Jack Del Rio has a dilemma. It's the kind of dilemma a coach likes to have but, it is, nonetheless, a dilemma.
Undrafted offensive tackle Richard Collier has been outstanding through training camp and the preseason. He's a player Del Rio firmly believes has a future with the Jaguars. So what's the problem?
The problem is Collier needs development time and that would make him a very good candidate for the developmental (or practice) squad, but Collier has played too well and has been too exposed in the preseason to not be lifted off the practice squad by another team. Collier will almost certainly have to make the Jaguars' final roster for the team to protect their rights to him, unless, of course, he should sustain a injury in one of the final two preseason games and qualify for the injured reserve list.
"I don't think it would be realistic to have huge expectations for him. He's still raw. He's still a big guy who needs a lot of work. He's shown promise. We'd like, ideally, to bring him along slowly. We'd like more time to develop that kid," Del Rio said in Wednesday's press conference.
What it all boils down to is this: It may be too early in Collier's career for Del Rio to use him, but the coach doesn't dare lose him.
Collier is an imposing figure with huge upside. He's 6-7, 358, and athletic. You just don't find big guys this good in undrafted free agency. He's a gem that must be protected. Del Rio knows that. He also knows Collier will have to occupy a roster spot for which Del Rio isn't likely to get much immediate return.
It's called seeing the big picture. Accumulating and developing talent isn't always about what's best for the team now. In this case, it's about the future.
"I knew I could play but I don't feel like I've accomplished anything," Collier said of his play to date.
He play right tackle through the spring, then was moved to left tackle in training camp. Imagine that, an undrafted kid from Valdosta State playing left tackle against the game's best pass-rushers.
If there was ever a rags-to-riches football story, Collier is it. He worked in the produce department at Wal-Mart for two years after high school, then enrolled at Tyler (Texas) Junior College, where he asked the football team's offensive line coach if he could give it a try. The coach said, "sure."
"He knew nothing about me until the first day of school. I was 390 (pounds) and out of shape," Collier said.
It wasn't as though Collier come out of nowhere. He was heavily recruited in high school in Louisiana. His grades, however, always ended the recruitment process.
"I was the class clown and a good football player. It took me to lose everything to realize how much I had," Collier said. "I was in the real world then."
The next two weeks will determine Collier's immediate football future, though, it would seem, that may have already been determined. All indications are he has a future in the NFL. That's the problem, sort of.