JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Lost in the shuffle of the uncertainty at quarterback and the last-minute retractions at linebacker is the constantly evolving backend of the Jaguars' roster.
Much like some of the starters on defense, veteran special teams standout Lerentee McCray is seeing his role adjust to fit team needs.
A former 3-4 outside linebacker, McCray was initially promoted as a special teams ace and a rotational pass rusher upon his signing in March. Over the last few weeks, the former Florida Gator has added strong-side linebacker (SAM) to his plate.
McCray and rookie Blair Brown have received additional snaps at SAM linebacker following Paul Posluszny's move back to middle linebacker (MIKE). While Myles Jack will be the starter on the strong-side, his role may grow and change as the season goes on.
McCray is expected to step up when the time is right. While the Jaguars just recently acknowledged his role change, McCray had an idea it was coming for a while.
"No, I kind of knew it in the offseason," McCray said. "I had talked to [defensive coordinator Todd Wash] and he had said I would get in with a package at SAM and start learning SAM and see how I transitioned over to that position with a 4-3 [defense]."
The difference between being a 4-3 outside linebacker and a 3-4 outside linebacker is significant. Instead of focusing on the pass rush primarily, McCray will now need to concern himself with more coverage and run-stopping responsibilities.
He hasn't worked under those circumstances for quite some time.
"It's been a little bit of a transition, I haven't really been set behind the ball since probably high school," McCray said. "So it's been a little of a transition stacking back behind the ball, reading different keys than when I was playing outside [in a 3-4 defense]. I have a different read now that I'm stacked behind the ball."
Along with the work at SAM, McCray has held onto his rotational pass rushing role. The veteran is behind former draft picks, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler, in the weak-side end rotation, but he has stood out in practice during training camp.
"It's going pretty good," McCray said. "I think me, Yannick and Dante have a pretty good rotation, us three with Smoot, I think it's going pretty good."
McCray was brought to Jacksonville shortly after his former Denver Broncos special teams coordinator, Joe DeCamillis, was hired for the same role with the Jaguars.
McCray played for DeCamillis from 2013-15. The duo won a Super Bowl, along with fellow Jaguars lineman Malik Jackson, following the 2015 season.
McCray's connection to DeCamillis has helped him get settled in Jacksonville. It has also helped him assist his new teammates.
"It's great, it's great," McCray said. "It's great having a coach I've already played for and had success with, so it's been a great experience helping people, helping my teammates understand the system. Understanding Joe D and who he is as a person and understanding who he is as a coach."
McCray has become a Swiss Army knife for the Jaguars on the field and in the classroom. His familiarity with DeCamillis and his versatility on defense should make him a keeper when it comes time for final cuts.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.