Only 25 players who had spent at least one year in the NFL and were on the roster of the Jacksonville Jaguars at this time a year ago are still part of the team going into training camp next week.
It’s easy to think of the rebuilding of the Jaguars in terms of players drafted since the arrivals of coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell. Even with first-round pick Luke Joeckel missing the final 11 games of his rookie season with a fractured right ankle, the contributions of strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, wide receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders and free safety Josh Evans helped the team go 4-4 over its final eight games.
And while quarterback Blake Bortles isn’t expected to unseat Chad Henne as the starter anytime soon, several other newcomers could crack the offensive and defensive lineups by the time the season opens Sept. 7 at Philadelphia.
But the Jaguars also have a knack for finding players who went undrafted or were released by other teams. Don’t be surprised to see these low-profile guys make an impact:
WRs KERRY TAYLOR AND ALLEN HURNS
Kerry Taylor (left) and Allen Hurns (right).
Originally signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2011 as an undrafted rookie out of Arizona State, Taylor spent time with New England, San Francisco, Minnesota and Arizona before coming to the Jaguars last November. He had 19 catches over their last seven games, including their only touchdown in the regular-season finale at Indianapolis. With the uncertainty about when (or if) Justin Blackmon will ever play for them again, Taylor should figure prominently at a position where Sanders and Cecil Shorts III don’t have much in the way of a track record.
Despite setting a University of Miami single-season record for receiving yards as a senior, the 6-foot-3 Hurns never heard his name announced at the podium in New York in May. But when second-round picks Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson were sidelined by injuries throughout the Jaguars’ organized team activities and minicamp, Hurns often found himself working with what might be viewed as the first-string offense. Bradley raved about what he saw from him.
TE MARCEL JENSEN
At 6-6 and 270 pounds, it’s hard not to spot Jensen. But he went overlooked in the draft after being part of a Fresno State team that averaged 43.4 points a game his senior year. The Jaguars’ coaching staff had the advantage of working with him in January at the Senior Bowl, although Jensen’s playing time was limited due to a sports hernia injury sustained that week.
No one is about to compare his blocking skills to those of Marcedes Lewis. But should Lewis miss anywhere near as much action as he did during the first half of last season, having someone the size of Jensen could make up in part for that loss. The Jaguars also have Clay Harbor, who made 24 receptions for them after being claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles.
T AUSTIN PASZTOR
With the return to health of Joeckel and the signing of guard Zane Beadles to a five-year, $30 million contract, the left side of the offensive line is understandably garnering more attention than the right side. But after making 12 starts at the spot held down by Joeckel when last season began, Pasztor shouldn’t be regarded as an afterthought.
The Jaguars thought enough of him to sign him to a one-year tender. Though they ranked 31st out of 32 teams in rushing, most of whatever success they had on the ground came over Pasztor’s right tackle spot. And he’s not even a tackle by trade. He was primarily a left guard in college at Virginia and made three starts there for the Jaguars in 2012 after the native of Canada was drafted by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL but chose to play in the NFL instead.
DE RYAN DAVIS
The additions of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons from the Seattle Seahawks and the drafting of Chris Smith in the fifth round should make the Jaguars deeper at this position. Don’t count out Davis, however.
The native of Tampa and product of nearby Bethune-Cookman spent the first nine games of 2013 on the practice squad before getting a chance to fully show what he can do. Davis helped seal the Jaguars’ two victories over the Houston Texans, intercepting a pass in the final minute of the first game and sacking Matt Schaub with 20 seconds remaining less than two weeks later.
The release last month of Jason Babin can be looked at as an indication the Jaguars are pleased with what they’ve seen out of Davis at the Leo position. But he’ll again face a battle for playing time with Clemons, Smith and third-year veteran Andre Branch around.
S SHERROD MARTIN
A second-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2009, Martin has not played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in December 2012. He was a starter for two years before losing that job to Haruki Nakamura.
Martin was one of 10 players signed by the Jaguars to reserve/future contracts the day after the conclusion of the 2013 season. Most of them have since been released, but if neither Josh Evans nor Winston Guy emerges as the clearcut front-runner at free safety, Martin could give both of them all they can handle.