, the Jaguars shuffled the starting lineup significantly. One of the beneficiaries was running back Denard Robinson. He didn’t have a lot of success running the ball, gaining 12 yards on seven carries, but he did take a swing pass 20 yards. That’s the best way to use the former Michigan quarterback. He’s still adjusting to the position but he’s very good in space, where he can use his speed and elusiveness to make plays.
  • Receiver Tandon Doss reinjured his right ankle and now the situation at punt returner is just as murky as it was last week. Even though Ace Sanders made his preseason debut and fielded punts against the Falcons, he’s unable to help because he is suspended for the first four games because of a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Doss was supposed to be his replacement -- he led the AFC in punt return yardage last season while with Baltimore -- but the injury puts that in doubt. Doss had just returned to practice last Monday after missing 24 days with a sprained right ankle. Receiver Mike Brown returned punts against Detroit last week and he’s the likely candidate if Doss’ injury keeps him out several weeks. Cornerback Will Blackmon also has lined up to return punts in the preseason, but he has had trouble deciding whether to catch the ball or let it bounce.
  • It’s pretty clear by now that center Mike Brewster is in jeopardy of getting cut, and not just because he zipped a low snap by quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the third quarter. It’s one thing to not play in the first half of the third preseason game because the Jaguars wanted to see Jacques McClendon and Luke Bowanko, but Brewster didn’t enter Thursday's game until the third quarter. McClendon played left guard because of the injury to Zane Beadles (calf) and Bowanko snapped for the entire first half. Brewster has had several chances to grab the starting job and now might not make the roster, even though he can also play guard, because the Jaguars aren’t likely to keep more than one interior reserve.
  • Defensive end Ryan Davis received a lot of playing time early and recorded 1˝ sacks. It was a good showing for the second-year player from Bethune-Cookman, who is a key part of the Jaguars’ four-LEO package. … It wasn’t a good night for left tackle Cameron Bradfield, though. He had trouble handling Falcons defensive end Jonathan Babineaux, who flew past him and put a big hit on quarterback Bortles. Bradfield missed another block on a play in which Bortles was sacked. It’s certainly a concern, as Bradfield is going to have to start at right tackle for the first several games of the regular season while starter Austin Pasztor is out with a broken hand. … Kicker Kasey Redfern was short on a 52-yard field goal attempt but did a solid job as a punter, averaging 49 yards on seven punts. That will give him some stuff to put on tape for other teams.

W2W4: Jacksonville Jaguars

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) and Atlanta Falcons (1-2) play their final preseason game Thursday night at EverBank Field at 6 p.m.

1. More help at WR: The Jaguars will have two additional players available on Thursday with Ace Sanders returning from a leave of absence and Tandon Doss returning from a severely sprained ankle. Both should get playing time but it won’t be extensive. The Jaguars are going to treat this as the first preseason game for both players since neither has been on the field for the previous three preseason games. The question for Sanders is whether he’s anywhere close to being in game shape. He said he worked out three times a week while on his leave of absence to deal with personal issues, but that’s different than being able to be on the field for 10 or 12 consecutive plays. This will be the last time Sanders can get on the field until Week 5 because he is suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Doss’ return is critical because he gives the Jaguars another veteran receiver, plus he can fill in for Sanders as the punt returner. Doss led the AFC in punt return average last season. Barring anything unusual, he has likely locked up the sixth receiver spot but he needs to get some reps against the Falcons so he isn’t starting the regular season cold.

2. Redfern’s chance: With kicker Josh Scobee out with a quad strain, rookie Kasey Redfern gets a golden opportunity to make his case for making an NFL roster. It’s not going to be in Jacksonville if Scobee is healthy for the season opener, but with a good performance against the Falcons Redfern should get several calls next week. Young kickers can bounce around the league for a while because teams are always looking to add stability there. Redfern has made all three of his field goal attempts from inside 35 yards but missed on a 49-yard attempt. He also can punt, averaging 44 yards per punt on seven punts this preseason, and that gives him additional value.

