Sometimes having your “Saturday” on a Monday has its perks.
As planned on this fine Tuesday morning: here is my projections for the Jaguars’ 53-man roster. The Jaguars, like the other 31 teams in the league, must have their roster finalized by 4 p.m. this afternoon. The Jaguars also have the first position in the waiver wire order to begin the year. I anticipate them claiming four or five players to add across the 53-man active roster and 16-player practice squad.
Not dropping this projection until this morning allows me to avoid my “bracket being busted,” if you may, like many of my other contemporaries’. The Jaguars shocked reporters, fans, and much of the league by trading cornerback Sidney Jones IV to the Seattle Seahawks Monday night for a 2022 sixth-rounder. Jones appeared in nine games last season with six starts and was re-signed by the Urban Meyer-led front office this offseason. He had started opposite Shaq Griffin most of the preseason at outside cornerback.
No Jones obviously shifts this projection a bit – but not too much. I already had the Jaguars keeping five safeties; moving Jones frees the Jaguars up to keep an extra offensive or defensive lineman – in my exercise.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
Cut: Jake Luton
Moving Gardner Minshew over the weekend makes this an obvious call. Beathard has been a pleasant surprise over the course of three preseason games, throwing for three touchdowns and, before Sunday, carrying the highest QBR of any quarterback.
Lawrence is on the team. Water is wet, and, in semi-related news, the sky is blue.
The Jaguars will definitely keep their fingers crossed that Luton clears waivers so they can stash him on their 16-player practice squad. However, his performance against the Cowboys (16-18, 137 yards, touchdown) definitely caught teams’ attention – and his 6’6’’, 225 lb frame and solid arm already had Luton on their radar.
Running Back (4):
James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Dare Ogunbowale, Devine Ozigbo
Cut: Nathan Cottrell
I came real close to only keeping three running backs in favor of seven receivers. But I kept coming back to: even with the season-ending injury to Travis Etienne, the Jaguars are going to run the football a lot more than people realize. They need as many bodies as they can have. Ogunbowale offers special teams expertise and is clearly “RB3” in the pecking order. As of now, he’s the alternative to the third-down back Etienne would've been. I do believe the Jaguars will go out and claim a running back on the waiver wire. Whether it’s a practice squad player or an alternative to Ozigbo (who has been solid throughout Camp – and is an underrated receiver) remains to be seen.
I tweeted it during Sunday’s game, but Cottrell is getting claimed by the Patriots. Maybe the Saints. Book it.
Wide Receiver (6):
DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones Jr., Phillip Dorsett, Jamal Agnew, Laquon Treadwell
Cut: Collin Johnson, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Hammond, Devin Smith (Practice Squad), Jalen Camp (Practice Squad), Tevin Jones, Jeff Cotton Jr
IR: Tavon Austin
If Sidney Jones isn’t traded: a, Chris Claybrooks doesn’t make the roster (more on that in a second) and b, Pharoh Cooper does. In practice, Cooper (and Austin) have served as the primary back-up kick and punt returners to Agnew. In preseason games, it’s been almost exclusively Claybrooks on return duty.
I have held firm to the belief that Meyer is trying to field a track team. Neither Treadwell or Johnson offers that speed, but they offer unique skillsets as bigger-bodied receivers. Treadwell cooled off down the stretch-run of Training Camp in the receiving game, but showcased value on special teams. If they only keep six, it’s Johnson who will be released – simply because Treadwell has been the better special teams player. And Johnson is going to be claimed by someone.
The Jaguars would love to stash former Gator Josh Hammond on their practice squad for a second consecutive season. But he’s been their leading receiver or one of their top-three receivers in all three preseason games. Additionally, the team invested a sixth-round pick in the project that is Jalen Camp. He hardly played in the final preseason game, an effort – I believe – by the Jaguars to prevent more teams from seeing the 6’2’’, 230 lb freak athlete. Devin Smith is a former Urban Meyer protégé who the Jaguars signed Saturday and who made an immediate impact on Sunday. I could also see the Jaguars trying to bring back Josh Imatorbhehe on their practice squad, another athletic freak (his 46.5 inch vertical jump would’ve been tops had there been an NFL Combine).
Tight End (3):
James O’Shaughnessy, Chris Manhertz, Luke Farrell
Cut: Ben Ellefson, Tyler Davis
Once the games began, it became very clear Farrell was TE3. This administration did invest a fifth-round Draft pick in him.
This is one position group that I’ve been talking about with reporters and people inside the Jaguars’ facility for months. As idealistic as it may be that the Jaguars could keep both Ellefson and Davis on the practice squad, they both are raw talents that another team will jump on. Likewise, I could see the Jaguars using that pole-position in waiver order to prioritize the tight end position and claim someone like Tanner Hudson, the Buccaneers leading receiver their first two preseason games (and who was on the roster in Tampa the past two seasons). Whether Hudson (or whoever) would be placed on the 53-man or on the practice squad remains to be seen.
Offensive Line (9):
Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, AJ Cann, Jawaan Taylor, Tyler Shatley, Ben Bartch, Walker Little, Will Richardson
Cut: Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms (Practice Squad), KC McDermott (Practice Squad), Austen Pleasants, Badara Traore, Jermaine Eluemunor
While Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reports the Jaguars called around about interior offensive line help (not surprising, given Bartch’s inconsistency and Richardson having to step in on one day’s notice at a position he hasn’t played in years), the Jaguars appear pretty confident in the offensive line group they have. Against the Cowboys’ second team defense, the Jags started a patchwork unit that had never played together before. They did not allow a sack and provided great protection for Lawrence.
Wallace-Simms has been a favorite of the coaching staff; he’s lined up both inside and outside and could be a great, “in case of emergency” call-up. McDermott has served as the team’s third center, although, in a pinch, Cann could also play. Cann is still on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 List for now.
