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The 53: Breaking down the roster

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson (21) runs drills during an NFL football workout, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson (21) runs drills during an NFL football workout, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP)

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars on Saturday reduced their roster to 53 players.

The breakdown: 23 offensive players, 27 defensive players, a punter, a kicker and a long snapper.

The roster as expected is stuffed with rookies, with 16 making the roster – including all 12 players from the Jaguars' 2020 NFL Draft class. They were:

Cornerback CJ Henderson (Round 1), defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson (Round 1), wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (Round 2), nose tackle DaVon Hamilton (Round 3), cornerback Josiah Scott (Round 4), linebacker Shaq Quarterman (Round 4), offensive lineman Ben Bartch (Round 4), safety Daniel Thomas (Round 5), wide receiver Collin Johnson (Round 5), quarterback Jake Luton (Round 6), tight end Tyler Davis (Round 6) and cornerback Chris Claybrooks (Round 7).

Also notable: Four players signed as collegiate free agents after the '20 draft made the roster: cornerback Luq Barcoo, running back James Robinson, defensive tackle Doug Costin and long snapper Ross Matiscik.

Because of COVID-19, practice squads are expanded compared with previous seasons – with 16 players on the practice squad and six of those players allowed to be vested veterans.

Teams this season because also will be able to protect up to four practice-squad players per week from being signed by other teams, and they will be able to promote two practice-squad players a week without signing those players to the active roster.

Here's a position-by-position look at the Jaguars' 53-man roster as of Saturday at 4 p.m.

Quarterbacks (2)

Starter: Gardner Minshew II (second NFL season). Reserves: Luton (rookie).

This position surprised many Saturday. Minshew, a sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, will enter the 2020 season as the starter after a 6-6 record as a starter last season. Luton was perhaps the most impressive quarterback physically in Jaguars 2020 Training Camp, and General Manager David Caldwell said his performance in the last month made the decision to keep him easy. The team released eight-year veteran Mike Glennon, signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. It also released third-year reserve Josh Dobbs, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers early last season in exchange for a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. While that left just two players at the position, remember: Because of COVID-19 rules, veterans can be on the practice squad whereas in past seasons a player with such experience would have had to be on the active roster.

Running backs (4)

Starter: TBD. On roster: Chris Thompson (eighth NFL season), Devine Ozigbo (second), Robinson (rookie). Fullback: Bruce Miller (sixth).

This position changed dramatically early last week with the surprise waiving of Leonard Fournette, a 1,000-yard rusher two of the past three seasons and the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Thompson, an eight-year veteran, is the lone running back on the roster with more than a season of NFL experience; having played the last six seasons in Washington for new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, he figures to play a key role. Second-year veteran Ryquell Armstead is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The team likes Robinson and Ozigbo. Don't be surprised if Robinson has a major role early. Look for the team to try to re-sign Nathan Cottrell to the practice squad; the rookie free agent was among the players waived Saturday.

Wide receivers (6)

Projected starters: DJ Chark Jr. (third NFL season), TBD. On roster: Chris Conley (sixth), Dede Westbrook (fourth), Keelan Cole (fourth), Shenault Jr. (rookie), Johnson (rookie).

This position emerged as perhaps the team's deepest during camp, with Chark having perhaps the best camp of anyone on offense – and with Shenault and Johnson standing out. The question of who will start opposite Chark is less important than the impressive depth, with Conley, Westbrook and Cole all capable of producing in the rotation. The guess here is Shenault will start sooner than later, with the Jaguars' toughest decision here perhaps being how many at the position to keep active on game day. Keep an eye on Johnson here; his athleticism and ability to make tough catches in coverage will be tough to keep off the field. First-year veteran Terry Godwin, waived Saturday, impressed in camp and seems a likely practice-squad possibility.

Tight ends (3)

Starters: Tyler Eifert (eighth NFL season), James O'Shaughnessy (sixth). Reserves: Davis (rookie).

This is a surprisingly thin group on the 53, with the team placing second-year veteran Josh Oliver on season-ending injured reserve with a foot injury early in training camp and waiving rookie Ben Ellefson and first-year veteran Matt Flanagan Saturday. Look for Ellefson and/or Flanagan on the practice squad. Could the waiver wire be scanned for depth here? Eifert has looked very good in camp. If he and O'Shaughnessy can stay healthy, this looks like a position that can be more productive than it has been in several seasons.

