Whether the Jacksonville Jaguars classify Andrew Wingard or Andre Cisco as starters seems to be a moot point, with defensive coordinator Joe Cullen clearing up the team's plans at strong safety in Week 1 vs. the Houston Texans.
Both Wingard and Cisco will see time with the defense against the Texans in the season-opener, Cullen revealed, while Wingard will likely get the first crack at the job. But even with the third-year safety getting the first series of the season over the third-round rookie, it doesn't appear as if Cisco is far from seeing a big role with the defense.
“Not far at all, I mean, he will be playing as well," Cullen said about Cisco on Thursday.
"Anybody up is a starter, so if you get anybody—the depth chart says this, says that—if they’re up with a helmet, they are starting because they’ve got to go in the game at really any given time in certain positions, that’s one of them. Cisco can be in there second series, third series.”
Cisco has been the popular outside projection to be the Jaguars' starting safety across from Rayshawn Jenkins, in large part due to the Jaguars taking the former Syracuse star with the No. 65 overall pick and praising him throughout the offseason and training camp.
This carried over into the preseason, with Cisco ending the preseason as Pro Football Focus' highest-graded rookie safety during the three-week exhibition period. This high grade was the result of Cisco not recording any missed tackles while also recording two pass breakups.
Cisco was one of the nation's most productive safeties in 2018 and 2019, leading the FBS in interceptions in 2018 and the ACC in picks in 2019. Cisco finished his college career with 29 pass deflections and 13 interceptions in 24 games, averaging over a pass deflection and 0.5 interceptions per game.
But the Jaguars will not be leaning entirely on Cisco to start the season, instead asking him to potentially share the field or an entire role with Wingard. Wingard made the roster over former starting safety Jarrod Wilson, in large part due to his special teams ability but also because Cullen and the Jaguars' defensive staff are high on his talent at safety.
“Well, one, he’s reliable, two, he’s tough, he’s physical," Cullen said about Wingard on Thursday.
"We’ve got a great group back there with Rayshawn [Jenkins]. But he’s a guy, you know what he’s going to do when the ball is snapped, he’s going to do his responsibility and he’s going to do it at 100 miles per hour.”
Wingard has appeared in 29 games and started six over the last two seasons, recording 80 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble, three tackles for loss and five pass deflections in the process.
Wingard gives the Jaguars a more experienced and seasoned option over Cisco, which leads Cullen to believe there is a chance the game could dictate the Jaguars seeing both safeties on the field throughout the game. As Cullen explained, the usage of players and packages largely depends on the Jaguars' opponent and what their identity is on offense.
“I mean, we’ve used a lot of different packages, sometimes you just wait for the right opportunity," Cullen said.
"But we’ll have some with five down the line, some with four down line, some with three down the line, some with two safeties, some with three safeties. So, really over the years, just—we’ve adapted and used that in certain situations.”