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Opportunity at hand


Brandon Marshall has respect for the veterans at his position.

They are quality leaders, and proven, established players, but while Marshall said he gets that, he said it's equally true that he wants to play.

"I'm ready," Marshall said.

Now, he and the Jaguars' other reserve linebackers get a chance to show that's true.

With starter Clint Session out indefinitely with the aftereffects of concussions, and with starter Daryl Smith out a week-to-10 days with a groin injury, the reserves at the spot will be a focus in coming weeks.

That's a group that includes not only Marshall, the team's fifth-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, but two rookie free-agents who have impressed coaches early – J.K. Schaffer and Julian Stanford – as well as veteran reserve/special teams ace Kyle Bosworth.

It's also a group that should get a chance to play extensively Friday at the Florida Blue scrimmage, which begins at EverBank Field at 6:30 p.m.

"They'll have the opportunity to play," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "It will be good for them, the chance to show what they can do, what they've learned. They've done a good job so far, but it's early in camp and there's still stuff for them to learn.

"They're on that path. They're dedicated to doing the little things right, and they're continually getting better."

With Allen having moved into the starting lineup with Session out, and now with Smith out for at least a few days, the Jaguars' depth at the position has come into focus.

"We definitely have a really good group of young guys," Allen said. "It will be interesting to see who emerges from that pack and how it sorts itself out."

Bosworth, a third-year veteran from UCLA, spent the 2012 season on injured reserve, then played in nine games last season mostly on special teams, where he had seven tackles.

"It's great, because it gives me an opportunity to showcase what I've been wanting to do, which is play," Bosworth said. "I want to show I can play whenever my number's called. Everyone's doing really well. Our policy is always, 'Whenever one guy is down, the next guy's up.' You have to be ready to go and there can't be any letdown. That's where we are.

"If you have a position of a backup, you have to be ready."

Marshall, who played collegiately at Nevada, has impressed coaches early, making several plays in the passing game. That included an interception return for a touchdown off a deflection Thursday, while Schaffer has played well at times early after missing part of the offseason while finishing classes at Cincinnati.

"I've been saying since I got drafted that I want to play," Marshall said. "I'm not just here to be a backup player. I'm not satisfied with that. That's not who I am as a person. I want to push to play, and I want to play now. I'm pushing."

Stanford, who like Schaffer signed as a rookie free agent, played collegiately at Wagner, and has impressed coaches and teammates early with his athleticism and awareness.

"I look at it as a great opportunity," Stanford said. "I want to continue to show the coaches and scouts what I can do, and get my best plays and my best skills on film. That way they can get a great evaluation on me."

Stanford said while he perhaps had initial uncertainty, he had a pretty good idea after a day or two in pads he could play at an NFL level.

"The first day going in pads, we don't know how it's going to be, so I came out a little nervous," he said. "I think I buckled down and had a pretty good day. That gave me a lot of confidence and let me know I do belong here, and that I can play here."

Stanford said while he wasn't sure exactly why he didn't get drafted, he believes things happen for a reason. He said that was his approach when playing at Wagner, an NCAA Division I FCS (formerly Division II) program, and it was his approach when signing with the Jaguars.

"I take the cards I'm dealt," he said. "I take it day by day and seize every opportunity to the best of my ability. I think this rookie linebacker corps, we have a lot of skilled athletes. We follow the lead of the veterans a lot. They help us understand what's going on. I give a lot of credit. They help us out a lot."

While the Jaguars' current reserve linebackers include just one drafted player – Marshall – and just one, Bosworth, who has played in an NFL game, one member of the current starting lineup knows from experience that quality production can be found from such a group.

Allen made the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2009, and has played in 48 games in three seasons, starting 15 times. He signed a long-term contract extension this past offseason.

"For those guys, it's just a matter of keeping your head down," Allen said. "You can't look at the depth chart and you can't read between the lines. You have to take every second that you get and try to get better. Every rep you get is the most important reps you've ever taken.

And tonight's scrimmage? Well, because it's an opportunity, Marshall said that's pretty big, too.

"I'm looking forward to it," Marshall said. "I can't wait. It's a chance to showcase my skill, so I'm excited. The time is now. My old coach used to say, 'If not me, then who' and, 'If not now, when?'

"I'm not going to just sit back and say, 'OK, I'll wait. I'll develop for a couple of years. We do have great linebackers. Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny, they're great players, but I still want to play. Those guys are great players, but I want to play as well."

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