NFL Nation: Ryan Davis

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.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- His name was still atop his locker and there were a few items still in it -- some shirts, a towel, toiletries -- but that was the extent of Jason Babin's presence with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday afternoon.

The team cut the defensive end early in the morning, a move coach Gus Bradley said was done now because of the development of some of the younger pass-rushers, but also as a sign of respect for the 34-year-old Babin to give him a chance to land with another team before training camps begin next month.

Babin
Marks
"We had to ask some tough questions about eventually the 53 guys that are going to be up on Sundays," Bradley said. "We feel that he still has some good games in him and some really good play in him. We were just juggling to try to find a way to get it done within our system. We feel like it was best to give him the opportunity to get out there and hook on with another team.

"I don’t know if there ever is a right time or how to do it. We try to do the best we can, but when we’re dealing with a man like Jason Babin that is tough on both sides."

Babin led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2013 and had nine sacks, 57 tackles and five forced fumbles in 21 games with the Jaguars. His teammates will miss him for more than that, though.

"Just the leadership he brings, the knowledge he brings," said defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who had the locker next to Babin. "Knowing everybody and how we were with Babs, Babs left a lot behind just by the things he used to teach and the way that he carried himself. I’ll talk to Babs probably for the rest of my life just because of the type of guy he is.

"He was the same way every single day. I don’t want to sit here and talk like he passed or he died or something, but Babs -- he was just a great guy. He always was willing to teach and he’s always willing to help."

Second-year defensive end Ryan Davis is one of the younger players -- along with rookie Chris Smith and second-year player Gerald Rivers -- who will benefit from Babin’s release. He was still surprised by the move, though.

"It was shocking," Davis said. "Jason was a key piece of this team, definitely helped this team in leadership. We were such a young team and he helped in my development. ... Whenever I needed to know something I’d go ask Babin and Babin would direct me or tell me what the best move was or pre-snap keys and stuff like that. [He taught me] how to prepare for a game. Babin was very instrumental in stuff like that. Not only that, he’s a great guy."

Babin might have come to Jacksonville in 2012 with a bit of a reputation as a surly guy, but that was not the case with the Jaguars. In fact, Bradley called Babin a "tremendous" leader and said he was a big help to him during the team’s rough start to the 2013 season.

"He ended up being one of our strongest leaders," Bradley said. "We went through some tough times and I leaned on him. He did a great job.

"... He’s a big part of what we’re building here and always will be."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jason Babin's release is a mild surprise only in that the 34-year-old defensive end didn’t even make it to training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was going to be a bubble player after the addition of several pass-rushers via free agency and the draft.

Babin
That he was released Thursday morning is an indication the Jaguars are not only pleased with how veteran Chris Clemons, whom they signed as a free agent, has performed in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, they are excited about several other young pass-rushers.

Coach Gus Bradley has consistently praised third-year player Andre Branch, the team’s second-round draft pick in 2012, throughout OTAs. His burst off the ball and quickness around the edge is noticeable, and he has consistently been in the backfield during 11-on-11 drills. Though the players are only wearing helmets and prohibited from full contact, Branch appears to be ready to become the kind of consistent player he was during the second half of the 2013 season, when he recorded five of his six sacks in the final seven games.

"You see Andre Branch really focused and really capturing every opportunity," Bradley said.

Fifth-round pick Chris Smith doesn’t fit the Jaguars’ typical measurables for what they want in a LEO -- a hybrid end/linebacker whose primary responsibility is rushing the passer -- but they liked what they saw from him during Senior Bowl week so they took a chance. The 6-foot-1, 266-pound Smith is a little shorter than ideal, but he has long arms and runs well.

"He had a couple good rushes [Wednesday] and I think he’s a guy that the more comfortable he gets and the more reps he gets we’ll see what he’s doing," Bradley said. "He’s got the traits we’re looking for. Now we just need to see it in training camp."

Second-year player Ryan Davis played in seven games last season and had one sack and made one huge play: an interception that sealed the Jaguars’ victory in Houston. He is another player who doesn’t have the typical LEO size (he’s 6-2, 260) but he’s an effort guy and the Jaguars are intrigued by his development.

Gerald Rivers is another second-year player that has worked at LEO. He has the prototypical LEO size (6-5, 258).