3. 2 QB or 3 QB: Jaguars GM David Caldwell will have to decide whether to keep three or two quarterbacks on the active roster. He has said he likes to keep three, but the play of rookie Blake Bortles may have changed that. He has been so impressive that there is less reservation about putting him on the field should Chad Henne get injured than there was when training camp began. The Jaguars could opt to keep three on the active roster and another on the practice squad, or even two on the practice squad. Veteran Ricky Stanzi and rookie Stephen Morris will get the bulk of the playing time against the Falcons and how they perform will factor into Caldwell’s decision. Stanzi didn’t look good against Detroit last week, throwing a pair of interceptions on two terrible passes, but Morris hasn’t had much success when he has been on the field (4-of-7, 28 yards, one INT).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Red Bryant understands the business side of the NFL and why the Seattle Seahawks released him in late February, less than a month after the team won the Super Bowl.

[+] EnlargeRed Bryant
John Raoux/AP PhotoRed Bryant, who is entering his seventh pro season, is a new face on the Jaguars' team this season; the Seahawks released him in February.
That doesn't mean it didn't bother him a bit and it's not preventing him from using it as incentive in his first season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It definitely motivates you," Bryant said. "In my situation, me being a captain for the last two years, and then after winning the Super Bowl and in the offseason being released, it adds fuel to the fire. But that's the business of football. Like I always tell people, it isn't what happens to you it's how you respond.

"So if I respond in the right way, if I can prove Gus [Bradley] and Dave [Caldwell] right for wanting to pick me up, I'll feel like I accomplished something."

Bryant was a salary-cap casualty in Seattle -- he was due a $4 million roster bonus in March -- so his release wasn't related to his performance. So far this preseason, Bryant has shown that the Jaguars' decision to sign him to a four-year, $17 million contract less than two weeks after he was released looks pretty good. The Jaguars ranked 29th in the league in rush defense (131.8 yards per game) and gave up at least 150 yards rushing seven times in 2013. The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Bryant has helped drop that number to 113 yards per game in three preseason games.

Roughly a quarter of the 339 rushing yards the Jaguars have allowed this preseason came on Reggie Bush's 86-yard touchdown run last Friday night. Several players, including safety Johnathan Cyprien and linebacker Telvin Smith, were out of position on that play. Otherwise, the Jaguars' run defense has been solid.

That's due in large part to Bryant, who anchors the outside of the defensive line as a five-technique end. He hasn't played an entire game yet, but Bryant certainly upgrades the defensive front. He is coming off a season in which he made 30 tackles, recorded a career-high 1.5 sacks, and had a career-high four tackles for loss.

The Jaguars are counting on him to not only boost the run defense but to mentor some younger players such as Abry Jones and Tyson Alualu, as well.

"It takes a while to know what type of impact you have," Bryant said. "I just try to keep the younger players encouraged because this is a talented group. It's deep at every position and that's always a great starting point when you're trying to build something. I feel like Gus and Mr. Caldwell got this program on the right track in terms of trying to build a consistent winner. If I could just keep the younger guys encouraged of what it takes I feel like I'll be doing my job."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- By now you're probably familiar with ESPN's 2014 #NFLRank project, in which we have ranked the top 100 players on offense and defense in the NFL. We've been counting them down in increments of 10, with the top 10 being announced on Friday.

There have been no Jaguars players among the first 60 players announced on each side of the ball. I don't think I'm giving away any spoilers when I tell you that there won't be any in the remaining 30 that will be released today, Thursday and Friday, either.

But the Jaguars are represented in other areas of the rankings, which were determined by 90 evaluators inside ESPN, including all 32 NFL Nation writers (myself included). While we're only releasing the top 100 of the rankings, we did end up ranking 309 players on offense and defense, and it's in the latter two thirds of the rankings where you'll find Jaguars players.

Here's a breakdown of where they landed, plus a few thoughts on where we missed in the rankings:


146. WR Cecil Shorts
178. OT Luke Joeckel
181. G Zane Beadles
190. TE Marcedes Lewis
288. RB Toby Gerhart
307. QB Blake Bortles
308. QB Chad Henne

It's hard to argue that Shorts belongs in the top 100. He just doesn't have the numbers to warrant being that high (123 catches, 1,786 yards, 11 TDs in three seasons) plus he has missed 11 games in his three seasons. It's also easy to see why Gerhart was so low. He spent the first four years of his career backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and he is an unproven commodity as a feature back.

It doesn't seem logical that Beadles, a former Pro Bowler, is ranked below Joeckel, especially since Joeckel played just 12 snaps at left tackle before suffering a season-ending injury. However, Joeckel is a left tackle and that position is the most important along the offensive line.

