JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Sunday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Washington Redskins Thursday in the 2015 preseason finale …
1)Earning his way.We begin Sunday takeaways with Bryan Walters, who continues to work toward a role in the offense. A wide receiver who signed as an unrestricted free agent from Seattle in the offseason, Walters leads the Jaguars with 10 receptions for 102 yards through three preseason games. While preseason receiving production doesn't always ensure a roster spot, Walters' reliability/versatility has impressed coaches at a position that grew thinner last week with Arrelious Benn placed on injured reserve. "He's gotten some opportunities," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said of Walters. "What I like about him is when he has opportunities he takes advantage of it. He catches the balls that are thrown to him, he runs really good routes, the quarterbacks trust him and the team trusts him. … He really is a guy that has worked his way up the depth chart and taken advantage of his reps." Bradley said Walters could be a four-core special teams player – and with Tandon Doss' release Saturday, Bradley said the fifth receiver position is between Walters and Tony Washington, which each expected to play extensively Thursday. "We've got to find out that spot and those guys are in the mix," Bradley said.
2)Return game. While Walters remains a possibility at punt returner, indications are rookie Rashad Greene is leader for the position. Not only did Greene – a fifth-round wide receiver from Florida State –have a 37-yard return in the preseason opener, he worked at punt returner in the first half of the last two games and into the third quarter Friday against the Lions. "I think that Rashad did a nice job," Bradley said, adding that rookie Nick Marshall remains a possibility and that the team trusts Walters at the spot "completely." Greene has returned five punts for a 10.0-yard average in preseason and Marshall returned one for 27 yards against the Lions. Walters' lone return of the season was a fair catch against the Steelers in the preseason opener.
3)Heavy duty.All indications point to Tyler Shatley being on the final 53-man roster – and he showed Friday he can handle extensive duty. The second-year guard/center has impressed coaches since making the roster as a collegiate free agent last season, and has continued to do so this training camp and preseason. With right guard Brandon Linder leaving in the first quarter with a toe injury Friday, Shatley took 71 snaps. "I wasn't really counting," Shatley said Sunday. "I didn't know I was getting up that high; I knew I had played the majority of the game. It's like all the coaches say, 'You've got to focus on play at a time.' Not to sound too cliché, but that's really all you're trying to do." Bradley on Saturday said while center/guard/tackle Luke Bowanko could be one of the top six linemen, Shatley could fit that description as well. "It's good to hear," Shatley said. "It's just a lot of hard work paying off, really."
The Jaguars returned to the Florida Blue Healthy & Wellness Practice Fields.
4)Either/or.Tyson Alualu's versatility again is proving key. With Sen'Derrick Marks uncertain for the regular-season opener against Carolina September 13, Bradley on Saturday said it's likely Alualu will play the three-technique tackle position if Marks is unavailable. Alualu is listed on the depth chart behind Jared Odrick at strong-side defensive end, a position where he shared repetitions with – and often outplayed – starter Red Bryant a year ago. If Marks isn't available, Alualu – who played tackle in his first four NFL seasons – likely would start at three technique and also work behind Odrick. "It's two totally different positions, but being out there and getting reps at it made me more comfortable with it," Alualu said. "It's still an adjustment because you've got to go from read (at end) to just attacking and getting off (at three-technique tackle). That's the biggest difference."
5)Never easy.The Jaguars on Saturday trimmed the roster from 90 to the league-mandated 75 players, with another round of cuts to 53 coming next weekend after the preseason finale. Bradley was asked about the process Sunday, with the questioner asking if it seemed he had gotten better at the process in three NFL seasons as a head coach. Bradley often has said one of the most difficult things about moving from college coaching to the NFL was asking players to commit to a vision and then releasing them after they had done so. "I don't know if you ever get great at it," Bradley said. "I think the players understand it's a business, but it's a business that you're dealing with people, too, so it's always difficult to have conversations with these guys." Bradley said the idea of releasing players Saturday rather than waiting until Tuesday's league deadline was "to give guys an opportunity to get their names out there ahead of everybody else. I don't know what's right or what's wrong, but it's difficult." Bradley called the players released Saturday an "unselfish" group. "Sometimes you get guys that come in and say, 'I'm taking advantage of this opportunity for me,'" Bradley said. "This group of guys realizes that if they play and they give everything to the team that will lift their ability. They did, but not enough to where we could find a spot."