Defensive Line (7):
Roy Robertson-Harris, Malcolm Brown, DaVon Hamilton, Jay Tufele, Adam Gotsis, Taven Bryan, Doug Costin
Cut: Daniel Ekuale
Came close to only keeping six here (sorry, Taven Bryan is making the team, folks – Gotsis would be the next man out). I still think they might add via the waiver wire here, but the defensive line has been arguably the most consistent position group throughout the preseason. The first three listed here are virtually locks. Tufele was the first pick of the fourth-round and has flashed; he opted out of the 2020 college football season and has more than gotten his sea-legs back under him. Costin was, once Hamilton went down, the Jaguars best run stuffer in 2020 and weighs 320 lbs. The Jaguars want to be big up front.
Gotsis and Bryan make the team because of their versatility. Yes, the Jaguars will run a 3-4 most of the time this season. But a hallmark of the Ravens defense that Joe Cullen is bringing from Baltimore is compiling a depth chart of dudes who can play multiple positions. For better or worse, Bryan has literally been tried at every position along the defensive line in Jacksonville. He told me during last Friday’s availability he can play anywhere from a nose tackle to the five-tech. There’s value in that. Gotsis has been one of the team's better run-defenders.
I’m keeping seven because, again: to run this defense, the Jaguars need a lot of bodies. Smoot and Ward can shift inside if need be, but having a lot of different bodies will be critical.
Outside Linebacker (5):
Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Dawuane Smoot, Jihad Ward, Jordan Smith
Cut: Aaron Patrick (Practice Squad), Lerentee McCray
These five are all but set in stone – the first four in particular. The Jaguars invested a fourth-round pick in Smith and he’s an exciting project.
Patrick flashed several times during the preseason and offers a similar, but more filled-out frame than Smith. It’s a tough cut for McCray, the former Florida Gator and longtime Jaguar who does offer special teams value.
Inside Linebacker (4):
Myles Jack, Damien Wilson, Shaq Quarterman, Dakota Allen
Cut: Quincy Williams, Chapelle Russell
The first three are locks. I won’t be surprised if this is another position where the Jaguars take someone directly from the waiver wire to the 53-man roster (Bernardrick McKinney, who was just cut by the Dolphins, rings a bell). I also feel like I’m the only one that has seen Allen flash during the preseason. Sure, he’s not a traditional inside linebacker. If anything, maybe we should be grouping him with the outside linebackers, as he’s been blitzing off the edge far more than thumping up the middle. He’s another interesting chess piece for Cullen to play with.
Shaq Griffin, CJ Henderson, Tyson Campbell, Tre Herndon, Chris Claybrooks
Cut: Lorenzo Burns
So. Chris Claybrooks.
Urban Meyer has continued to reiterate that he plans on being in the top-fourth in the league in special teams. Claybrooks has been a consistent presence in all four phases of special teams, including as a kick and punt returner. With Etienne on the shelf, he may be the fastest guy on the roster. A reminder that he ran a 4.25 40-yard dash prior to the 2020 NFL Draft. And don’t forget: he really has only played cornerback for three years. The Jaguars must’ve felt his ceiling was way higher than Sidney Jones, in addition to being a core special team player. For all we know, he could end up like Agnew and make a switch to wide receiver during the course of his career.
The other four are largely to be expected. The Jaguars will run a ton of nickel and dime formations in 2021. Herndon has experience at every cornerback position. If only on paper, so, too, does Claybrooks in 13 games last season. The Jaguars clearly remain extremely high on second-rounder Tyson Campbell, despite his ball-tracking struggles in the preseason. With the move to trade Jones, he will be expected to start.
Rayshawn Jenkins, Andre Cisco, Rudy Ford, Jarrod Wilson, Daniel Thomas
Cut: Josh Jones, Andrew Wingard, Brandon Rusnack
The surefire lock is Jenkins. Cisco and Ford are pretty much locks, with Ford serving as the primary, additional defensive back in dime formation. Cisco’s the other option there. They both have looked awesome in that role.
If Urban Meyer got choked up when he escorted Gardner Minshew out of the Jaguars facility, I can’t imagine what the conversation will be like with Wingard, who Meyer has clearly taken a liking to. He’s a core special teamer, but he has also tallied a pair of costly penalties in three games this preseason. He also nearly took off Etienne’s head twice and plays with what some may call reckless abandon; others may call it unbridled competitive spirit.
Jones is the surprising cut of this projection. He has lined up with the first-team defense frequently, including last week. Then again, so did Sidney Jones. In this projection, the Jaguars opt to go with Wilson, another core special teamer in all four phases (something Josh Jones doesn’t offer) and Thomas, a hard-hitting albeit undersized safety who was limited in Training Camp due to a stay on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, but who has the higher ceiling.
Josh Lambo (kicker), Logan Cooke (punter), Ross Matiscik (long snapper)
I do believe the Jaguars will try to add a kicker/punter to the Practice Squad via the waiver wire, just as they did one year ago as a precautionary move given the COVID-19 pandemic. Lambo responded from an up-and-down preseason with his best performance since season-ending surgery last September. If it was a question mark before, Urban Meyer’s support of the veteran kicker is no longer up for debate.
“One thing about Josh Lambo: I’ve been around kickers, and that’s as serious a kicker as I’ve been around,” Meyer said following the win in Dallas. “He wants to be great. He’s had some great years. I’m pulling for him hard and when he thumps it -- I told him the last three, I didn’t even watch. I just listened to the ball. When he follows through and hits that thing, he’s outstanding.”
Cooke also rebounded from a sub-par outing in New Orleans. If they stay healthy, both Lambo and Cooke will vie for Pro Bowl honors in 2021.