But Henne at No. 308, ahead of only rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the rankings? That's not right. Granted, Henne deserves to be tabbed as an average quarterback since he has an 18-32 record as a starter, has 55 TD passes and 62 interceptions in his career, and has thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game only once. However, he's not as terrible a quarterback as he's made out to be.

I'd take Henne over EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Brian Hoyer, Matt Schaub, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, all of whom finished ahead of Henne in the rankings. In some cases it was by a few spots, but Henne should be ranked ahead of that group.


106. LB Paul Posluszny
142. DE Red Bryant
146. DE Chris Clemons
217. SS Johnathan Cyprien
251. DT Sen'Derrick Marks
264. LB Geno Hayes
281. LB Dekoda Watson
282. CB Alan Ball
288. CB Dwayne Gratz

Posluszny deserved to be in the top 100. He's certainly better than Buffalo linebacker Brandon Spikes (98th) and while defensive end Chandler Jones (85th) appears to be a rising star, Posluszny' s résumé dwarfs the New England Patriots' second-year player. Posluszny finished second in the NFL in tackles last season and was a Pro Bowl alternate. He has recorded at least 119 tackles in his three seasons with the Jaguars.

I have a feeling that if the rankings were re-done at the end of the season, Clemons and Cyprien would be significantly higher. Clemons recorded at least 11 sacks a season from 2010-12, but his production dipped to 4.5 last season. However, that was due to the torn ACL he suffered in the 2012 postseason and he said he didn't feel quite 100 percent until the 2013 postseason. Cyprien is a rising star in the league and the Jaguars are expecting him to make a bit jump in his second season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have not yet determined how much rookie quarterback Blake Bortles will play in the final preseason game against Atlanta Thursday night.

It could be a few drives, a quarter or even a half. Regardless of how long it is, it’d be advisable to postpone any bathroom breaks, concession stand runs or forays into the kitchen (for TV viewers) when he’s on the field.

That may be the last time anyone sees him in game action for a long time, maybe even a year.

Despite an impressive preseason by the No. 3 overall draft pick, the Jaguars are sticking with their plan of starting Chad Henne and putting Bortles on the bench when the regular season begins next month.

So after Thursday night’s game against the Falcons, it could be Bye Bye Blake.

"I don’t really think about it like that," Bortles said. "I think about it each and every day as an opportunity to go get better, to go improve. If it’s taking scout-team cards against our defense and going and working against our No. 1 defense, that’s just as good as going and playing in the game.

"Obviously Thursday night I want to go out there and continue to work, continue to get better, continue to improve on some things and kind of finish the preseason off on a good note."

It’d be hard to be more impressive than he already has been this month. Bortles has completed 62 percent of his passes for 435 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions in the Jaguars’ first three preseason games. He finally got to work with the first-team offense against a first-team defense last Friday in Detroit and responded by going 10-for-17 for 158 yards and a touchdown.

Bortles did throw two passes that should have been intercepted (one would have been wiped out by a penalty), and coach Gus Bradley said Bortles was late on several slant-route throws. Bortles tagged that on his footwork, which is still a work in progress. Though Bortles worked with quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Charlie Taafe during his entire Central Florida career, he has repeatedly said the footwork and fundamentals he’s learning from Jaguars OC Jedd Fisch and QB coach Frank Scelfo are things to which he has never been exposed.

"It’s hard when you’ve been doing it your whole life and now you’re trying to change it," Bortles said. "Me and Frank go every period and do kind of our own thing where I’m working on certain things and trying to change the muscle memory of how to do things and kind of re-learn how to do things correctly or more efficiently."

Those things -- plus gaining a more complete understanding of the offense, learning to read and understand coverages, and adjusting to the speed of the game -- are the main reasons why the Jaguars are putting him on the bench after Thursday.

There are no concerns among the coaches or players that Bortles won’t be able to handle not being a starter for the first time since 2011 and not even getting on the field for the first time since 2010.

"I think he’s going to be fine," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "He’s in a situation where he is the future of the franchise, so I feel like in his mind, his attitude, and how he approaches things, he’ll be just fine.

"Of course you want to play. Anybody wants to come in and play right away, but I think he’s coming into a very good situation. If you look at other situations, like an Aaron Rodgers and others that waited a little bit, they came out and turned out pretty well."

