JACKSONVILLE – Let the projecting begin …
The Jaguars closed the veteran portion of the 2017 offseason program this past Thursday with the end of a three-day mandatory minicamp at the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
That marked the end of the on-field portion of the offseason, which means a lot of radio silence until training camp begins in late July.
It also means the start of the projecting season, with observers trying to figure just what the Jaguars will look like in 2017. The first step in that vein? Projecting the roster.
We'll begin that process on jaguars.com today with a look at the offense, where training camp figures to feature some intense position battles. Such competition will certainly come on the line, where the starting five is very much yet to be determined.
Elsewhere, roster spots could come down to numbers. Will the Jaguars keep four running backs? Three quarterbacks? Eight or nine offensive linemen?
We won't know for sure until final roster cuts, and injuries at various positions will as always influence final decisions.
Here's a look at the Jaguars' offense as of late June, with a thought on how each position could look in early September:
Quarterbacks (three projected on final roster)
Projected starter:Blake Bortles.
Projected reserves: Chad Henne, Brandon Allen.
The summing up:No Jaguars position came under more offseason scrutiny, and no position will be under more scrutiny in training camp. But make no mistake: Bortles is the starting quarterback and will remain so if healthy. The guess here is the Jaguars keep three quarterbacks. The only question seems to be at backup, where Allen could push Henne with a productive preseason. The guess here is Henne remains the top backup next season.
Running back (three)
Projected starter:Leonard Fournette.
Projected reserves:Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon.
Others: Corey Grant, I'Tavius Mathers, Tim Cook.
The summing up:Fournette may or may not open training camp running with the first team, but there's little doubt the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft will be the starter and go-to back. The Jaguars drafted him to add a big-play, elite element to the running game – and the offense indeed appears likely to be built around a punishing, run-first approach. Don't underestimate the role Ivory will play; he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2016 and looked healthy and explosive during unpadded work this offseason. There remains a good chance the Jaguars will keep four backs, with Yeldon playing extensively in passing situations and Grant playing as a reserve and on special teams.
Projected starters:Marquez Williams or Tommy Bohanon.
Projected reserves: None.
The summing up:This is a tricky spot to project because neither Williams nor Bohanon has played for the Jaguars, and there's no edge until the pads go on in August. The Jaguars selected Williams in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but Bohanon is a four-year veteran who has been effective as a blocker at the NFL level. One will make the roster, but which one?
Wide receivers (five)
Projected starters:Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns.
Projected reserves: Dede Westbrook, Arrelious Benn.
Others:Rashad Greene Sr., Larry Pinkard, Shane Wynn, Kenneth Walker, Keelan Cole, Amba Etta-Tawo, Jamal Robinson.
The summing up:Robinson, Lee and Hurns are the unquestioned front-line players here, with all having flashed in a big way in three NFL seasons. The team is intrigued by Westbrook's big-play potential, though an injury kept him out of much of the offseason program. Benn appears likely to make the roster – in part because of his reliability as a backup but mostly because his speed, size and strength makes him a front-line special teams player. Greene is the most likely choice as a sixth receiver, but he needs to improve dramatically on a difficult 2016 and his spot may depend on punt returns. The most intriguing question here: Can Lee build on an enticing third season and become a consistent big-play, dynamic receiver. The guess here is he will do that if he remains healthy in 2017.
Tight ends (four)
Projected starters:Marcedes Lewis, Mychal Rivera.
Projected reserves:Neal Sterling, Ben Koyack.
Others:Alex Ellis, Caleb Bluiett.
The summing up:This looks like a relatively straightforward projection, with Lewis and Rivera the likely starting blocking and move tight ends, respectively, and with Sterling and Koyack having shown potential in those respective roles last season.
Offensive line (nine)
Projected starters:Tackle Branden Albert, guard Cam Robinson, center Brandon Linder, guard A.J. Cann, tackle Jermey Parnell.
Projected reserves:Tyler Shatley, Patrick Omameh, Josh Wells, Earl Watford.
Others: Luke Bowanko, Chris Reed, Parker Collins, Avery Gennesy, Nila Kasitati, Jeremiah Poutasi.
The summing up:This could be training camp's most-watched, most-analyzed position group, with the Jaguars working with multiple combinations during OTAs and minicamp. Robinson and Albert will compete at left tackle in training camp, but Robinson – a left tackle in college – has the skill set to kick inside and play guard. Linder, Cann, Shatley, Bowanko and Omameh all worked multiple spots along the interior. While starting positions are uncertain entering camp, the Jaguars appear particularly deep here, and Bowanko and Reed seem as likely to be on the roster as the other four "projected reserves."