The Jaguars’ 53: Breaking down the roster

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

The breakdown: 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players, a punter, a kicker and a long snapper. So: an even split.

A few notable veterans on the 53: backup quarterback Cody Kessler, wide receiver Rashad Greene Sr., fullback Tommy Bohanon, guard Josh Walker, defensive end Dawuane Smoot, nose tackle Eli Ankou, defensive tackle Michael Bennett, linebackers Donald Payne and Blair Brown and safeties Jarrod Wilson and Cody Davis. All played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday in the 2018 preseason finale, a game in which the Jaguars rested many veterans assured of making the roster.

Smoot and Ankou missed the first three preseason games with injuries but played against the Buccaneers.

Another notable player on the roster: cornerback Tre Herndon, the only undrafted rookie to make the Jaguars’ 53 Saturday.

Quarterback Tanner Lee was the lone 2018 draft selection not on the final 53. The Jaguars released the sixth-round selection from Nebraska Saturday.

All other players from the 2018 draft class made the roster: defensive lineman Taven Bryan (Round 1), wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., safety Ronnie Harrison, offensive tackle Will Richardson (Round 4), linebacker Leon Jacobs (Round 7) and punter Logan Cooke (Round 7).

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

Quarterbacks (2)

Starter: Blake Bortles. Reserve: Cody Kessler.

No surprises here. Bortles is the unquestioned starter, and Kessler – acquired from the Cleveland Browns in an offseason trade – solidified his hold on the backup position with a strong preseason. The Jaguars released Lee Saturday, but he could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Running backs (4)

Starter: Leonard Fournette. Reserves: T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant. Fullback: Tommy Bohanon.

This was a newsy position Saturday. Fournette, Yeldon and Grant were obviously on the roster, but the team opted to keep just three running backs with the release of first-year veterans Brandon Wilds and Tim Cook. There also had been speculation the Jaguars could go without a fullback, but Bohanon was kept on the roster rather than utilizing an H-Back or defensive lineman in the role.

Wide receivers (6)

Projected starters: Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook. Reserves: Donte Moncrief, DJ Chark Jr., Rashad Greene Sr., Jaydon Mickens.

A first thought: This is listed as “projected” starters because this is the trickiest position when figuring the depth chart. Moncrief could easily start, and Chark could quickly be playing as much as Cole/Westbrook/Moncrief. Mickens figures to mainly be a punt returner, with the major news Saturday coming when Greene – a fourth-year veteran who has dealt with a slew of injuries since being selected by the Jaguars in Round 5 of the 2015 NFL Draft – made the 53.

Tight ends (3)

Starters: Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Reserves: James O’Shaughnessy, Niles Paul.

All three were held out of Thursday’s preseason finale, so none was a surprise. A minor surprise: the team waived/injured Ben Koyack, leaving the team with three tight ends.

Offensive linemen (10)

Starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann, right tackle Jermey Parnell. Reserves: Tackle Josh Wells, center/guard Tyler Shatley, tackle Will Richardson, guard Chris Reed, guard Josh Walker.

Ten offensive linemen is a big number – but though the starting line has been solidified since early in training camp, the Jaguars need flexibility in depth here. Wells is the swing tackle. He likely will be active on game day along with Shatley, who can play both guard and center capably. Walker and Reed give the Jaguars flexible, experienced depth and Richardson – a rookie fourth-round selection – needs practice experience to prepare for what could be a big future role.

Defensive ends (5)

Starters: Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell. Reserves: Taven Bryan, Dante Fowler Jr. (reserve/suspended), Dawuane Smoot, Lerentee McCray.

Six players are listed here, though only five were on the final 53. Fowler Jr. doesn’t count on the current 53 because he is on the NFL’s reserve/suspended by Commissioner list; he will return to the team September 10. Ngakoue and Campbell were Pro Bowl selections last season, and Bryan was a first-round selection in April. McCray is a special teams ace who played well as a pass rusher this preseason, and Smoot made the roster despite missing much of the preseason and training camp with an ankle injury.

Defensive tackles (5)

Starters: Malik Jackson, nose Marcell Dareus/Abry Jones. Reserves: Michael Bennett, Eli Ankou.

This was one of the day’s newsier positions. Though Jackson, Dareus and Jones are clearly the interior core, the backups here were unclear. Bennett was among the veterans playing Thursday and has dealt with injuries since being selected in Round 6 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Ankou, who played nine games as a reserve last season, missed the first three preseason games with a knee injury before playing in Tampa Thursday.

Linebackers (5)

Starters: Weak-side Telvin Smith, middle Myles Jack, strong-side Leon Jacobs. Reserves: Donald Payne, Blair Brown.

Smith and Jack give the Jaguars two of the NFL’s better players at their positions, with Jacobs having worked as the starting strongside backer since the beginning of training camp. Payne and Brown made the final 53, though this remains a position where depth could be addressed.

Cornerbacks (5)

Starters: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye. Nickel: D.J. Hayden. Reserves: Tyler Patmon, Tre Herndon.

This felt like a position of straightforward decisions Saturday. Ramsey and Bouye are All-Pro cornerbacks and perhaps the NFL’s best tandem at the position, and Hayden was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Detroit in the offseason to play the nickel. Patmon long since earned a position as the fourth cornerback and Herndon impressed throughout the offseason and training camp.

Safeties (5)

Starters: Free safety Tashaun Gipson, strong safety Barry Church. Reserves: Cody Davis, Ronnie Harrison, Jarrod Wilson.

Comment: Like corner, this position felt straightforward – with a heavy emphasis on special teams. Gipson and Church formed one of the NFL’s best safety tandems last season, and Harrison impressed as a rookie throughout training camp. Wilson has been a reliable backup in two seasons and impressed again in the offseason and training camp. Davis, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason, is considered one of the NFL’s better special teams players and played like it in the preseason.

Specialists (3)

Specialists: Kicker Josh Lambo, punter Logan Cooke, long snapper Carson Tinker.

There were no surprises here. All three players entered the weekend as the only players on the roster at their respective positions.

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