The Jacksonville Jaguars will open training camp in a matter of weeks, arguably the most anticipated and important camp in franchise history. It will beckon the official start of a new era, an era led by Urban Meyer, Trevor Lawrence, and a host of other players and coaches who will work hard to reverse the Jaguars' fortunes and turn the franchise into a winner.
But as the Jaguars march toward their Week 1 bout against the Houston Texans, they will still have to sort out some important roles along their depth chart. From the quarterback room to the kicking game, the Jaguars are set to have a host of intense position battles throughout training camp.
As a result of these battles and other additions the Jaguars have made, it is immensely important for a few specific players to have impressive training camps. Which players will the spotlight be on the most? We weigh in here.
FS Jarrod Wilson
Jarrod Wilson has a lot to prove this August despite the fact that he has already been a steady contributor for the Jaguars for the past two seasons. In that span, the former undrafted free agent started 28 of 32 possible games and recording 148 tackles, seven pass deflections and three interceptions. He was a favorite of the previous staff for his knowledge of the defense, work ethic and communication skills. But while two of the Jaguars' former defensive backs coaches remain on the staff this year, Wilson still has to make a name for himself in training camp.
Wilson is potentially a victim to a crowded safety room, with the Jaguars signing Rayshawn Jenkins to be a starter, drafting Andre Cisco at No. 65 overall and the addition of Rudy Ford in free agency. Add in Josh Jones and Daniel Thomas making plays throughout OTAs and minicamp, and Wilson will have to make some plays himself to ensure he isn't in danger of being the odd man out. Wilson hasn't done anything wrong in terms of performance, the safety position has just become that crowded.
WR Collin Johnson
One of the Jaguars' best rookie performers down the stretch during the 2020 season was fifth-round wide receiver Collin Johnson. Now, Johnson's impressive 2020 flashes are just that and nothing more, and he has a new regime to impress. Johnson was one of the stars of training camp last season before taking the first half of the season to settle into his comfort zone in the offense. He will need another strong showing in this year's camp, but he will also need to hit the ground running when the season rolls around, at least compared to 2020.
Johnson has made plays in practice throughout the course of the offseason and has earned praise from the coaching staff for how he has attacked both practice and the team's sports performance program, but it still feels like he may be trailing Phillip Dorsett on the depth chart. If he doesn't have a strong showing at camp, he may get lost in the shuffle on the depth chart. If he does, he could get a chance to build upon an exciting rookie campaign.
TE Tim Tebow
Few players on the Jaguars' roster need to show more in training camp than tight end Tim Tebow, who is still in the early stages of his transition to tight end. Tebow has become less and less of a story the longer he has been on the Jaguars' roster, fading into the background and taking his place near the bottom of the Jaguars' tight end depth chart. As a result, Tebow didn't stand out as a player who would be an obvious candidate to make noise in August and push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Tebow got better over the course of OTAs and minicamp and showed legitimately solid hands, but he struggled with route running and with playing against contact in space. When the pads come on, we will truly know just how much Tebow belongs. If he struggles as the physicality increases, his spot on the roster will be in trouble. If he can look like he isn't out of place, then he may have a legitimate chance as a No. 4 or No. 5 tight end, though No. 5 makes the most sense.
DL Taven Bryan
The Jaguars' first-round pick in 2018 has been a disappointment up to this point in his career, but he has a chance to make a last ditch effort to flip the narrative upside down in training camp. He has one clear supporter in defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, but he still has to show enough in camp to earn a sizeable role in the fall. The Jaguars' staff can bet on his traits all they want, but it will be hard to justify him having a large role in a deep defensive line rotation if he doesn't look to improve on the field during camp.
Bryan is likely a safe bet to make the Jaguars' roster as the new staff tries to mine the athletic and physical talent he possesses and manifest it into production. But whether he can see snaps over the Jaguars' other talented defensive tackles, including young developmental players such as DaVon Hamilton and Jay Tufele, remains to be seen.
QB C.J. Beathard
The Jaguars have yet to name a starting quarterback, but the entire league and sports world knows it will be Trevor Lawrence taking snaps in Week 1. As a result, the only real competition the Jaguars have in their quarterback room is for the No. 2 role, serving as Lawrence's top backup as he navigates his rookie season. And so far, it is a competition that it looks like Beathard has been losing.
Beathard finished minicamp with a strong showing in practice but he was undoubtedly the Jaguars' third-best quarterback over the entire course of the offseason. The Jaguars paid Beathard a bit much to be a third-string quarterback, but Gardner Minshew II was consistently the better performer on the practice field and right now should be considered the favorite to be Lawrence's backup. If Beathard wants to change that reality, he is going to need to have a strong performance in camp.
The cornerback room has quickly become one of the most crowded positions for the Jaguars, with new additions such as Shaquill Griffin and Tyson Campbell shooting up to the top of the depth chart. Most of the cornerbacks the Jaguars played last season (outside of Sidney Jones and Tre Herndon) were rookies, which means the Jaguars' backups behind Jones, Herndon, Griffin, Campbell, and CJ Henderson will mostly be second-year players needing to take a step forward.
Chris Claybrooks flashed at times as an outside cornerback last season and has some of the best speed on the roster, but he will have to fend off fellow second-year cornerback Luq Barcoo and a host of other cornerbacks to find a spot on the Jaguars' roster. Barcoo and Claybrooks are both depth players who were not acquired by this regime, so both will have to impress in camp to carve out a role. This is all on top of the pressure Henderson is facing as a second-year former first-rounder. Henderson should be a starter in Week 1 considering his immense talent and the Jaguars' staff's comments on him throughout the offseason, but he will still have to earn that role on the field.
One of the best kickers in the NFL since he joined the Jaguars' roster in 2017, Josh Lambo is also arguably the most accurate kicker in franchise history. While all of this is still true, Lambo is still fighting for his job this season, with the veteran kicker having to fend off Aldrick Rosas for the starting kicking job. The two competed for the job throughout the offseason and it is likely the most interesting and impactful single position battle the Jaguars will have in training camp.
"The kicker situation, that’s exactly what that was. We have two guys that are very talented kickers, very talented. And we’re going to do that quite often before we have to make a decision," Meyer said during minicamp.
Lambo has been the more accurate and productive kicker throughout his career compared to Rosas, but he also dealt with a host of injuries last year that set the stage for the Jaguars having one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory in terms of kicking. The Jaguars trotted out kicker after kicker in 2020, and the team is making sure Lambo has to earn the job to ensure the same doesn't happen in 2021.