The Jaguars are set to host the Falcons on the final night of the 2019 preseason. While the fourth preseason game is labeled meaningless by fans around the country, it holds plenty of value for players fighting for a roster spot. NFL teams have until four in the afternoon on Saturday to trim their rosters down to 53.
The Jaguars front line guys won't play tonight, but many men are fighting for their football dreams to continue. Here, we'll take a look at five position battles to watch tonight.
Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, DJ Hayden, and Tre Herdon are locked in to make the roster at cornerback. But the battle for the final one or two cornerback spots on the Jaguars' roster has been intense throughout the summer. It was somewhat of a foregone conclusion that Quenton Meeks, a 2018 undrafted free agent, would make the team. But he's been outplayed by Breon Borders and Tae Hayes. It's unclear if the Jaguars will keep five or six cornerbacks. If they keep five, then these three players are battling for one spot. If it's six, then there are two spots available. Quenton Meeks has done little show his worth throughout the preseason. Can he show why the Jaguars were so high on him entering the offseason program? As for Borders and Hayes, they've both been lights out in the preseason and on the practice field. Borders has ideal size for the Jaguars' system, but there's no denying the diminutive Hayes' ability to make big plays. This will be a fun one.
There are five receivers on the Jaguars' roster that appear to be guaranteed a spot on the final 53. Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Marqise Lee, DJ Chark, and Keelan Cole have all done enough to prove they belong. But if the Jaguars elect to keep a sixth receiver, that's where things get murky. Terrelle Pryor had a strong training camp, but has been dealing with a hamstring injury and has only appeared in one preseason game. But Tre McBride and CJ Board have both hauled in 10 catches during the preseason. McBride offers versatility and could be a valuable special teamer, both in coverage and as a return man. Board has been uber-efficient when targeted on offense, hauling in 10 of 12 targets. Who, if any of these guys, will make the team?
With Cam Robinson missing almost the entire summer recovering from a 2018 ACL tear and Jawaan Taylor missing time due to a minor knee injury, we've gotten an extensive look at the depth for the Jaguars at offensive tackle. The Jaguars were put through the wringer at the position in 2018, so nailing the reserves will be vital. Cedric Ogbuehi appears to be etched in as the primary backup at both left and right tackle. But who else will make the roster at OT? It seems that Josh Wells and Leonard Wester are competing for the job. Wester started reasonably well in training camp and had a decent showing in the Jaguars' first preseason game, but his level of play has since fallen off a cliff. On the other hand, Josh Wells hasn't been terrible during the preseason and could have the lead in the race for the final offensive tackle spot. Who plays better in the preseason finale could go a long way.
The Jaguars' tight end spot is intriguing. It hasn't provided much in terms of production in recent years, but with John DeFilippo calling the plays and Nick Foles throwing passes that is likely to change. The Jaguars' new offensive coordinator and quarterback both enjoy targeting tight ends and using two tight end sets. So, how many tight ends will the Jaguars keep on their 53-man roster? Four? Five? Geoff Swaim, Josh Oliver, and James O'Shaugnessy will make the team. But what about Ben Koyack and Charles Jones. Both players serve primarily as blockers, but also have reliable hands. Koyack has been around in Jax for several years and was a playoff hero in 2017. Jones, however, looks to have more upside and might be a better blocker. Will one or both make the team?
Myles Jack, Quincy Williams, and Leon Jacobs make up the Jaguars' starting linebackers. Jacobs plays SAM and isn't on the field all that much, but he's still technically a starter. After that, it looks like Najee Goode is the primary backup at WILL and MIKE. The Jaguars will keep either five or six linebackers. That means DJ Alexander, Joe Giles-Harris, Ramik Wilson, and Connor Strachan are competing for one or two spots. Of those players, I believe Alexander and Giles-Harris have the best odds of making the team. Wilson is a veteran but has been about as weak as it gets as a run defender throughout the preseason. Strachan has flashed, but he has obvious athletic limitations. If the Jaguars keep just five linebackers, Joe Giles-Harris, a rookie from Duke, could be the choice. He has positional versatility. But DJ Alexander has been a steady presence in the preseason at middle linebacker.
Even if no starters appear in the fourth preseason game, it still holds value. Many of the players we looked at today are not only trying to make the Jaguars' roster, but they're also auditioning for other teams. So while this game may seem pointless to you, it's anything but.
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