What’s making it easier for Bortles is that Bradley and GM David Caldwell have been up front with Bortles about their plan to go with Henne and have Bortles sit the bench -- ideally for the entire 2014 season.

"I think from the get-go there was kind of a plan, kind of a big-picture thing that they had in mind and were going to do," Bortles said. "That was for me to come in and learn from Chad, ask [questions], and kind of mimic, and figure out things, get acclimated to everything. That was made clear from Day 1.

"I kind of came in with no expectations and was kind of like a sponge, just wanted to learn and absorb as much as possible. ... I know a thousand times more now than I did two months ago."

After Thursday, it’ll be time to learn what it’s like to be a backup again.
Most significant move: The only one that really qualifies as significant is the team’s decision to cut cornerback Mike Harris, but it’s not like that move was a surprise. The former Florida State standout has been a solid nickel cornerback for the Jaguars since former general manager Gene Smith drafted him in the sixth round in 2012. He has 96 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups in three seasons. However, Harris isn’t a physical fit for coach Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme. Bradley wants bigger corners with length, and the 5-foot-10, 188-pound Harris doesn’t measure up. Harris is good enough to find a spot on another roster, though. He’s a pretty good special-teams player -- he blocked a punt and returned it for a TD in 2012 -- and runs well.

One more move: The Jaguars are finished with this round of cuts and have 76 players on the roster but will move rookie cornerback Aaron Colvin to the reserve/non-football injury list on Tuesday. He won’t count against the roster total at that point. Colvin, who suffered a torn ACL during Senior Bowl practices, cannot practice for six weeks after the season starts. The Jaguars could then decide to activate him or place him on IR.

A lot of new blood: Harris’ release leaves the Jaguars with just six draft picks remaining from Smith’s tenure (2009-12): defensive end Tyson Alualu, receiver Cecil Shorts, safety Chris Prosinski, defensive end Andre Branch, punter Bryan Anger, and receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon doesn’t count against the salary cap or the Jaguars’ roster total while he is suspended indefinitely. Quarterback Chad Henne and linebacker Paul Posluszny are the only remaining free-agent signees from Smith’s tenure. Of the 75 players remaining, 68 were signed or drafted by GM David Caldwell.

Jaguars' cuts: CB Mike Harris, WR Ramses Barden, LB Allen Bradford, G/C Antoine Caldwell, LB Josh Hull, FB Harvey Unga, S Joe Young, C Patrick Lewis, WR Kenny Shaw, LS Charley Hughlett, DB Deion Belue, WR Lamaar Thomas, RB Terrance Cobb, DT David Carter (waived/injured).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars receiver Ace Sanders says he feels better about himself, where he is in his life and his future.

 The second-year player from South Carolina, who will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season as punishment for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, returned to the team on Saturday after a month-long leave of absence to deal with what he called personal issues. Sanders could have participated in training camp and dealt with his problems at the same time, but he opted to put his health and well-being above his football career.

If he has truly beaten back his problem, and that’s something that can only be proven over time, then Sanders has given other troubled NFL players a blueprint to deal with whatever issues they are facing.

"I hope it does," Sanders said Sunday afternoon. "I hope it does show some kind of courage to go ahead and handle what you have to handle first, but then again you won’t always have an organization like we do that will allow it.

"Hopefully, it not only opens eyes to the players but also to coaches and the staff to realize that we have outside issues going on as well."

Not many players have attacked their problem the same way. Justin Blackmon certainly didn’t. Neither has former New York Giants safety Will Hill, former Washington tight end Fred Davis or Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon. There’s certainly no guarantee that they would have avoided further problems if they had, but would their situations have been any worse if they had? All have violated the league’s substance-abuse policy multiple times.

Maybe it would have helped, and if Sanders goes on to have no future problems, then his method should become an example. Each person’s situation is different and getting help depends on being willing to admit there’s a problem and actively seeking to solve that problem, but Sanders’ health-first, football-second-approach makes a lot of sense.

"I don’t know how it can’t be [an example for other players]," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "He really could have been here all during training camp. He knows he’s suspended and then gone then, but he didn’t [wait]. He went when he could have practiced. I mean, to me, what’s that say about him? That it was so important and to [general manager] Dave Caldwell and to [owner] Shad [Khan], to say, ‘Hey, that’s what’s most important. It’s most important to get you right.’