The key traits Branch, Smith, Davis and Rivers all share are youth and potential. At 34, Babin wasn’t going to get any better. It’s likely, even with reduced snaps because of the addition of the 32-year-old Clemons (58 career sacks), that he was going to be less effective. But there is room for improvement for the four younger (and cheaper) players, and that is better for the health of the roster beyond the 2014 season.
Got questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
 
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on defense and which prospects the team might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. We looked at the offense on Monday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch, and interview prospects at the NFL combine.

Here’s a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on defense and some potential targets:

Babin
Leo: Call this need No. 1A, just barely behind quarterback. The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the last two seasons and desperately need someone that can affect the quarterback on a consistent basis. Jason Babin and Andre Branch manned this spot in 2013 but Babin is scheduled to make $6.175 million in 2014. The 33-year-old Babin led the Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013 but he’s making elite defensive end money and he’s not an elite defensive end. He has said he'd be willing to re-negotiate his contract because he likes it in Jacksonville, but he also can declare himself a free agent because of a clause in the new CBA. It'd be a surprise if Babin is on the roster in 2014 under his current contract. Branch really improved in 2013 because defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Todd Wash got him to become more consistent with his effort. He’s a long way from being a 15-sack player, though, and that’s what the Jaguars need.

Potential targets: Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack.

Outside linebacker: Geno Hayes turned in a solid year in 2013 (78 tackles, two interceptions, three pass break-ups) despite playing through a nagging knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the last two games. But the Jaguars still need to upgrade both outside spots. It was partly due to his knee injury, but Hayes didn’t make very many impact plays and Russell Allen, the starter on the other side, made none. The leo spot is a hybrid end/outside linebacker that specializes in rushing the passer, so the outside linebackers don’t need to be elite pass rushers. They need to be athletic enough to play in coverage and have the ability to blitz if needed.

Potential targets: Ryan Shazier, Telvin Smith, Lamin Barrow.

Defensive end: This is the spot opposite the leo in the Jaguars’ defense and it doesn’t call for an elite pass-rusher. The Jaguars want a big, physical end who can anchor the line of the scrimmage in the run game. Tyson Alualu held the job last season and was solid (44 tackles, eight QB pressures, three tackles for loss), but the Jaguars need more production there. The only other player at that spot is Ryan Davis, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. They’re also hoping for a little more pass rush production than what Alualu had, but it’s not the primary responsibility.

Potential targets: Brent Urban, Jackson Jeffcoat, Scott Crichton.

Defensive tackle: The Jaguars’ two starters are set with Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, but the Jaguars need to add some quality depth here. Marks is coming off a career year and was awarded a four-year extension. Miller battled a shoulder problem all season but underwent surgery after the season concluded and should be fine by the time OTAs begin in April.

Potential targets: Will Sutton, Caraun Reid, Deandre Coleman.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell had promised that the team would be aggressive when it came to working the waiver wire and trying to improve the bottom part of the roster.

He wasn’t kidding.

The Jaguars were awarded seven players off waivers on Sunday, adding receiver Stephen Burton (Minnesota), defensive back Winston Guy (Seattle), tight end Clay Harbor (Philadelphia), guard Jacques McClendon (Atlanta), linebacker Chris McCoy (Philadelphia), linebacker J.T. Thomas (Chicago) and tight end D.J. Williams (Green Bay).

They aren’t done yet, either. Caldwell said the team will look at the players other teams released on Sunday and there could be some additional signings on Monday.

"We’ll evaluate that pool and from that pool we’ll see if we can upgrade somewhere," Caldwell said. "We will always look for an edge and an advantage of where we can try to get better."

Speed and the ability to play on special teams are the two traits for which Caldwell is looking in available players. Six of the seven players signed have special-teams value.

"It’s something we’ve looked at the whole time," Caldwell said. "We’re always going to look to get better in every phase, not just special teams. It’s offense, defense, [and] it's personnel. Whatever we’re doing we’re going to work to get better. We felt like when we came here in the offseason we wanted to upgrade our team speed. We feel like we didn’t completely do that in the offseason but we feel like we did that today."

To make room for the seven additions, the Jaguars cut defensive back Antwon Blake, tight end Brett Brackett, center Dan Gerberry, defensive tackle Kyle Love, fullback Lonnie Pryor, receiver Jordan Shipley and linebacker Andy Studebaker.

