Jaguars Depth Chart…Denard Robinson is EVERYWHERE

Denard Robinson mini-camp

by Cole Pepper
August 5, 2013

In advance of the Jaguars preseason opener against the Dolphins on Friday, the team released its “unofficial depth chart.”

And Denard Robinson is all over it.

Robinson is listed as the 5th wide receiver on one side (behind Justin Blackmon, Ace Sanders, Jordan Shipley and Tobais Palmer), the third running back (behind Maurice Jones-Drew and Justin Forsett) and as the fifth quarterback (behind Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, who are listed as co-number ones on the depth chart, Mike Kafka and Matt Scott.

During training camp, Robinson has lined up at all three positions. He is listed on the Jaguars roster as OW (offensive weapon) a position that the NFL doesn’t officially recognize. However, it must be pointed out that the NFL also does not recognize the LEO position that the Jaguars utilize to signify the open side defensive end. Jason Babin is the starter at that position for the Jaguars.

Other interesting notes from the depth chart:

  • Mike Brown is listed ahead of Moahed Massaquoi as Cecil Shorts’ backup.
  • Rookie Lonnie Prior is the backup at fullback behind Will Tu’ufo’ou.
  • Tyson Alualu is listed as the starter at left defensive end, ahead of Jeremy Mincey.
  • Alan Ball is the starter at right cornerback, no surprise there. But Mike Harris is listed as the #2 ahead of Marcus Trufant, who was signed as a free agent from Seattle, where he played for Gus Bradley.
  • Despite not working in training camp due to a hamstring injury, rookie Johnathan Cyprien is listed as the starer at strong safety ahead of Chris Prosinski.
  • Jordan Todman is listed as the starting kick returner ahead of Denard Robinson.
  • Jordan Shipley is listed as the #1 punt returner ahead of Ace Sanders.
  • In case you were wondering, the long snapper depth chart looks like this: Jeremy Cain, Carson Tinker, Luke Ingram.

Top 10 Questions for Jaguars

Gus Bradley smiling
Will this man still be smiling at the end of the 2013 season?

by Cole Pepper

With training camp right around the corner the main theme with the Jaguars is new.  As in, new coach, new GM, new schemes on offense and defense, new uniforms, helmets and logos.

While much is new, one thing that is not is that the Jaguars must find a way to return to playoff contention. They haven’t played a post-season game since 2007 and haven’t hosted a playoff game in 14 years.

With camp about to open, here are the top 10 questions facing the Jaguars:

  1. The Quarterback-It’s a question that has been asked by the Jaguars since Mark Brunell’s last year. Some years, they knew who the quarterback would be, but not if he was THE guy. Heading into 2013, Blaine Gabbert has the inside position, but is certainly no lock for the starting job. This season will either be the first of Gabbert’s reign as THE guy, or the last before the Jaguars draft THE guy (or at least, the guy they hope will be THE guy).
  2. Pass Rush-The Jaguars have lacked a consistent pass rusher since Tony Brackens’ retirement. Can Jason Babin be a double digit sack man for the Jaguars? Can they develop a pass rush from other sides of the line. Gus Bradley wasn’t a big proponent of the blitz in Seattle. It comes down to the Jaguars getting pressure with the front four.
  3. Gus Bradley’s impact on approach-Bradley’s energy and enthusiasm are obvious. Will that translate into results? Also, how will Bradley’s positive vibe hold up if the Jaguars struggle early (a possibility with four of the first six games on the road)? My guess is that it will still be there, because Bradley isn’t faking the positive attitude, but he’s never lost a game as a head coach, and things can change when you are in the big chair.
  4. Will Justin Blackmon’s suspension hurt the offense? This is almost a given that it will, in some way. Cecil Shorts will see more double teams as Blackmon misses the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on controlled substances. Part two of this question is whether the suspension will affect Blackmon’s game when he comes back. Year two is usually an important one for highly regarded young receivers.
  5. Is Luke Joeckel for real? All indications are that he is, but we haven’t seen him against NFL defenses in pads. There will be a spotlight on Joeckel for each of his preseason games. But when the regular season begins, we’ll be able to judge where he is as a rookie.
  6. Can Denard Robinson and/or Ace Sanders make a difference? If I was pinned down, I would bet that Robinson would have more “WOW” plays, but that Sanders would make more plays. Still, Robinson has the kind of speed and obvious athletic ability to make jaw dropping plays, if he stays healthy. He’ll also be learning a new position and new responsibilities like pass protection and catching the football.
  7. Will Maurice Jones-Drew return to form after foot surgery? Eventually, I think the answer will be yes, but since Jones-Drew didn’t participate in team drills during the off-season, it’s tough to predict that he won’t have any rust as the preseason begins.
  8. Can Marcedes Lewis be a factor in the passing game again? Part of this equation is Luke Joeckel. Lewis was the de facto second right tackle last year. If Joeckel lives up to expectations, Lewis should absolutely be a bigger factor. If the pass protection is better, and if the Jaguars quarterback (whoever that is) plays better, Lewis can still be a valuable weapon, especially down the seam and in the red zone.
  9. Is Cecil Shorts for real? I think the answer to this is yes, but we’ll certainly have a good litmus test in the first four games when Justin Blackmon is serving his suspension. Shorts has the kind of attitude that will fit perfectly with Gus Bradley’s “get better every day” credo. As a former quarterback, Shorts has made learning the wide receiver position a central tenant of his approach to the game. Perhaps the better question here is not whether Shorts is for real, but how good will he be?
  10. What will it take for this season to be a success? Ask 100 people, you might get 100 answers to this question. Is it a matter of the win/loss record? What about just showing improvement? Or figuring out whether Gabbert is the quarterback to take your team to the post-season in the future.  I asked someone this question the other day and they said 6-10 would be a success. My follow up was “so winning three more games than the previous year isn’t a success?” He scratched his head and then admitted that it would be. What about 4 wins? 3 wins? Tough to call those a success, unless that allows you to draft your quarterback of the future in the first round.

