The Jaguars are just days away from playing their first meaningful game since January. As is the case every year, the team released their first OFFICIAL depth chart in the week leading up to their first regular season game.
Here's a link to the full depth chart.
There aren't too many surprises here, but let's take a look at five things we noticed about Jacksonville's first official depth chart of the 2018 season.
1. Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones are both listed as first sting nose tackles
The only position on the Jaguars depth chart in which two players are listed at first string is nose tackle. Marcell Dareus is listed first, which should come as no surprise. He's a force on the inside for the Jaguars defensive line and, when at his best, is among the most dominant nose tackles in the game. The surprise here is that Abry Jones is also listed as a starter. Jones entered the 2017 season as the starter at NT, but after an ugly start to the season for the Jaguars run defense the front office decided to pull the trigger on a trade for Marcell Dareus. Jones still played a role up front for the Jaguars and figured to do so again in 2018. But to list him as a co-starter with Dareus shows that the Jaguars coaching staff has a ton of respect for and confidence in Abry Jones.
An eye towards the future: The Jaguars will likely look to lock up Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, and Myles Jack to long term deals in the next year or two. Marcell Dareus has a huge cap number, and if Abry Jones plays well this year it could mean the end of Marcell Dareus in a Jaguars uniform.
2. Donte Moncrief and Keelan Cole are the starting receviers
After the injury to Marqise Lee, it should come as no surprise that Donte Moncrief, the oldest (at just 25 years old) and most experienced receiver on the Jaguars 53 man roster, is listed as a starter. The question with this group was who would be listed at number two. It seemed like it would be a two horse race between Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. For now, Cole is the guy. He did lead the Jaguars in receiving yards as an undrafted rookie in 2017 and has looked the part throughout much of the offseason program. While these two are both listed as the starters it should be noted that any of the team's top four receivers, Moncrief, Cole, Westbrook, or rookie DJ Chark, could be featured from week to week. They're all talented and bring a diverse set of skills to the table. So while Westbrook and Chark as listed as backups they could easily see the lions share of targets during a given week.
3. Lerentee McCray is the primary backup at multiple positions, for now
The Jaguars signed Lerentee McCray prior to the 2017 season for his ability on special teams and as a reserve pass rusher. He wasn't given a ton of opportunity in 2017 as a pass rusher, but with several guys being banged up throughout the preseason McCray had plenty of opportunity at weak side defensive end. He was one of the more productive pass rushers in the league throughout preseason and now finds himself listed as the primary backup at weak side defensive end and at strong side linebacker. He'll likely remain the second string strong side linebacker throughout the season, but his role as Yannick Ngakoue's primary backup will be short lived - Dante Fowler Jr. will return from suspension in week two. Will McCray seize the opportunity to make an impression as a pass rusher in a meaningful game in week one against the Giants?
4. Jaydon Mickens is the starting punter returner AND kick returner
Jaydon Mickens started for the Jaguars at punt returner for much of last season and was impressive in doing so. He returned 27 punts and averaged more than 10 yards per return. He even scored a touchdown on a 63 yard punt return against the Bengals, capped off by an impressive front flip into the end zone. It's no surprise that he's listed as the starting punt returner, but it is somewhat surprising that he's also the starting kick returner. With players like Corey Grant, Dede Westbrook, and DJ Chark - all of whom have elite speed - the Jaguars must have great confidence in Mickens ability to make the right decision when it comes to returning kicks. He's proven that he can get the job done in the past.
5. Taven Bryan is the primary backup at strong side defensive end
The Jaguars drafted Dawuane Smoot in the third round of the 2017 draft to be Calais Campbell's backup at strong side defensive end. He had a decent rookie season as a run defender and logged nearly 300 snaps. But that wasn't enough to stop the Jaguars from drafting Taven Bryan in the first round of this years draft. Bryan was impressive throughout training camp and received high praise from many. That includes Calais Campbell, the man Bryan will eventually replace in the starting lineup. Campbell said Bryan was the best rookie he's ever worked with. As things stand now Bryan has already surpassed Dawuane Smoot on the depth chart at strong side defensive end. It didn't Smoot's case that he missed the entire offseason program and most of the preseason. If Bryan proves he can play with the big boys when the bullets are live, then Smoot's days in Jacksonville may be numbered. The Jaguars brass would be wise to keep him on the roster for the remainder of 2018 - depth is key for sustained success throughout the postseason - but Smoot may be wearing a different uniform in 2019.
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