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 position. Now, we move onto the tight ends.
The tight end position was labeled as the Jaguars' worst position group on a consensus level entering the offseason, and the Jaguars' few additions in the group didn't raise their profile much. Even with this in mind, the group has improved compared to how they entered last season, at least in terms of depth and athleticism.
"Yeah, I really like the additions that we’ve made in the tight end room with Manhertz, obviously, Chris has done a really good job. Some of the things that the tight end position is asked to do is really not going to show up in a camp like this," Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said last week.
"It’s a physical position, it’s part offensive line and it’s part wide receiver. So, some of the stuff is not going to be able to show up, but it’s a much-improved room from top to bottom. Even the guys that have been here in the past have really upgraded themselves. I would probably say on the offensive side, one of the most improved rooms; in the weight room, in the conditioning area, so there’s some good depth there."
So, how do we see the tight end room shaking out as of today? We give our best guesses below. For context, we split the team's six tight ends into two groups: the 'Y' tight ends (the blockers) and the 'F' tight ends (the receivers). We don't expect all six to make the roster, but we ranked all six to show where we think they would be on the overall pecking order.
No. 1 'Y' TE: Chris Manhertz
One of the most impressive new faces on the practice field this summer, Chris Manhertz has made the Jaguars look wise up to this point. They received scrutinty when signing him due to his lack of past production as a receiver, but Manhertz has flashed as a receiver throughout the offseason. Add in the fact that he is the most experienced tight end on the roster and is one of the NFL's top blocking tight ends, and Manhertz is in line to be the Jaguars' No. 1 tight end overall.
"We’ve talked to people who have gone against him, we’ve talked to people who that coached him and he’s even been better than advertised, since he’s been here," Meyer said on May 27. "So, that was the number one reason, was to be able to extend the line of scrimmage which helps a young quarterback. That was the reason and we went and got him and we are happy to have him.”
No. 2 'Y' TE: Luke Farrell
If there is any player on the roster who can be considered the team's true developmental option at tight end, it is fifth-round draft pick Luke Farrell. Farrell is going to likely make the roster as a result of his draft pedigree and the fact that he could end up being the team's second-best blocking tight end from the jump as long as he doesn't disappoint once pads come on. Farrell didn't produce much as a receiver at Ohio State, but he is a functional blocker who has the hands to be a safety valve option underneath.
"He’s not the pass-catching tight end but one way to also help a young quarterback — and if you’ve ever looked at our young quarterbacks when they would play — the number one way to help a young quarterback is to have a successful run game," Meyer said after the Jaguars drafted Farrell.
"Not be a one dimensional and let the defensive ends in the NFL taking swings at you every down. That’s why we took Chris Manhertz and Luke Farrell to be creative in some of the run-game formations."
Expect Farrell to get snaps in three tight end sets as an extra in-line blocker, but it shouldn't be expected for him to be a major part of the passing game as a receiver.
No. 3 'Y' TE: Tyler Davis
Like the No. 3 'F' tight end on this list, Tyler Davis is essentially third on the depth chart by default and to not much fault of his own. Davis struggled to make an impression and earn playing time as a rookie in 2020, and he is now stacked up against two tight ends who Meyer, Trent Baalke and tight ends coach Tyler Bowen have more or less handpicked to be on the roster. As a result, Davis is the team's No. 3 'Y' tight end until he can make
Chris Manhertz is the biggest investment the Jaguars made at tight end this offseason and is locked in as a starter, which was a fact even before he shined during OTAs and minicamp. Meanwhile, fifth-round draft pick Luke Farrell was drafted by this regime and has an extended history with Meyer since Meyer recruited him to Ohio State and also coached him during his early years as a Buckeye.
Davis had his moments during OTAs and minicamp, but he is on the outside looking in considering the investments the Jaguars have made elsewhere at the position.
No. 1 'F' TE: James O'Shaughnessy
It is clear who the Jaguars' top dog is in terms of receiving at the tight end position, at least to this point in the offseason. James O'Shaughnessy was the Jaguars' best pass-catching tight end on the roster entering offseason workouts and he looked the part throughout OTAs and minicamps, showing off impressive speed downfield and solid hands throughout the course of the summer.
"I think O’Shag [James O’Shaughnessy], I really like what he’s doing," Bevell said last week. "It’s a good room and a lot of competition there.”
As of now, the question isn't whether O'Shaughnessy will play a role in the Jaguars' offense. He will be utilized as a pass-catcher because as things stand today, he is their best in-house option. He has earned praise from Meyer throughout the offseason as well, so it is clear he will see some playing time. The question instead is just how big of a role will he play considering the Jaguars' other options at receiver and at tight end with Manhertz.
No. 2 'F' TE: Ben Ellefson
A second-year backup who saw playing time as an undrafted free agent last season, Ben Ellefson was a favorite of the previous coaching staff due to his practice habits and his blend of athletic traits. He saw only four targets as a rookie and was essentially just a blocker for Jay Gruden's scheme, but he has made an impression on the Jaguars' new staff.
Ellefson, along with O'Shaughnessy, have been pointed out by Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer as impressive performers this offseason. Ellefson has looked quick as a route runner and has the size and speed combination the team needs at the position as a backup option. He has also caught the eye of Meyer.
“Well, I think I mentioned earlier that [James] O’Shaughnessy and [Ben] Ellefson have been—they’re two of the most improved really on the team," Meyer said last week. "When you watch last year’s film compared to this year, what I saw early in phase two, was very much improved. We’re still not where we need to be at that room right now, but we’re getting closer.”
No. 3 'F' TE: Tim Tebow
While Tim Tebow comes in at No. 3 for the team's 'F' tight end position, it is likely that this could be said for any other tight end they added to the 90-man roster this summer via free agency considering the context of the position. O'Shaughnessy and Ellefson have both been singled out by the Jaguars' staff as two of the team's most improved players, so it is hard for Tebow to leap either of them in any scenario barring injuries.
To Tebow's credit, he has earned praise from teammates and coaches for his work ethic and to this point has been a minimal distraction and a non-story. That is in part because he is behind two tight ends who are flashing and in part because it is still clear how early he is in his switch to the tight end position. Tebow has shown good hands this offseason, but the other aspects of the position are still a work in progress. If Tebow surprises when pads come on, a conversation will have to be had. But for now, he is third at this position in part due to his rawness but mostly due to how impressive his two teammates have been.