These questions won’t be fully answered when training camp begins, but we will get the first hints of the answers very soon.

What Else Could Denard Robinson’s “OW” Stand For?

Denard Robinson mini-camp

by Cole Pepper

The Jaguars have done something that has never been seen on an NFL roster, listing Denard Robinson as an OW under his position, ostensibly as “Offensive Weapon.”

But could it mean something else?

Optimistic Wideout-Yes, he’s been taking snaps at running back, but maybe he really believes in his receiving ability.
Obviously Weathered-probably not…but give him some time in the Jacksonville sun during training camp and then see what you think.
Oxford Wearer-Perhaps not when he was drafted, but now that he has his signing bonus, maybe he’ll step up his fashion game. (insert draft video)
Obvious Winner-although folks in Columbus may have a different opinion.
Over Weight-sorry, that may just be me.
Occult Worshiper-This would be a real shot at the pro-Tebow crowd.
Outside Warlock-just don’t ask him to cast a spell indoors.Orenthal….never mind, we’ve had too much NFL murder investigations for one week.

What Will Jaguars Offense Look Like?

Jedd Fisch2

(photo: Jaguars.com)

by Cole Pepper

If you are an NFL owner and you want a traditional NFL team, you hire a traditional NFL coach with experienced NFL assistants.

That’s not what Shad Khan did when he hired first time head coach Gus Bradley. And it’s conventional was certainly not what Bradley had in mind when he chose 37-year old Jedd Fisch as his offensive coordinator.

Bradley could have hired a former head coach looking for another shot or a retread offensive coordinator looking for another chance after being, say a quarterbacks coach on another NFL team.

Instead, he plucked Fisch from the University of Miami to install a more innovative offense in Jacksonville. So what will Fisch’s offense look like?

When I spoke with Fisch last week, he used several golf analogies to describe the process of building and installing the offense. Picture every player as a golf club and Fisch wants to find out who does what well.

“We treat it like a driving rang. Let’s try all of our different clubs out,” Fisch said. “Let’s put the flag at 150 and see what we want to hit. Let’s see if this guy can run this route, let’s see if this guy can handle this, let’s see if this guy can make this throw.”

The Jaguars have a number of players with quarterback experience on their roster. Cecil Shorts began his college career as a quarterback, rookie Denard Robinson spent most of his career at Michigan as a quarterback. Add to the list the quick-twitch ability of WR/KR Ace Sanders and speedy running back Justin Forsett and you have a lot of ingredients. The question is, how will they all work together?

“We have an athletic group of guys,” said Fisch. “We have a lot of different skill sets. Then you have to figure out what they do best.”

When I asked Fisch about the diminishing role of the fullback and the move to the smaller, more athletic tight end (unlike Marcedes Lewis, who plays a more traditional style of tight end), Fisch referenced some teams that had a great deal of success last year, and in the recent past.

“I do see New England using the tight end pretty well and I saw Baltimore and San Francisco use their full back pretty good, so I think that it’s just a matter of what you want to do,” Fisch said. “The way we run the football, the fullback is very involved. The way we throw the ball, the tight end is very involved. We’re excited to use these guys and most importantly, we want to take the mindset use whoever we have in the best possible position and not have one of the best 11 sitting next to us.”

