Hey Gen Jag fans, welcome to the first installment of our new series “Jaguar Superlatives”. Today, we’ll be giving out some awards that will get fans prepared for the start of training camp and the preseason. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Biggest Camp Star: DE Dante Fowler Jr
The biggest star of Jaguars training camp won’t be Blake Bortles like it has been for the last two years. It won’t be Allen Robinson, the only homegrown Jaguar who is seen at the top of his position by players and fans of all teams across the country. It won’t be one of the big name draft picks or free agent signings from our insane 2016 additions. No, the name to watch this preseason is Dante Fowler. The 3rd overall pick from the 2015 NFL Draft is one of the most anticipated arrivals for a team that desperately needs an edge rusher. Fowler, who is returning from an offseason filled with rehab and some off field drama, is being counted on by fans to provide the edge pressure that Gus Bradley’s defense needs. Will he come back and give this defensive line the juice it needs to improve the defense? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Surprise Roster Cut: DT Sen’Derrick Marks
I’ve been telling people this all offseason and I’ll continue right now: you should not be surprised if Sen’Derrick Marks doesn’t make the final 53-man roster. Marks, the 2014 star at DT, missed the entire 2015 offseason and the first several weeks of the 2015 season. When he finally did return, he failed to make any sort of an impact on the pass rush, which has been his calling card during his tenure in Duval. He ended the season on injured reserve with an injury to his triceps.
The team has looked to bolster the 3-technique position (the only spot that Marks can play in this scheme) in recent years with the additions of Malik Jackson, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Day. Marks’ roster security depends on whether he can beat out Day and Bennett in camp and how many defensive tackles the team plans on keeping. Last year, the team only kept two 3T’s on the team (Marks and Bennett; Marks was replaced by Richard Ash after Marks’ triceps injury), along with flex 3T/Elephant Tyson Alualu. If Day outperforms Marks in training camp, do they really have a reason to keep Marks? Day is younger and doesn’t have the recent injury problems that Marks does. If Day is the better player this August (and that is a real possibility, as anyone who has watched Day’s tape knows), Sen’Derrick Marks should be prepared to pack his bags.
The Hard Knocks Award: S Josh Evans
Let me explain what this is quickly. The Hard Knocks award goes to the one player who seems to work harder than most of the team members even though he isn’t a top-tier player or even a starter. Hard Knocks, the hit reality HBO program that follows a team through training camp, often puts one of these players in the spotlight every year and follows their journey to try and make the roster. Usually, this player ends up getting released with a week or two remaining in the show which highlights the true difficulty of making an NFL roster.
Camp Hype Player: DE Yannick Ngakoue
Every training camp, there are players who excel and blow our minds with their insane speed and agility during drills. The coaches always hype them up for always being up to speed and being men amongst boys or insert other cheesy slogans. The newspapers will act like they’re the next Hall of Famer and will have basically already booked their flights to the Pro Bowl. The season comes and this player turns out to be a massive dud. Sometimes they don’t even make it on the field, but when they do they often fail to make an impact.
Ngakoue seems like the ideal candidate to have this kind of preseason. He’s a great athlete with nice agility, speed and burst. He lacks power and the ability to beat tackles with power, but these kind of people are the ones that shine during drills. People will start expecting him to be a huge contributor during the season, but he will most likely perform well below their expectations. This isn’t to say that Ngakoue is a bad player, but he is not set up right now to have a major impact on the 2016 season.
Most Fun Position Group: The Secondary
The best part about this season’s training camp is going to be watching the battles that happen in the secondary. For the first time in years, we actually have depth and talent in the back line of the defense.
As discussed earlier, the safety group will have a good amount of competition. The first question that the team has to answer is who will start at SS? Right now, the two most likely candidates are Cyprien and Sample. Sample has the range and athleticism that you want at the position, but Cyprien is more in the mold of Kam Chancellor, who makes a living by smashing helmets in the box. Sample looked better than Cyprien last season, despite training at FS and playing both safety positions during the season. However, the team has shown that they want to commit to Cyprien, even when he plays badly. This and the fight for the final safety spot will be a joy to watch.
The most talented group on our team right now may be the cornerbacks. Recent additions like Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara come into an already solid group. Veterans like Davon House, Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray will have to fight for their spots with younger players like Aaron Colvin, Peyton Thompson and Nick Marshall. Most teams keep about 5 corners, sometimes 6 if they have enough roster room. The roster locks are Ramsey, Colvin and probably Amukamara. That leaves Gratz, McCray, House and Marshall fighting for 2 spots (although Marshall or Thompson could end up as the fourth FS). If only 2 spots are available, I would bet that Marshall and House would make the roster, but a good or bad camp could completely change that.
Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you enjoyed and I can’t wait to keep doing this throughout the season. Don’t forget to keep checking out the blog on genjag.com and to become a member to gain access to our awesome watch parties and discounts. You can also follow Gen Jag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Go Jags!
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