The Jacksonville Jaguars lost their pre-season opener to the Miami Dolphins, sort of. The Jaguars…
Jaguars: Strategy & Personnel 08/13/07
The jury is still out on the Jaguars' punting game, specifically rookie punter Adam Podlesh. The fourth-round pick from Maryland has not justified his selection yet, though he did average 46.2 yards on five kicks in the Miami game, an average that was helped with a 55-yarder.
But on two opportunities, Podlesh had a chance to pin the Dolphins inside their 10-yard line, only to have punts run through the end zone. One of the reasons why veteran Chris Hansen was let go after Podlesh was grabbed in the draft was his inability to place punts deep in opposing team's territory. Podlesh will need to craft this ability in a hurry if he's to be the Jaguars punter for any length of time.
QB Tim Couch was brought in because of an ankle injury to No. 3 quarterback Quinn Gray, thus preventing the team's top two QBs Byron Leftwich and David Garrard from getting sore arms. Couch will battle Gray for the third spot, but has not shown much in his week's stay with the club thus far that would indicate he'll earn a spot back in the NFL.
LaBrandon Toefield was not let go during the offseason as the Jaguars still think he's got NFL talent. But in a position that has quality runners like Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jones, Toefield's stock dropped after the Miami game after he coughed up the ball twice and gained just 18 yards in nine carries against Dolphins reserves.
Greg Estandia was claimed a year ago, the day after Cincinnati released the tight end. He spent the entire '06 season on the Jaguars practice squad but is now making a move to get into the battle for a roster spot at a position that is already deep with Marcedes Lewis, George Wrighster and Jermaine Wiggins. The team isn't likely to keep four tight ends.
Brian Smith was a fourth-round pick that projected higher but teams were leery of Smith's broken hip that he suffered a year ago which forced him to miss the last four games of the year. The Jaguars took a chance on the defensive end with a fourth-round selection and while he hasn't been active up until now, he could be ready to see some action starting this week. The coaching staff is still optimistic that he could turn out to be a fourth-round surprise.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK:
Incumbent starter Nick Greisen will have his best opportunity to reclaim his starting linebacker spot if Clint Ingram isn't 100 percent following an ankle injury in the Miami game. Greisen was a full-time starter a year ago, but Ingram gained valuable playing experience by filling the void for the injured Mike Peterson the last 11 games of the season. Ingram was running with the first unit ahead of Greisen when camp opened, but if Ingram is slowed by the sprained ankle, Greisen will make a push to get his job back. Rookie LB Joseph Durant will also make a push for that spot and has looked good in the first two weeks of camp.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS:
Gray vs. Couch for the team's No. 3 quarterback spot: Gray looks ready to return to action this week to contend with Couch for the team's No. 3 spot. Gray still feels he should be competing for a starting role, but at this point, he needs to worry about holding off Couch, who would save the Jaguars about $700,000 in cap money if they were to opt for the former No. 1 pick of the Browns over Gray.
Reggie Williams vs. all other receivers: Williams needs to make a showing in the next two weeks to show that he belongs in the club's receiving picture. He's even opted to serve as a backup punt returner behind Alvin Pearman, working with the special teams on several occasions last week. Too many others have passed Williams on the depth chart and if he doesn't reverse the trend, he'll likely be out of a job on Sept. 1.
Paul Spicer vs. Bobby McCray for starting defensive end spot: Spicer's back has been acting up but he seems to be getting better and should be as close to 100 percent as he's been since last year when camp resumes on Monday. Both players will play a lot so it's simply a matter of pride as to who is called the starter. If Spicer is relegated to a backup role, the question is how far down the list the 32-year-old veteran falls in lieu of several promising young faces.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
DT Marcus Stroud -- When camp opened two weeks ago, there was still lingering questions with regards to Stroud's ankle injury from a year ago and whether he was fully recovered from it. He claimed he was close to being back to his normal self, but in the first week of camp, sat out several practices as a precautionary measure. He appeared to turn up his pace this past week and looked strong in the couple of series he and the rest of the first-team defense played in against the Dolphins, not allowing a first down in their two series of work for the night.
First-round pick Reggie Nelson continues to shine in the secondary, giving indications that the Jaguars made the steal of the draft when they moved down four spots and received several additional picks and still got their first choice in Nelson. ... Justin Durant is showing speed at the linebacker spot that the team has not seen before. By the time the regular season opens, he could be in line to be the first LB into the lineup behind the three starters. ... The team is waiting to see Mike Walker at 100 percent. Limited to one practice a day due to ACL surgery he had at the end of the 2005 season, Walker has overcome that only to fall back somewhat with a finger injury. He's shown enough talent, however, to let everyone know he'll be in the mix for a top receiver spot. ... Wide receiver John Broussard has had the strongest showing among the second-day draft picks thus far. The seventh-round pick from San Jose State is making a solid push to make the regular 53-man roster and avoiding a spot on the practice squad.
Brad Meester's broken bone in the ankle is by far the worst of the injuries thus far. There was concern when Ernest Wilford went down and was writhing in pain, holding his knee. But several days later, he was in the starting lineup for the Dolphins game, where he caught a pair of passes. Provided Ingram's ankle is no worse than first diagnosed at the game, the Jaguars have escaped the injury dilemma the opening two weeks, a feat they couldn't do a year ago.
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