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The 53: Breaking down the roster


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

The breakdown: 21 offensive players, 29 defensive players, a punter, a kicker and a long snapper.

Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer said many of Tuesday's decisions were made with special teams in mind and emphasized shortly after the moves became official that the "final" 53-man roster is anything but final.

The Jaguars because they finished with the NFL's worst record last season have the No. 1 position on the NFL waiver wire, and Meyer said Tuesday conversations about and evaluations of waived players around the league are ongoing.

"It's still very fluid," Meyer said.

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

Teams this season also again can 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 Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Quarterbacks (2)

Projected starter: Trevor Lawrence (rookie). On roster: C.J. Beathard (fifth NFL season).

There was little mystery entering Tuesday about these two players. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, officially was named the starter last week – and the Jaguars' trade Saturday of veteran Gardner Minshew II solidified Beathard as the backup. The team on Tuesday waived second-year veteran Jake Luton, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft who started three games as a rookie.

Running backs (3)

Projected starter: James Robinson (second NFL season). On roster: Carlos Hyde (eighth), Dare Ogunbowale (fourth).

This is an area where Meyer expressed concern Tuesday, meaning that adding a player here is a possibility. Robinson rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a free-agent rookie last season, and Hyde and Ogunbowale are solid depth. Rookie Round 1 running back Travis Etienne Jr., who was expected to add an explosive element as a hybrid receiver/running back, was placed on season-ending injured reserve last week with a Lisfranc injury sustained in a Preseason Week 2 loss at New Orleans. The team on Tuesday released third-year veteran Devine Ozigbo and second-year veteran Nathan Cottrell.

Wide receivers (5)

Projected starters: DJ Chark Jr. (fourth NFL season), Laviska Shenault Jr. (second), Marvin Jones Jr. (tenth). On roster: Jamal Agnew (fifth), Tavon Austin (eighth).

Meyer on Tuesday expressed concern over numbers here, too. The Jaguars on Tuesday waived or released multiple receivers who stood out in 2021 Training Camp and/or preseason, including veterans Laquon Treadwell, Phillip Dorsett II, Pharoh Cooper and Collin Johnson. The team also on Tuesday waived rookie sixth-round wide receiver Jalen Camp, also waiving other young players who flashed in preseason – including first-year veteran Jeff Cotton Jr. and recently-signed veteran Devin Smith. Look for multiple receivers on the practice squad and this is a position where the Jaguars could carry a player or two more during the regular season than current number of five. Meyer specified that the team would like to retain Dorsett and that Johnson also could return.

Tight ends (3)

Projected starter: Chris Manhertz (sixth NFL season). On roster: James O'Shaughnessy (sixth), Luke Farrell (rookie).

Like running back and receiver, this is area to watch during the next few days. The Jaguars on Tuesday waived 2020 sixth-round selection Tyler Davis – a player who Meyer said had been improving late in camp – and also waived Ben Ellefson, who played for the Jaguars last season after signing as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft. This remains an area the Jaguars could address on the waiver wire, with Meyer saying Tuesday the team would still like to add a fourth player here.

Offensive linemen (8)

Projected starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson (fifth NFL season), left guard Andrew Norwell (eighth), center Brandon Linder (eighth), right tackle Jawaan Taylor (third). On roster: Tyler Shatley (eighth), Walker Little (rookie), Will Richardson Jr. (fourth), Ben Bartch (second).

Important to note here is that projected starting right guard A.J. Cann is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, so he will take a roster spot when activated. Robinson, Norwell, Linder, Cann and Taylor will enter their third consecutive season as the Jaguars' starting line if Cann is available for Week 1 at Houston. Meyer has praised Shatley, Little, Richardson and Bartch in recent weeks. The Jaguars on Tuesday waived two lineman who played for the team last season – second-year veteran Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms and third-year veteran KC McDermott.

