The Jacksonville Jaguars are slowly but surely marching along with the rest of the NFL to the start of the 2021 season, arguably the most anticipated season in franchise history. As fans count down the seconds until the debuts of Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars are putting in time, energy and sweat to prepare for the season.
From now up until the start of Week 1, we will see the Jaguars grow as a team in Meyer's vision. The 90-man roster will be cut down as position battles take place throughout the roster.
As this offseason progresses, we will take a look at each position and give our best guess as to what the depth chart will look like come Week 1 -- at least based off the information we currently have.
We have already hit the quarterback room and the running back and tight end positions, along with the offensive line and wide receiver units. We started on the defensive side with the cornerback room and linebacker position, and now we take a look at the safety group.
The Jaguars' have a completely new-look safety position after a flurry of offseason additions, but there are more than a few familiar faces who will have to make an impression on the new regime and coaching staff. Whether it is big-money free agents or top-70 draft picks, the Jaguars have a few notable new investments at safety that will likely help foster intense competition at the position.
But just how could the depth chart play out with so many new moving pieces? We take a look below to offer our best early guess.
No. 1 SS: Rayshawn Jenkins
It is clear that free-agent signee Rayshawn Jenkins is going to play a big role in the Jaguars' defense in 2021. The Jaguars pursued Jenkins with ferocity in March, signing him to a four-year, $35 million deal with $16 million in guarantees, effectively making him one of the highest-paid players on Jacksonville's defense. The Jaguars didn't pay him like a starting safety for him to not be on the field for the first snap of Week 1, so his place on the depth chart is clear.
Jenkins' fit in the Jaguars' defense will likely be, well, everywhere, so calling him a strong safety is just for organizational purposes. According to Pro Football Focus, he spent over 50% of his defensive snaps in the box, ultimately spending 493 snaps in the box while recording career-highs in tackles (84) and tackles for loss (four), along with two interceptions, four pass deflections, and a sack.
Jenkins was active throughout OTAs and minicamp, with his versatility and athleticism standing out throughout the course of the offseason. Look for him to be a movable chess piece in the back-end of Joe Cullen's defense, at least for the foreseeable future.
No. 2 SS: Josh Jones
When coaches continually bring up a specific player, it is likely past time to take notice. That has been the case with the Jaguars and veteran safety Josh Jones this offseason, with Cullen and Urban Meyer both praising Jones for his performances in practice throughout the offseason. Jones struggled as a starter last season, but a backup role in a defense that would play more to his strengths could help him improve upon his first year in Jacksonville.
It is worth noting the Jaguars re-signed Jones after the 2020 season, with the new regime and coaching staff making the decision to bring him back for a second year. Couple this with the fact that Jones impressed during the offseason, and he likely has a better chance of carving out a role in the defense than some may think.
Jones played in 13 games for the Jaguars last season, recording 83 tackles, one pass deflection and one interception. While he shouldn't be expected to play a major role, he could be fierce competition for Jarrod Wilson and Andrew Wingard this summer.
No. 1 FS: Andre Cisco
This is a big projection, but it is one that makes sense. The Jaguars didn't draft Andre Cisco at No. 65 overall in April to have him ride the bench if he is healthy, but the Jaguars also still need to see Cisco actually go through full practices and look 100%. But when Cisco is healthy and on the field like he was at Syracuse, his talent is undeniable and the Jaguars will likely be okay with taking their rookie lumps with him due to his playmaking traits.
"Andre [Cisco], before his injury, was probably the top safety in the country. I think he had 13 interceptions in about roughly two years, and he fits all the boxes in terms of the size, the speed, the athleticism," Cullen said in June.
Cisco played 24 games for Syracuse, recording 136 tackles, 29 passes defended, 13 interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. A three-year starter, Cisco was one of the nation's top ballhawks in college. His 12 interceptions from 2018-19 were the most by any player in college football during the span. No other safety on the roster is a ball-magnet like Cisco, which makes it hard to envision the Jaguars keeping him off the field in any event he is able to play.
No. 2 FS: Daniel Thomas
Projecting Daniel Thomas in this spot over Jarrod Wilson is bold considering Wilson is an experienced veteran and has long been respected as a key leader and communicator on the Jaguars' defense, but Thomas is impressive enough to elicit a bold prediction. He only played 161 snaps on defense last year due to injuries and Josh Jones starting in front of him, but his limited snaps showed a high-ceiling defender.
In total, Thomas started two games and recorded 18 tackles, two pass deflections, an interception, and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. At the time of his injury, he was the only player in the league in 2020 to block a punt and intercept a pass. He kept that momentum up during the offseason as well, making several standout plays in coverage and intercepting both Jake Luton and Trevor Lawrence in different practices.
No. 5 S: Rudy Ford
One of the best punt gunners in all of football, Rudy Ford has become a bit underrated in Jacksonville. He isn't likely to see many snaps on defense, but the Jaguars signed him this offseason largely due to his immense special teams value. The Jaguars' coverage teams on punts struggled at times last season, but Ford gives them a dynamic gunner who can fly down the field and limit big plays for the special teams unit.
In just eight games last year, Ford recorded nine special teams tackles, which tied him for ninth in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus -- with every player in front of him playing at least 11 games. He has played sparingly on defense throughout his career, but the Jaguars have the depth in front of him to let him thrive in a role on special teams he has already proven he can play at a high level.