JACKSONVILLE – A.J. Cann's experiencing newness on a couple of fronts these days.
He's facing serious competition for a starting job for the first time in five NFL seasons, and he's working at multiple positions – including one new spot – on the Jaguars' offensive line.
Both are major themes for Cann in his fifth training camp with the Jaguars, though it's his competition with second-year veteran Will Richardson Jr. at right guard that has drawn the most interest as the end of the 2019 preseason approaches an end.
"I don't want to say it's unusual, because these things happen," Cann said Monday afternoon as the Jaguars (0-3 in the 2019 preseason) prepared to play the Atlanta Falcons (0-4) in the '19 preseason finale at TIAA Bank Field Thursday at 7 p.m.
"I just take it as something to grow from. I feel like Will's been pushing me and I've been pushing Will. I feel like it's been good for us both."
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said Sunday the Week 1 starting right guard has yet to be determined and said he has seen improvement from both players from the competition. Cann, asked if the competition had indeed pushed him, replied "Most definitely. Yes. Most definitely."
Cann in addition to competing with Richardson spent extensive time in training camp at center, working at the position every four or five practices. He also said he worked there in each of the team's three preseason games.
Cann, who said he last remembered playing center for a few snaps in the ninth grade, said new Jaguars offensive line coach George Warhop first began working him at center in the offseason.
"Hop came in and told me, 'You're going to play center here in camp and OTAs,''' Cann said. "I was like, 'I don't know if he's going to put me there or not.' All of a sudden I'm taking snaps and the next thing you know, I'm at center. I'm like, 'Holy crap … I'm taking center reps.'
"I think it's good for me. I feel like I'm learning the plays better inside and out when I'm center."
Cann, the lone Jaguars starting offensive linemen not to finish last season on injured reserve, said last season's rash of injuries shows the need to be versatile.
"I think I came close to playing it (center) last season," Cann said. "I think Hop and the team just want me to be prepared just in case something happens. It's been new to me. I'm not perfect at it, but I try to take something from every rep. I feel like I've been OK, but I feel like I can do a much better job."
*Tight end Geoff Swaim returned to practice for the first time Monday since sustaining a sprained foot in the Jaguars' preseason-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens. "It's been a little bit, so it was nice to run around," said Swaim, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from Dallas in the offseason and who is projected to start at one of the team's two tight end positions. "It's not ideal, obviously. No one likes the idea of not being around the guys. The trainers are doing great job of making sure I progress the right way and slowing me down rather than being stupid in the rehab process. It's an important time of year, so any time you're not on the field is definitely missed time. We've had a great plan and we're right on track where we want to be." …
*With most starters and front-line players not expected to play Thursday, most veteran players in the lineup figure to be playing for roster spots. Among those players could be reserve offensive tackle Josh Wells. A fifth-year veteran who originally signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent following the 2014 NFL Draft, Wells has worked primarily with the reserve offensive lines in the preseason. He started three games last season in place after starter Cam Robinson sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, but he has worked behind Cedric Ogbuehi as the swing tackle in training camp. "I've got to focus on this week and playing to the best of my ability, playing with the guys beside me," Wells said. "Just trust and know that God's going to keep me here or put me somewhere else – whatever he wants to do."
*While Swaim returned to practice, the following players were out Monday or working on the side: defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (elbow, side), linebacker Quincy Williams (knee, side), linebacker Jake Ryan (knee), Ogbuehi (hamstring), wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (concussion), wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., running back Alfred Blue (ankle), linebacker Lerentee McCray, offensive tackle Leonard Wester and tight end Josh Oliver (hamstring, side).