JACKSONVILLE – Doug Pederson likes a lot about this week.
It's what happens after that, that the Jaguars' head coach dislikes, with roster cutdown day coming three days after Saturday's preseason finale.
"I've never really appreciated this part of it," he said Thursday.
Pederson, speaking to the media on the final day of 2023 Training Camp at the Miller Electric Center, covered multiple topics as the Jaguars prepared to play the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m. Among them:
The difficulty of trimming the roster to 53 players, which all NFL teams must do by Tuesday at 4 p.m. The Jaguars currently have 91 players and must cut to 54 Tuesday, with the team having a roster exemption for safety Aye Oyelola as part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program.
"It's a tough time," Pederson said. "You disrupt the lives of guys that have been busting their tail for about six weeks [of training camp] here, plus the offseason. I tell the guys all the time: 'You're competing for our roster, but there are 31 other rosters that are watching you, too, so it may not be the end of the line: Maybe the end of the line here, but not the end of the line on another team.'"
The Jaguars figure to face multiple difficult decisions following Saturday, with the roster generally appearing deeper at multiple positions in Pederson's second year as head coach and Trent Baalke's third season as general manager.
While the team is dealing with multiple injuries along the offensive line, that position appears deep and versatile. The Jaguars also appear deep at wide receiver, with multiple players including Kevin Austin Jr., Elijah Cooks, Jacob Harris, Tim Jones, Seth Williams and Jaray Jenkins possibly competing for a final roster spot at a position that includes Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Christian Kirk, Jamal Agnew and rookie Parker Washington.
"There are a few things you look at," he said. "How well they attack the day as far as practice goes, attentive in meetings, can they play through a little injury in practice, in games. Do they take themselves out because of a little hiccup in their body or something like that?
“There's more than just the games. We can evaluate that. That's the easy part. Sometimes it's the off-the-field stuff we look at. Can a player be trusted? The end of the day you're down to 53, 48 on game day... You have to be able to count on those 48 guys that are going to be there on Sunday.”
Pederson said special teams is among the factors that will decide "end-of-the-roster" spots.
"That's the third element to our team," he said. "My message has always been, 'You may not be the starter on offense or defense, but you're a starter on special teams and you need to embrace that role, especially if you're a new rookie – whether you're drafted, undrafted, a second-year player … whatever it might be. That's kind of your niche to make, to make our roster.'''
Pederson said he likes this week – the third and last of three preseason games – for the opportunity to evaluate the Jaguars' starters, who did not play in a Preseason Week 2 victory over the Detroit Lions last Saturday. He also said Saturday will be valuable for a chance to see lower-on-the-roster players against Dolphins starters and front-line players.
"I want to see some of our younger players go against starting-caliber players in this league," he said. "That's another way of evaluating the roster that you have."
The Jaguars' starting offense played three series in a Preseason Week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, a game in which the starting defense played two series. Reserves played against Detroit, with Pederson saying the starters could play a half after starting Saturday.
"You want them to go in there and execute the offense," Pederson said "We still don't game plan these games. We just want to execute our plays and get the starters working together for a number of snaps and try to eliminate mistakes. We want to try to play a clean football game, at least for the first half."