The Jaguars take on the Buccaneers in the final game of their 2018 preseason slate. The two teams will face off Thursday at 7pm at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The fourth preseason game is often thought of as a meaningless contest that's boring, agonizing to watch, painful, etc. But for players fighting for a spot on the final 53 man roster, this is one of the biggest games of their career.
Let's take a look at three position groups where players will be battling for their livelihood.
1. Wide Receiver
Marqise Lee suffered a season ending knee injury in the Jaguars preseason week three victory over the Falcons. While the injury certainly doesn't help the Jaguars WR group as a whole, it could lead to an extra guy being able to make the roster at the back end of the WR group.
Conventional wisdom suggested the Jaguars would keep six receivers in 2018, but with Marqise Lee on injured reserve it does seem possible that the team could elect to keep just five receivers on their roster. But if the team does keep six receivers then two of the three guys we're about to talk about will make the team.
Rashad Greene, Jaydon Mickens, and Shane Wynn are battling to earn a spot on the final 53.
Throughout training camp Greene was the most impressive player of the three from a pure receiving stand point, but he's been up an down as a punt returner. In week one he muffed a punt against the Saints. The following week he returned a punt 56 yards to set up a game winning score for the Jaguars. While he's been impressive in practice as a receiver, he's failed to carry over his performances into games this preseason and has caught just four passes for 21 yards.
Jaydon Mickens was signed by the Jaguars last season and immediately became the team's starting punt returner. He returned a punt for a touchdown against the Bengals in 2017 and averaged over 10 yard per punt return on the year. He also proved he could be a playmaker at the receiver position, turning two of his six catches in 2017 into touchdowns.
Then there's Shane Wynn. He's been hanging around in Jacksonville for a couple of years, but has yet to make a big enough impression to guarantee himself a roster spot. He was on the injured reserve for all of 2017, but has been healthy this offseason. He regularly makes eye popping plays in training camp and the preseason. So far this preseason he's made five catches for 49 yards. At just 5'6'' tall Wynn is literally fighting an uphill battle, but he's proven he can make plays as receiver.
Watch all three of these guys tomorrow - one or two of them will be on the active roster come week one of the regular season.
2. Defensive End
Dante Fowler Jr. is the highest profile Jaguar that will play in the preseason finale. He's not in danger of being cut, but this will be the last chance for fans to watch Fowler play until week two of the regular season when Tom Brady and the Patriots come to town. He recently came back from a shoulder injury and has yet to show his 2017 form. How will he look against the Buccaneers?
Then there's Dawuane Smoot, who despite having a decent rookie season in which he logged 288 snaps, appears to be on the roster bubble. He was injured throughout nearly all of the offseason program and training camp. It seems likely that he'll be able to play in the preseason finale, but even if he has a strong performance, will it be enough to keep him on the roster, now that 2018 first round pick Taven Bryan is in the fold?
3. Offensive Line
The Jaguars five starters along the offensive line are locked in - Cam Robinson at left tackle, Andrew Norwell at left guard, Brandon Linder at center, AJ Cann at right guard, and Jermey Parnell at right tackle - and two of their backups are virtual locks to make the roster - Tyler Shatley has been called upon a lot in recent seasons and has proven that he can competently play any position on the interior and rookie fourth round pick Will Richardson shouldn't be in danger of not making the roster - So where does that leave every one else?
It would seem that two more players should make the roster as backups along the offensive line. Swing tackle Josh Wells has been on the 53 man roster in the past, but has performed miserably throughout this preseason. William Poehls has been impressive, but hasn't faced the stiffest of competition this preseason. Josh Walker and Chris Reed have also shown flashes, as has KC McDermott.
Keep an eye on the backup offensive lineman, because they're just an injury away from being thrust into the lineup during the preseason.
Of course, there's competition at other spots on the roster as well.
Will the Jaguars keep four running backs? If so will it be Brandon Wilds or Tim Cook who makes the final roster?
At linebacker it seems there are five locks to make the team in Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Leon Jacobs, Blair Brown, and Donald Payne. The Jaguars also list Lerentee McCray as a linebacker, even though he lines up at weak side defensive end. Could someone else push for a roster spot at linebacker?
Who will be the final cornerbacks to make the team? Will the Jaguars keep five or six guys at the position? Tre Herndon, CJ Reavis, Quenton Meeks, Dee Delaney and Jalen Myrick are battling it out at the bottom of the CB depth chart.
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