Florence tips to Nelson (Getty Images)
The Jaguars squeaked by with a 20-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night in the team’s preseason opener. Although the offense was sloppy at times, and there were plenty of missed tackles to go around, a few players stood out both positively and negatively for the Jaguars.
1. Brian Witherspoon- The undrafted rookie from Stillman College made a big case for himself to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, despite fumbling on a punt return. Witherspoon broke up several passes on defense, and showed a special type of speed and explosiveness that the Jaguars haven’t had on special teams in a long time. Perhaps the most telling tale of Witherspoon’s emergence is that he saw time before fifth-round pick Trae Williams at cornerback. “The speed Witherspoon has showed up,” said Jack Del Rio. “We’re going to give him a good look in the preseason to see if he can add a dimension to our special teams.”
2. Greg Jones- A roster spot was never in jeopardy for the Jaguars fullback, but Jones displayed a fantastic amount of speed an athleticism, and he may have earned himself some more carries in the preseason and into the season.
3. Matt Jones- Matt Jones is resurrecting his career as he ran all his routes hard, caught every pass that was catchable, and showed why the Jaguars were delighted to select him in the first-round of the 2005 draft.
4. Starting offensive line- The Jaguars starting offensive line simply moved people Saturday night. If the team wanted to work on the running game more they could’ve, as holes were opened up all over.
5. Mkristo Bruce- Bruce was signed to a contract just before camp began, and he is benefitting with all the injuries to the defensive line. Bruce recorded five tackles and 2.5 sacks Saturday night, and the undersized pass rusher is making a case for one of the final roster spots at defensive end.
6. Charles Davis- The Jaguars mammoth reserve tight end showed nice hands as he caught two passes for 29 yards and did a great job blocking for Chauncey Washington.
7. Gerald Sensabaugh- A big question coming in to the season was whether or not Gerald Sensabaugh’s shoulders were completely healed from surgery. The Jaguars strong safety answered that affirmatively as he laid the wood to several ball carries and had a very strong game.
8. Drayton Florence- Florence played well in his Jaguars debut, as he made some nice stops and defended very well.
Guys who didn’t play so well:
1. Richard Collier- Collier began training camp in a competition with Khalif Barnes for the starting left tackle job, but Barnes appears to be running away with the competition. Collier had a tough night as Falcons second and third-stringers were beating him off the edge.
2. Todd Bouman- Bouman’s stock has plummeted since mini-camps, as he has been erratic and hasn’t looked poised in the pocket. Just a few months ago it appeared he would compete for the backup quarterback job, and now it looks like he’ll be on his couch when the Jaguars open their regular season at Tennessee September 7th.
3. Lavarus Giles- Giles was a longshot to make the roster at the third running back spot over seventh-round pick Chauncey Washington, and through one preseason game he’s even a longer shot. Giles looked hesitant on his four carries for seven yards, and fumbled the ball on a play in which the defender ripped the football out of his grasp with relative ease.
4. Trae Williams- The Jaguars fifth-round pick from USF has had a tough camp, and has seemingly been passed by undrafted rookie Brian Witherspoon. Williams didn’t have a horrible game Saturday, but he didn’t do anything to stand out.
5. Mike Walker- The good news for Walker is that he started the game and caught two very difficult passes. The bad news is that he had a pair of drops including one that would’ve gone for a touchdown. Based on training camp play alone, Walker should be behind Matt Jones on the depth chart.
There was a lot to like for Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, and also plenty to work on. It will be interesting to see if those players that had strong performances Saturday night can carry those over to next week, and we’ll see if those players who performed poorly can rebound.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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