The Jaguars also signed the following players to the practice squad: cornerback Marcus Burley, defensive end Ryan Davis, receiver Jeremy Ebert, guard Drew Nowak, receiver Tobais Palmer, quarterback Matt Scott, and safety Steven Terrell. The Jaguars have one remaining spot to fill on the practice squad.

Here’s a quick look at the seven new players:

Burton: The former 2011 seventh-round draft pick played in 15 games for Minnesota last season and caught seven passes for 73 yards and one touchdown.

Guy: He was a sixth-round pick by Seattle last year and played in three games, including the NFC divisional playoff game against Atlanta.

Harbor: He spent the past three seasons in Philadelphia after the Eagles took him in the fourth round in 2010. He has played in 39 games (18 starts) and has 47 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns. Also has lined up at receiver.

McClendon: The former 2010 fourth-round pick by Indianapolis has played in only four games.

McCoy: Miami selected him in the fourth round in 2010 and he spent that season on the practice squad with three teams (Miami, Houston and Seattle). He spent the past two seasons with Calgary in the Canadian Football League.

Thomas: Chicago selected him in the sixth round in 2011. After spending his rookie season on injured reserve he played in every game last season for the Bears.

Williams: He spent the past two seasons with Green Bay after the Packers selected him in the fifth round in 2011. He has nine career catches for 70 yards. He also can line up at fullback.
Click here for a full list of Jacksonville Jaguars roster moves.

Most significant move: The Jaguars’ No. 3 quarterback has yet to practice with the team.

Matt Scott and Mike Kafka were among the 21 players the Jaguars cut on Friday, meaning the team will begin preparations for the Sept. 8 season opener against Kansas City with Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and Ricky Stanzi as the quarterbacks. Neither Kafka nor Scott played well in the preseason: Kafka completed 13 of 29 passes with one touchdown and one interception while Scott completed 18 of 40 passes with one interception. Scott also had a fumble returned for a touchdown.

The Jaguars signed Stanzi on Tuesday after he was released by the Chiefs and cleared waivers. The former fifth-round draft pick in 2011 spent the past two seasons on the Chiefs’ active roster. He never appeared in a regular-season game, but Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he got a good report on Stanzi from Jaguars scout Kyle O’Brien, who spent the 2012 season with the Chiefs.

"We liked what we saw on film of him, I can tell you that," Bradley said. "We really did. We liked him. We were evaluating him out in warm-ups [on Thursday night], you know, when he was throwing the ball. So we did like him, and one of our scouts was with Kansas City and was intrigued by him and I think it passed on to us."

It’s still unclear whether Gabbert (hairline fracture in his right thumb) will be able to start the season opener. If he can’t, Henne would get the start and Stanzi would be No. 2. If Gabbert can play, Stanzi would likely be inactive.

One extra spot: The Jaguars will receive a roster exemption on Saturday for receiver Justin Blackmon, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That allows the Jaguars to keep a 54-man roster, but it also means that the Jaguars have only five receivers on the roster right now: Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Mike Brown, Ace Sanders and Jordan Shipley. That’s an area that the Jaguars likely will address this weekend from the waiver wire.

Onward and upward: CB Marcus Trufant is an 11-year veteran who played well in the preseason, but he doesn’t fit into the Jaguars’ youth movement in the secondary. Plus, the signing earlier this week of Will Blackmon made him expendable because of Blackmon’s age (28, four years younger than Trufant) and special-teams ability. Still, Trufant is an experienced, heady player who could find himself on a roster. The Jaguars liked defensive end Pannel Egboh but his production didn’t match his measurables (6-foot-6, 277 pounds). It wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up on another roster within the next few days. The Jaguars' roster may be one of the thinnest in the league, so it’s unlikely that there will be much interest in most of the players cut.

What's next: The Jaguars certainly aren’t anywhere close to being done with cutting and adding players. Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell have both said they plan on continuously scouring the waiver wire in an effort to improve the bottom part of the roster, so expect more moves over the weekend. Most of the impending signings will likely center around their ability to help on special teams. The units have struggled during camp and in the preseason, which is why linebackers Brandon Marshall, Michael Zimmer and Julian Stanford were released. The Jaguars added linebacker Andy Studebaker in mid-August and linebacker Kyle Knox and cornerback Blackmon, both of whom were released by Seattle, earlier this week. Blackmon was signed on Wednesday and played well in the Jaguars’ 20-16 victory over Atlanta on Thursday night, returning a punt for 21 yards.

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