The drama that is the fight to make an NFL roster will play out in the Jaguars' preseason finale Thursday night against the visiting Atlanta Falcons. When the Jaguars' starters depart the action early in the game, those that even play at all, the reserves will turn EverBank Field into a job quest.
Here's one reporter's attempt to handicap the field.
Quarterback—This one's easy. The Jaguars kept two last year and they'll keep the same two this year.
Backs—The Jaguars kept four last year; that number includes running backs and fullbacks. It could be inflated by at least one this year, since kick-returner Deji Karim has been added to the mix, which includes special teams star Montell Owens. Karim, of course, has had hand surgery recently and we don't know the significance of that injury because the Jaguars do not release injury information in the preseason. All we can do is speculate that Karim will make the final roster and the Jags won't keep more than one fullback, which would mean veteran Greg Jones and second-year man Brock Bolen could be locked in a drama. Jones is as good as they come for a team that wants its fullback to block. Bolen, however, has come on hard and fast in the preseason. Is Bolen, a minimum-wage player who would represent a significant savings at the position, a threat to displace Jones, who carries a relatively high salary for the position and has struggled to stay healthy?
Tight end—The Jags kept four last year, but reduced that number to three when Zach Miller recovered from his knee injury. If they are to keep three this year, that would mean veteran Ernest Wilford, a pass-catching type, and Zach Potter, a young blocking tight end who's making the switch from defensive end, are in a battle for the final spot.
Wide receiver—Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Kassim Osgood are locks. Osgood, of course, is a special teams star. The Jaguars kept six last year, which could mean that Troy Williamson, Tiquan Underwood and John Matthews, a two-touchdown star of the preseason, are fighting for the final two spots. Or it could mean the Jags will go one light at wide receiver and go one heavy somewhere else.
Offensive line—The number is likely to be eight or nine. The major roster drama is at guard, where it's thought three veterans – Vince Manuwai, Kynan Forney and Justin Smiley – are playing for two spots. Rookies Kevin Haslam and Daniel Baldridge are locked in a roster battle that could see one make the roster and the other signed to the practice squad.
Defensive tackle—Four would seem to be the number, which means Atiyyah Ellison, Leger Douzable and Walter Curry are likely in a three-for-two-spots competition.
Defensive end—Four is also the likely number, unless someone is just too good to cut. Jeremy Mincey is in a fight for his professional life. Rookie Aaron Morgan is a likely practice squad candidate.
Linebacker—Six is the usual standard, but this is not a deep group and the Jags could go one light here. Rod Wilson, Tony Gilbert and rookie Jacob Cutrera are the bubble guys. It's thought that two, maybe one, will win a job.
Cornerback—Five is the standard, but return man Scotty McGee is in this group, which could swell its ranks by one. Don Carey, William Middleton and Michael Coe are the bubble guys. One, maybe two of them, will make the final roster.
Safety—Poor play in the preseason clouds this position. Anthony Smith is thought to be a lock. Sean Considine is expected to make the team based on his special teams and utility value. Four is the standard, which means Reggie Nelson, Gerald Alexander and Tyron Brackenridge could be in a three-for-one battle. It must be remembered that Brackenridge can also play corner, which could decrease the number of corners kept and increase the number of safeties.
There are no competitions at kicker, punter and long-snapper.
Let the drama begin.