Jaguars Depth Watch: Benn could be 'difference-maker', Shatley given plenty of opportunity

The Jaguars' starting lineups on offense and defense have very little wiggle room when it comes to projections.

The team has drafted rookies and signed free agents to do very specific jobs. Also, despite the new regime, the Jaguars will likely field several tenured players at starting spots, sprinkling a handful of offseason additions into the mix.

While those players are the key to the Jaguars' early success, the depth of the group will be what keeps the team in contention (in theory) for the entire campaign.

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Fortunately for Jacksonville, the Jaguars have done a decent job of rounding out the roster with proven veteran role players and talented rookies this offseason.

A handful of key depth pieces stood out during the offseason program and their coaches were quick to note their playing potential when they met with the media last week.

Benn could be special on special teams

Veteran wide receiver Arrelious Benn re-signed with the Jaguars before free agency, failing to test the market for a bigger role. Benn is the senior member of the wide receiver group, but his real impact last season was on special teams.

New special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has been looking for standouts on his unit and Benn has seemingly fit the bill so far.

“We’re working to get as many difference-makers that we can get," DeCamillis said. "We’re going to find out as we go. The guy that didn’t get brought up in that whole thing was Arrelious Benn. He’s not a returner, but he made some plays against us in Denver when we played him last year. I have a lot of respect for him and we’ll see what happens down the road. We’re trying to get as many as we can, that’s for sure.”

Benn is a former second-round pick who was hit with a severe case of the injury bug. A string of injuries kept Benn off the field from 2013-2015.

He has rarely been given a chance as a wide receiver in Jacksonville. However, he did provide the Jaguars' play of the year last season when he caught a pass, fell down and then ran 51 yards for the game-winning touchdown against the Chicago Bears in Week 6.

Benn finished last season with five receptions for 116 receiving yards and a touchdown.

The 6-foot-2, 222-pound receiver expected to be a "core four" special teams player this season.

 

Shatley making most of opportunities

Fourth-year offensive lineman Tyler Shatley seems to be getting every opportunity possible to win a starting job. He rotated with the starters at center and right guard during the offseason program.

Shatley is a long-time, low-key favorite of the organization. He can play all three interior spots and recently signed a two-year extension. 

New offensive line coach Pat Flaherty has been impressed by Shatley's work ethic.

“Tyler is really – since I’ve gotten here in January – day in and day out has worked his rear-end off,” Flaherty said.

Shatley is battling for the starting center job with Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko. He could also be an option at right guard.

If the Jaguars prefer Linder at center or right guard and aren't eager to force rookie Cam Robinson onto the field, Shatley could fill a starting spot.

Shatley started four games at center last season. He has appeared mostly on special teams in 30 career games.

 

Rivera could be dynamic for Jaguars

Jacksonville worked out and signed tight end Mychal Rivera after the initial surge of free agency this offseason. With Julius Thomas now in Miami, Rivera is expected to be among the Jaguars' most targeted tight ends.

Rivera has admitted that he needs to work on his blocking. Still, the team seems to like what he can do as a receiver.

"Mychal, obviously coming from the Raiders, it’s funny, I remember when he was coming out of Tennessee when I was in Buffalo and I mean, he stands out," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "He does a lot of good things, he’s very dynamic and can line up at a lot of different places on the field."

Rivera, Marcedes Lewis and Ben Koyack are battling for playing time this season, especially with 12 personnel sets (one running back, two tight ends) likely being scaled back with the use of a fullback and the top three receivers. 

Rivera has received pretty strong reviews thus far. He produced 146 receptions for 1,413 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in four years with the Oakland Raiders.

 

Smoot "the tweener" could benefit from scheme

The Jaguars have billed third-round pick Dawuane Smoot as a pass rusher who can get to the quarterback from both sides of the line. He is likely to backup veteran free agent addition Calais Campbell on the strong-side this season.

“He’s kind of a tweener right now between a big end and an end," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said of Smoot. "Once again, with some of the scheme changes, we can play with two ends at the same time and not have any issues versus the run. We’re going to have a good three-, four-rotation there. You’ll see a lot more speed on the field.”

Smoot is the third-consecutive defensive end to be drafted by the Jaguars in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. He will battle for more playing time with the two previous additions, Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, during training camp.

 

Bennett showing some versatility

Former sixth-round pick Michael Bennett has somewhat slipped out of the spotlight this offseason.

He suffered a season-ending calf injury during the final preseason game last season and wasn't cleared to practice until right before the start of this year's offseason program.

Since returning to the practice field, Bennett has been able to take advantage of others' absences.

"Bennett has been getting some nose work because of what happened to [veteran defensive tackle Stefan Charles]," defensive line coach Marion Hobby said. "He's shown he's got some versatility in there."

Bennett appeared in 13 games as a rookie in 2015. He will battle for backup jobs at three-technique and nose tackle during training camp.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

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