"We talk about, ‘Let’s get your world in order,’ and I think for us it was a chance to demonstrate, to say, ‘That’s right, it’s so important to get your life in order. Go do it now.’ But it was really brought to us from Ace, so he deserves all the credit."

Again, only time will tell if Sanders has truly beaten his issues, but right now it at least seems that he is comfortable with himself. His teammates, some of whom had communicated regularly with him over the past 31 days, have noticed.

"I think it was great for him," receiver Mike Brown said. "He and I talked a little last night about things. It seems like it was a good experience for him. I'm more happy for him as a person than anything. That's the most important thing. He's like a brother to me.

"I was worried about him as a person first and then the football stuff will come along."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Ace Sanders, who will miss the first four games of the season because he violated the NFL’s substance-abuse program, returned to the team on Sunday after a month-long leave of absence to deal with what he called personal issues.

 The second-year player from South Carolina was scheduled to do some conditioning work on the side but not participate in practice. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to play in Thursday’s preseason finale against Atlanta, although coach Gus Bradley said last week there was a chance Sanders would return to the team in enough time to get on the practice field and prepare for the Falcons game.

Sanders announced July 22 that he was taking the leave of absence and also admitted he is facing a four-game suspension for what was later confirmed to be a second violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

Sanders caught 51 passes as a rookie in 2013 and was expected to compete with rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson for a starting spot alongside Cecil Shorts. Lee and undrafted rookie Allen Hurns have been running with the first-team offense.

NFL rules allow Sanders to participate in training camp and the preseason, but he said he at the time he felt it was better for him to deal with his issues. He also is allowed to participate in team meetings during his suspension, but he cannot practice.

DETROIT, Mich. -- When Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles looked pretty good in the preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the caveat was: It was the Bucs' second-team defense and it was pretty vanilla.

When he did it again against the Chicago Bears' second-team defense, it was, "Let's see how he does against the starters."

Now what?

Because after Friday night's performance against the Detroit Lions, in which he played with the first-team offense against the first-team defense, there's nothing left to say. Bortles completed 10 of 16 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown in the Jaguars' 13-12 loss to Detroit at Ford Field. As the third overall pick continues to play well he's got to have the Jaguars beginning to rethink their plan of having him sit out the 2014 season.

Bortles wasn't perfect against the Lions. He threw a couple bad passes and had two others that should have been intercepted (one would have been nullified by a penalty), but he led the Jaguars to nine points in four drives and just the team's second red-zone touchdown this preseason.

Here are some other thoughts on the Jaguars' third preseason game of the year:
  • There's no doubt now that the Jaguars have found themselves a gem in undrafted rookie receiver Allen Hurns. He was the team's leading receiver in the preseason entering Friday night's game and caught six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Lions while playing with the first-team offense. Hurns not only will get a lot of playing time this season, he has all but locked up the No. 3 receiver spot behind Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee.
  • It looks like the race to be the starting center is going to be a two-man race between Jacques McClendon and rookie sixth-round pick Luke Bowanko. McClendon started the game and Bowanko came in next. Brewster didn't play in the first half and lined up at right guard in the second half until he switched over to center when Ricky Stanzi entered the game in the fourth quarter. If Brewster really is the team's third option -- and that's the way it appears -- then he may have a hard time making the roster.
  • The talk all camp has been about the Jaguars' lightning package, which puts four LEOs on the field at the same time. But the Jaguars have also worked on some other wrinkles, such as having different players dropping in coverage. Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks even did it a couple times. Andre Branch did it against the Lions and came away with an interception of a Matthew Stafford pass intended for Calvin Johnson. He didn't look bad running with the ball, either, and the 21-yard return helped set up the Jaguars' first field goal.
  • Lee got into a scuffle after a play with former Jaguars corner Rashean Mathis and was penalized for using abusive language. That is one of the areas that the NFL is emphasizing this season. … It was a pretty quiet night for Shorts, who made his preseason debut. He had two passes thrown his way but didn't make a catch. He was open on a deep route, but he was looking inside and Chad Henne's pass was thrown between Shorts and the sideline. It didn't appear that Shorts even saw the ball until just before it landed.


W2W4: Jacksonville Jaguars

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) and Detroit Lions play their third preseason game Friday night at Ford Field at 7:30 p.m.

