JACKSONVILLE – Pre-draft season is upon us in a big way.
If you didn't feel it this week as news trickled in from the first of the major college football "all-star games" – the East-West Shrine Bowl at Tropicana Field in Saint Petersburg, Fla. – you'll likely feel it next week as the NFL gathers in Mobile, Ala., for the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl.
When we say "as the NFL gathers," it's no exaggeration.
The Senior Bowl serves as a January NFL convention of sorts, with head coaches, assistants and general managers from many teams attending along with a heavy contingent of scouts from allteams.
The game will be played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile January 25, but as important to NFL personnel officials are themid-week practices. The game matters in evaluation; the one-on-one pass-rush and cornerback-versus-receiver drills in practice often reveal as much.
A few position groups that stand out at the Senior Bowl as they relate to the Jaguars:
*Defensive tackle.The inability to stop the run defined the Jaguars' 2019 season, and the organizational future of nose tackle Marcell Dareus is uncertain for salary-cap reasons. Whatever Dareus' status, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Jaguars used one of their two first-round selections on interior defensive line. South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore all have been projected in the first round and all are expected to participate in the Senior Bowl.
*Tight end.The Jaguars' need at this position was evident last season, particularly after veteran James O'Shaughnessy's Week 5 season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament. The Jaguars like the potential of 2019 third-round tight end Josh Oliver but could use one more front-line player at the spot. Two possible first-round players at the position – Jared Pinkney of Vanderbilt and Brycen Hopkins of Purdue – are expected at the Senior Bowl.
*Cornerback.This is a potential area of need entering the offseason for a couple of reasons: the midseason trade of cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams and the uncertain organizational future of cornerback A.J. Bouye for salary-cap reasons. That could leave Tre Herndon – who started opposite Bouye following Ramsey's departure – as the lone returning starter, which makes a first-round corner a possibility. Among the potential first-round corners at the Senior Bowl: Kristian Fulton of Louisiana State, Lamar Jackson of Nebraska and Jeff Gladney of Texas Christian.
Two potential first-round quarterbacks – Justin Herbert of Oregon and Jordan Love of Utah – also will be in Mobile, though the Jaguars' level of interest at that position will depend on how they feel about second-year veteran Gardner Minshew II and veteran Nick Foles.
Perhaps more possible in Round 1 is offensive line. While elite linemen often skip the Senior Bowl, potential first-rounders such as Trey Adams of Washington and Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn are scheduled to play in the Senior Bowl.
Two members of the Jaguars' rookie class were overlooked – perhaps unfairly – for Rookie of the Year Honors, with neither defensive end Josh Allen nor Minshew nominated for the NFL's Pepsi Rookie of the Year award despite similar or better seasons than other rookies. But two Jaguars players were named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team: Allen and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Minshew was left off the team, with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray named to the team – that despite Minshew's 6-6 record as a starter compared to Murray's 5-10-1 record. Perhaps more perplexing was San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa earning Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors over Allen. Bosa finished with nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss with 25 quarterback hits and a forced fumble whereas Allen finished with 10.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 22 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.Snubs aside, the honors show again the potential of the 2019 Jaguars draft class. It's already a class that has contributed to an unusual degree. The question entering next season is what level of contributions the Jaguars can receive from Oliver and third-round linebacker Quincy Williams. If that duo can live up to the potential it showed last offseason, the class could be special.
The Jaguars currently have two prominent coaching positions open, with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and the team mutually parting ways Monday and with quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich leaving after the season to become the head coach of the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos. DeFilippo this week was named quarterbacks coach of the Chicago Bears, and reputable media reports have linked two coaches with the Jaguars in recent days. Former New York Giants offensive coordinator/head coach Ben McAdoo has interviewed for the coordinator position, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported this week that former Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will interview with the team this weekend, though Mortensen's report did not indicate a specific position.