NFL

Jacksonville Jaguars roster roundup: More weapons for QB Trevor Lawrence, questions at safety

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The bulk of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ roster building is, for the most part, complete, so it’s time to evaluate how it has been put together:

Offense

Quarterback

Holdovers: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard

Newcomers: Jake Luton, E.J. Perry

Outlook: The Jaguars are counting on Lawrence making a big jump in his second season after the addition of wide receivers Zay Jones and Christian Kirk and tight end Evan Engram. It’s hard to really know just how much last season’s dysfunctional atmosphere under former coach Urban Meyer really impacted Lawrence’s development, but hiring former quarterback Doug Pederson as its next coach should make a significant difference.

Running back

Holdovers: James Robinson, Travis Etienne Jr., Ryquell Armstead, Nathan Cottrell, Mekhi Sargent

Newcomers: Snoop Conner

Outlook: There’s no official timetable for Robinson’s return from the torn left Achilles he sustained in late December, but the general timetable is around nine months, which would be sometime in September. Etienne, a first-round draft pick who is nearly completely cleared in his return from a Lisfranc injury that caused him to miss his rookie season, will be the main back until Robinson returns – and he may even hold onto that role after. However, Pederson used a running back-by-committee approach in his five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and never had a back rush for more than 867 yards (Miles Sanders in 2020), so expect a shared load for the Jaguars in 2022.

Tight end

Holdovers: Dan Arnold, Chris Manhertz, Luke Farrell

Newcomers: Evan Engram, Naz Bohannon, Grayson Gunter, Gerrit Prince

Outlook: Engram has had his issues with drops (23 in his four seasons, most among tight ends), but he still gives the Jaguars a playmaker they haven’t had at that position since Julius Thomas in 2015. Engram has caught at least 44 passes in each of his five seasons. The Jaguars have only had a tight end catch more than 40 passes in a season just six times in their 27-year history. An interesting guy to watch is Bohannon, who played college basketball at Youngstown State and Clemson and is trying to make the transition to football.

Wide receiver

Holdovers: Marvin Jones Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Jamal Agnew, Laquon Treadwell, Jeff Cotton

Newcomers: Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Lujuan Winningham, Ryan McDaniel, Tim Jones, Marvin Hall, Kevin Austin Jr., Willie Johnson

Outlook: Kirk, Marvin Jones and Zay Jones are the top three. The order after that? Depends. Shenault was tied for second in the NFL in drops last season and had issues running the wrong routes. Treadwell came on late and was one of the team’s best receivers in the final six weeks of 2021. Agnew, one of the league’s best kick returners, showed sparks but is coming off a hip injury. Austin was one of the more sought-after undrafted free agents and the Jaguars guaranteed him $230,000.

Offensive line

Holdovers: Cam Robinson, Ben Bartch, Tyler Shatley, Jawaan Taylor, Walker Little, Will Richardson Jr., KC McDermott, Badara Traore

Newcomers: Brandon Scherff, Luke Fortner, Jared Hocker, Wes Martin, Denzel Okafor, Coy Cronk

Outlook: Only two of the five starting spots are locked up at this point — Robinson and Scherff. Pederson said Bartch is the leader, but they’re rotating at that spot, including McDermott and Cronk. Shatley and Fortner will compete at center, and Little and Taylor should compete to be the starting right tackle.

Defense

Defensive line

Holdovers: Adam Gotsis, Roy Robertson-Harris, Dawuane Smoot, Malcolm Brown, Jay Tufele, DaVon Hamilton

Newcomers: Folorunso Fatukasi, Arden Key, De’Shaan Dixon, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Raequan Williams

Outlook: The Jaguars improved their rush defense from 30th in 2020 to 23rd in 2021, and they added Fatukasi, who is regarded as a good run defender. Tufele and Hamilton need to make strides at nose tackle. Bringing Gotsis back was a smart, economical move. He’s not flashy, but he is a solid player, as are Brown and Robertson-Harris. Smoot has developed into a good complementary pass-rusher (17.5 total sacks the past three seasons).

Linebacker

Holdovers: Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Shaquille Quarterman, Chapelle Russell, Jordan Smith, Tyrell Adams, Jamir Jones

Newcomers: Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd, Chad Muma, Foyesade Oluokun, Grant Morgan, Rashod Berry

Outlook: The Jags are putting No. 1 overall pick Walker at outside linebacker to start. The Jaguars haven’t said much about their plans for using rookies Lloyd and Muma or free-agent addition Oluokun, who led the NFL in tackles last season, but Lloyd could spend some time as a pass-rusher and Walker could work inside on third downs (the way the Jaguars did with Calais Campbell from 2017 to ’19). This position group got the most significant upgrade on the roster, with three draft picks (Walker, Lloyd, Muma) and a key free-agent signing (Oluokun).

Cornerback

Holdovers: Shaquill Griffin, Tyson Campbell, Chris Claybrooks, Tre Herndon

Newcomers: Darious Williams, Montaric Brown, Xavier Crawford, Gregory Junior, Shabari Davis, Benjie Franklin, Josh Thompson

Outlook: Griffin said he dropped four interceptions last season and has made working on catching the ball his top priority this offseason. Campbell came on in the second half of the season but adding Williams in free agency may move Campbell inside. Claybrooks is a speedster who has carved out a role on special teams and has played solidly at times when forced into a significant role on defense.

Safety

Holdovers: Andre Cisco, Rudy Ford, Rayshawn Jenkins, Daniel Thomas, Andrew Wingard, Brandon Rusnak

Newcomers: Ayo Oyelola

Outlook: The Jaguars couldn’t address every position of need this offseason, and safety is the team’s biggest question heading into the 2022 season. Cisco didn’t play much until late in 2021, and the hope is he emerges as the starter at free safety. Jenkins was the starter there before missing the final three games with an ankle injury. Ford got a lot of time as a nickel back as well.

Special teams

Holdovers: Punter Logan Cooke, long-snapper Ross Matiscik

Newcomers: Kickers Ryan Santoso, Andrew Mevis

Outlook: After the team cut kicker Matthew Wright because he struggled to get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, Santoso and Mevis will battle throughout camp.


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