Two starting jobs and several roster spots will be on the line this Saturday when the Jaguars play at Tampa Bay in game three of the preseason, generally regarded to be the most meaningful game of the preseason.
"We'd like to settle several positional battles, most notably the last guard spot and the last safety spot," coach Jack Del Rio told reporters on Wednesday.
The starting left guard job is a three-way battle between Kynan Forney, the starter at the position in the first two preseason games, Justin Smiley and Vince Manuwai. Manuwai has been a fixture at guard for the Jaguars since he was selected in the third round of the 2003 draft.
Free safety is a three-way battle between Gerald Alexander, Sean Considine and Reggie Nelson. Alexander has been the starter in the first two preseason games. Nelson was a first-round pick in 2007 but lost his starting job late last season. Anthony Smith is thought to have a hold on the starting strong safety job.
"We're looking to see continued improvement. We made strides from week one to week two," Del Rio said. He added that he expects to play his starters into the third quarter of Saturday's game.
Roster battles are too many to enumerate. The positions of most intense competition would seem to be wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback. Asked if the starters are set at the two cornerback positions, Del Rio said: "Yeah, we think we are and Scotty (Starks) has done a great job as nickel. We just need to do a better job on the back end (safety)."
Rookie running back/kickoff-returner Deji Karim will not play on Saturday due to some sort of hand injury Karim sustained against Miami. It's Jaguars policy not to offer injury information in the preseason, so no timetable for Karim's recovery was offered. The Jaguars, however, announced that they have signed former Chiefs running back Kolby Smith.
This year's roster battles are expected to make the Jaguars a more talented team than the one that finished 7-9 last year. That team was 7-5 and the leader for an AFC wild-card playoff spot when December began.
"Last year is an example of a team over-achieving the first 12 games of the year. We ended up falling short the last four games. I don't think anybody would've predicted that we'd have a chance to make the playoffs going into the last month," Del Rio said.
A few days after the season ended, Del Rio said in his season-ending review that his expectation for 2010 was for the Jaguars to make it into the postseason. The first four games of this season will see the Jaguars face 2009 playoff teams three times and those games will likely provide an indication of whether or not the Jaguars can be a playoff contender this season.
"I think I'm capable of taking this team to the promised land, which is a championship," quarterback David Garrard said on Wednesday. "Having a big year, helping the team get back to the playoffs, would be huge. That's what my mind is focused on."