Offensive linemen (8)

Starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson (fourth NFL season), left guard Andrew Norwell (seventh), center Brandon Linder (seventh), right guard A.J. Cann (sixth), right tackle Jawaan Taylor (second). Reserves: Will Richardson Jr. (third), Tyler Shatley (sixth), Bartch (rookie).

This must be a team strength. Not only did the team bring back the entire starting lineup from last season, it is the team's most experienced position group – averaging five seasons in the NFL. Head Coach Doug Marrone and Caldwell both spoke confidently of this group throughout the offseason, with a key reason for that confidence a belief that Robinson will improve after now being nearly two years removed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in September 2018. This group could be the key to the offense – and indeed the season.

Defensive ends (5)

Starters: Josh Allen (second NFL season), TBD. On roster: Dawuane Smoot (fourth), Chaisson (rookie) Cassius Marsh Sr. (seventh), Adam Gotsis (fifth).

This figures to be strong because of Allen – though not as strong as before the Jaguars traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings early this past week. Chaisson, the No. 20 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, was impressive in camp, and Smoot developed into a consistent, productive player last season. Marsh could provide pass rush off the edge and the team likes he and Gotsis as experienced veterans on a young defense. The key here will be Allen, who had 10.5 sacks as a rookie and who looks capable of a second consecutive Pro Bowl season. Chaisson looks capable of contributing as a rookie.

Defensive tackles (5)

Starters: Taven Bryan (third NFL season), Abry Jones (eighth). Reserves: Timmy Jernigan (seventh), DaVon Hamilton (rookie), Doug Costin (rookie).

This will be a major area to watch early after high turnover here in camp. Veteran Al Woods opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 and veteran Rodney Gunter retired because of a heart condition. That puts focus even more on Bryan, who must improve from his first two NFL seasons; he was impressive early in camp before missing the last two weeks with a bone bruise in is knee. Teammates and coaches have praised Jernigan, who signed as a free agent during training camp, and Jones has been a reliable part of the rotation in seven seasons. Key will be Hamilton, a third-round selection who must be stout against the run quickly.

Linebackers (6)

Starters: Middle Joe Schobert (fifth NFL season), weak Myles Jack (fifth), strong Leon Jacobs (third). Reserves: Shaq Quarterman (rookie), Quincy Williams (second), Dakota Allen (second).

This is a position the Jaguars believe will be vastly improved in 2020 – both in the starting lineup and depth. Schobert signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, and he should allow Jack to flourish while starting for the first time in his NFL career on what the team believes is his natural position of weak-side linebacker. The hope is that improvement here will help improve a run defense that struggled last season and had too many breakout runs. Marrone during camp also praised the depth here, and Quarterman and Allen were both impressive in camp. Williams missed most of camp with a core-muscle injury. Look for second-year veteran Joe Giles-Harris, waived Saturday, to be a practice-squad possibility.

Cornerbacks (6)

Starters: Tre Herndon (third NFL season), CJ Henderson (rookie). Nickel: D.J. Hayden (eighth). Reserves:  Josiah Scott (rookie), Chris Claybrooks (rookie), Luq Barcoo (rookie).

This group as expected is really young with four rookies making the 53. Henderson, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, will start opposite Herndon – and Hayden is one of the NFL's better nickel corners. All depth will be rookies, with Scott projected as a future nickel; he and Claybrooks continually made plays in camp. Barcoo making the team was no surprise. He had been projected as a possible late-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and was a high-priority collegiate free agent. He followed that with an impressive training camp.

Safeties (5)

Starters: Jarrod Wilson (fifth NFL season), Josh Jones (fourth). Reserves: Andrew Wingard (second), Daniel Thomas (rookie), Brandon Watson (second).

This position changed dramatically when the team traded 2019 starter Ronnie Harrison to the Cleveland Browns Thursday. That surprised many outside the organization, but the team projected Jones as a possible starter and he verified that projection with an impressive training camp. Wilson started all 16 games last season and is now the veteran leader in a young secondary.

Specialists (3)

Specialists: Kicker Josh Lambo (sixth NFL season), punter Logan Cooke (third), Matiscik (rookie).

Lambo is one of the NFL's best at his position, and Cooke developed impressively in his second season last season. Matiscik made the team as a rookie free agent.

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