Veteran center Brad Meester told me that the pace of the offense and the different looks they’ll be able to show defenses will be an advantage. Still, it all boils down to quarterback play. And in Jacksonville, the question is unanswered: who will be the starting quarterback? Perhaps even more importantly, how well will the quarterback play?

You can run all of the gadget plays, show multiple formations and run an up-tempo offense all you like, but if the quarterback doesn’t play at a high level, you aren’t likely to win the modern NFL.

For Fisch, innovation must be joined by execution. During the recent OTAs, Fisch said that the quarterbacks have been executing, throwing onl six interceptions in between 450 and 500 passes. He would take those numbers in the regular season.

So the answer the question: what will the Jaguars offense look like? We can’t say for sure yet, because Jedd Fisch is still determining that. But we can say this, it won’t look like the offense of the past several years in design. The Jaguars hope it won’t look that way in output, either.

Jaguars Off-season Analysis: Running Backs

by Cole Pepper

Cole interviews Mojo cropped

For starters, there is the question of just how valuable a running back is in today’s NFL. Here is a list of the top 10 rushers from the 2012 NFL season:

  1. Adrian Peterson-Minnesota
  2. Alfred Morris-Washington
  3. Marshawn Lynch-Seattle
  4. Jamaal Charles-Kansas City
  5. Doug Martin-Tampa Bay
  6. Arian Foster-Houston
  7. Stevan Ridley-New England
  8. C.J. Spiller-Buffalo
  9. Chris Johnson-Tennessee
  10. Frank Gore-San Francisco

Among that list, six running backs led their teams to the playoffs. It can be argued that only Foster and Peterson truly “led” their teams. New England was more pass oriented teams and San Francisco, Seattle and Washington had running quarterbacks to bolster the running games.

It also should be pointed out that the top three rushers all made the playoffs with first or second year quarterbacks.

That’s doesn’t mean that a great running back doesn’t help, but unlike 10 years ago, it’s much less of a guarantee of team success. It wasn’t that long ago that having a top 10 rusher all but assured a team of being a playoff contender.

There are many studies about how running backs tend to do as they age. This one has a rather startling breakdown. Running backs under 27 tend to improve, running backs over 27 decline.

Which brings us to the Jaguars most recognizable player, 28 year old Maurice Jones-Drew. Not only is Jones-Drew beyond the age barrier, but he’s also coming off surgery on his foot. What does this all mean for the Jaguars? It means that while they need to find some young legs to help in the running game, they also need to find some consistency at quarterback (more on that in a later post).

There has rarely been a player more explosive on the field or more controversial in a Jaguars uniform. Not controversial like Terrell Owens or Randy Moss (although the recent incident in St. Augustine may suggest otherwise, let’s see how it plays out), but Jones-Drew has been outspoken from the beginning. He chose the uniform number 32 to remind him and anyone else who would listen that 32 teams passed on taking him in the first round.

Jones-Drew may be one of the five greatest players in Jaguars history already, but Gus Bradley can’t expect a 1,500 yard season out of Drew at this point in his career. So where will the yards come from?

It’s too early to predict how Jones-Drew will play after recovering from the surgery, but I expect that he will still be a effective, if not explosive player with the ball in his hands.

The Jaguars signed former Texan backup Justin Forsett in free agency. He has shown the ability to be a solid contributor in certain roles, but he’s never been the lead back and he’s not expected to handle that role this year.

Perhaps no player has generated as much buzz this off-season for the Jaguars as Denard Robinson. The former Michigan quarterback will be used as a running back, but don’t be surprised if he lines up all over the field from time to time: as a wide receiver, in the slot, even taking snaps from center. His speed is tantalizing. The question mark is whether he’ll become the kind of impact player with 10-12 touches a game that Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch envison. Robinson will also be tried out returning kickoffs.

One of the many veteran departures is Greg Jones. Let go by the Jaguars this off-season. He was a reliable a blocking back as there is in the league.

In Jones’ place, the Jaguars will insert another former Florida State Seminole, Lonnie Pryor. Unlike Jones, who was a featured runner in college, Pryor was a blocker first, runner second. The Jaguars like what they’ve seen from him so far, but my expectation is that we’ll see fewer snaps with a fullback on the field this year than in the past.

Defining Success: For this position group, success is going to be measured largely on two points. First, how close is Maurice Jones-Drew to his “old” self? If he plays like he did before the injury, that will be a big boost for the Jaguars. If not, they’ll have to find someone to run between the tackles. Second, how much of a factor will Robinson be as a rookie. If the Jaguars get three or four explosive plays a game from Robinson, consider it a success.

Jaguars Projected Running Backs Depth Chart:

RB Depth chart