Ends/linebackers (5)

Projected starters: Josh Allen (third NFL season), K'Lavon Chaisson (second). On roster: Lerentee McCray (seventh), Jordan Smith (rookie), Aaron Patrick (first).

There weren't any major surprises here, with Allen and Chaisson first-round selections in the 2019 and 2020 NFL Drafts, respectively – and with McCray one of the team's top special teams players. Smith made the roster as a fourth-round rookie and Patrick – a first-year veteran who signed as a free agent in the 2020 offseason – had flashed throughout preseason and training camp.

Tackles (4)

Projected starters: DaVon Hamilton (second NFL season), Malcom Brown (seventh). On roster: Jay Tufele (rookie), Daniel Ekuale (third).

This was another area without major surprises Tuesday. Hamilton during '21 camp emerged as a key to the interior line, and Brown – acquired in an offseason traded with the New Orleans Saints – also is critical to what the team believes will be an improved run defense. The Jaguars on Tuesday waived tackle Doug Costin, a player Meyer said the team will try to retain.

Linemen (5)

Projected starter: Roy Robertson-Harris (sixth NFL season). On roster: Jihad Ward (sixth), Taven Bryan (fourth), Dawuane Smoot (fifth), Adam Gotsis (sixth).

Like the rest of the defensive front, this area didn't have any major surprises – with Robertson-Harris and Ward having signed as free agents during the offseason. Meyer on Tuesday said Bryan – a first-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2018 NFL Draft – played very well in Sunday's preseason finale at Dallas, adding that defensive coordinator Joe Cullen and others believe Bryan can be productive this season. "He's a guy – it's time to play," Meyer said. "He has been around. I can see the urgency in his look and his practice and in the way he has played."

Linebackers (5)

Projected starters: Myles Jack (sixth NFL season), Damien Wilson (seventh). On roster: Chapelle Russell (second), Shaquille Quarterman (second), Dakota Allen (third).

Special teams mattered here, with Russell and Quarterman standing out in that area throughout the preseason. The major news here Tuesday: the release of third-year veteran Quincy Williams, a third-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Cornerbacks (5)

Projected starters: CJ Henderson (second NFL season), Shaquill Griffin (fifth). On roster: Chris Claybrooks (second), Tyson Campbell (rookie), Tre Herndon (fourth).

The major cut-day news here came Monday, with the Jaguars trading veteran Sidney Jones IV to the Seattle Seahawks – reportedly for a sixth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Henderson, after missing the first eight days of '21 camp on reserve/COVID-19, had a strong finish to camp and the preseason – consistently showing why the Jaguars selected him No. 9 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Meyer on Tuesday praised Herndon and said either Herndon or Campbell – the No. 33 overall selection in the '21 draft – likely will be the nickel corner to start the season.

Safeties (5)

Projected starters: Rayshawn Jenkins (fifth NFL season), TBD. On roster: Rudy Ford (fifth), Daniel Thomas (second), Andre Cisco (rookie), Andrew Wingard (third).

Along with receiver, this may have been the most competitive spot on the roster – with Meyer saying the team believed it had eight players on the roster who will play in the NFL this season. Special teams value played heavily here, Meyer said. He praised Jenkins for playing at a very high level, and he also praised the special teams/gunner abilities of both Ford and Thomas. He called Ford as good as any gunner ever has seen. Meyer added of Cisco, "We feel really good about his future." Released on Tuesday were Brandon Rusnak and Jarrod Wilson, the latter of whom started 30 games in five seasons with the Jaguars. Meyer said the team would like Wilson to return.

Specialists (3)

Kicker Josh Lambo (seventh NFL season), punter Logan Cooke (fourth), long snapper Ross Matiscik (second).

All three of these players were on the roster last season. Meyer said recently he believes Cooke will be one of the NFL's best punters this season. Lambo, after missing first two 2021 preseason field-goal attempts from plus-40 yards, made both of his field goals in Sunday's preseason finale – from 45 and 34 yards. Meyer said the team could sign a player to the practice squad capable of backing up kicker and punter.

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