(Ed. Note—This is the fourth installment in a five-part series that previews the positional competition in training camp. Today's installment features the linebackers.)
The competition for one of the Jaguars' three starting linebacker jobs will be one of the feature attractions of training camp. Third-round draft choice Clint Ingram would seem to be in direct competition with second-year man Pat Thomas for the outside linebacker position Akin Ayodele vacated when he signed with the Cowboys in free agency.
Mike Peterson at middle linebacker and Daryl Smith at one outside spot are fixtures in the starting lineup.
A stable of linebackers will vie for playing time in a multitude of roles.
Ingram and Thomas will vie for the every-downs outside position. Jorge Cordova and rookie Brent Hawkins will compete for playing time as pass-rush specialists. Tony Gilbert, free-agent addition Nick Greisen and undrafted rookie Brian Iwuh want to provide roster depth.
Thomas, a sixth-round pick in 2005, made a strong impression on head coach Jack Del Rio during the spring. Thomas is quick and hard-hitting and has the kind of aggressiveness Del Rio and defensive coordinator Mike Smith like.
Ingram was a player the Jaguars had targeted in the draft. Personnel boss James Harris described Ingram as the last linebacker in the draft who could be expected to compete for a starting job as a rookie.
The Oklahoma standout is strong in coverage and would seem to fit best as a strongside linebacker, which would allow Smith to move to weakside, where his play-making ability might blossom.
Cordova spent the last two seasons recovering from a knee injury in his rookie training camp. He would seem to be fully recovered and prepared to make his mark as a pass-rusher.
Hawkins, however, will offer strong competition. Hawkins, a fifth-round pick, was a dominant pass-rusher at Illinois State.
Gilbert has been a special teams standout and that will remain his ticket to winning a roster spot. Iwuh will have to do it the same way. Greisen offers veteran experience.