1. Blake Bortles’ first-team debut: After tearing it up in the preseason with the second-team offense against second-team defenses (18-for-28, 277 yards) the Jaguars are finally giving the rookie quarterback a chance to play with the first team against a first-team defense. He’ll play about a quarter, and coach Gus Bradley said he’ll likely enter the game sometime in the second quarter. There is a difference between playing against a first-team defense: The players are (obviously) better, the coverages are disguised, there are more pressures, and everything happens just a bit faster. That means Bortles has to make quicker decisions. So far during the preseason, he has been poised and confident in the pocket and has smartly audibled the Jaguars out of bad plays. He also hasn’t locked in on his first option on pass plays, either. Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch want to see if he can do those things against the Lions’ first-team defense.

2. Make or break: It’s possible that Mike Brewster could go from being the Jaguars’ starting center at the start of training camp to not even making the team. He hasn’t been impressive, and the Jaguars are working three other players at the spot in third-year veteran Jacques McClendon and rookies Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko. McClendon is going to start against the Lions, and Bradley said he’s not sure of the rotation after that. Brewster’s issue is that he’s not a powerful player at the point of attack, and that’s hurting the Jaguars in the power-run game. This is a critical game for his future with the franchise, and it comes against one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. If he doesn’t play well, then he will have a tough time making the final roster. The lineup to look for will be when Bowanko is at center and Linder is at right guard. Linder was drafted to be the right guard, and the staff has liked what they’ve seen from Bowanko at center.

3. Pressure: The Jaguars’ upgraded defensive line has played well against the run in camp and in the team’s first two preseason games, but the unit did not get much pressure on Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler last week. This week’s test is Matthew Stafford, who is getting Calvin Johnson back for the first time this preseason. The Jaguars have just 51 sacks over the past two seasons (31 in 2013) and this is the kind of game in which the pass rush needs to shine: a high-powered pass attack led by an elite quarterback and receiver. The Jaguars signed Chris Clemons to be disruptive off the edge, and he has been impressive in camp and has one of the team’s four sacks. He looks like the player that had at least 11 sacks in three consecutive seasons (2009-12) before suffering a torn ACL in the 2012 postseason. His production dipped to 4.5 sacks last season, but he said he didn’t feel completely healthy until Seattle’s playoff run.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Marcedes Lewis has said numerous times that he has had his best offseason and is in the best shape of his career.

That has been evident with the way he has performed in training camp and the first two preseason games. He’s catching nearly everything thrown his way and his role in the offense has been as prominent as it was at the end of the 2013 season.

But as reliable and valuable as Lewis has been, there are that many questions about the players behind him.

Clay Harbor, who caught 24 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns last season, has been out with a calf injury since July 28, and when he will return to practice is unclear. There is hope that he will return for the Sept. 7 season opener.

"It’s doing a lot better," said Harbor, who suffered a partial tear of his calf muscle. "I’m working toward hopefully Philadelphia game Week 1. That’s what the plan is, and if everything keeps going well then that’s what I’m going to try to do, get ready for that week and try my best to play."

Harbor is the only other tight end on the roster that has caught a pass in an NFL game, leaving the Jaguars with undrafted rookies Marcel Jensen and D.J. Tialavea and second-year player Branden Barden, who played in three games with Tennessee in 2010.

Barden and Jensen are essentially fighting to be the third tight end because the Jaguars will only keep three on the 53-man roster. The one that doesn’t make it is likely headed for the practice squad, and right now that looks to be Jensen. Tialavea appears to be the odd man out.

"I think Barden is having a real nice camp," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "It’s fun to see him compete. He’s smart, has good experience and is catching the ball actually really well this camp."

Barden signed with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent in 2012 after a five-year career at Vanderbilt, ended up on the Titans’ practice squad, and then was signed to the active roster and played in three games that season. The Titans waived him after another stint on the practice squad and the Jaguars signed him to their practice squad last November.

Jensen is an undrafted free agent from Fresno State. He caught the staff’s eye during organized team activities and minicamp after making a few catches. He is intriguing because of his size (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) and length, but he is a raw talent and has been relatively anonymous in training camp.

"I thought that was another great acquisition there to get a guy like him," Fisch said. "I think there’s some good upside there with him."

Potential is nice, but the Jaguars need production behind Lewis, especially if Harbor can’t return for the season opener.