It won’t take long to see where the battles for roster spots are taking place when the Jaguars take on Washington Thursday night. With 75 players on the roster and cuts to just 53 due by Saturday at 4pm, coaches want to take one last, long look at several positions to determine who will be there to open the season against Carolina on September 13th and who will be going elsewhere.
Not all of the roster moves will involve cutting a player. Some will be stashed on injured reserve, meaning they’re unavailable for the rest of the year but remain part of the team. Others will be placed on the practice squad, meaning staying with the team, practicing and going to meetings every day but at a reduced salary. Those players are hoping for a call up to the active roster and not just to the Jaguars. If any practice squad player is called up, he must go onto that teams active, 53-man roster. That means a chance to play and a real game check. (NFL players are paid 17 times during the season, 1/17th of their negotiated salary)
Other players will be outright released and given a chance to catch on elsewhere. Every team must be down to 53 by Saturday’s deadline, so the Jaguars will be looking at the players cut by other teams to see if they can upgrade their roster. Making it to Saturday doesn’t mean you’re on the team. By practice Monday, the roster for game one should be set.
Against Washington, there are several perceived head-to-head battles that could result in one player making the team and the other looking for work.
At wide receiver, Tony Washington and Bryan Walters seem to be vying for the final spot at that position. Walters can also return punts and as Gus Bradley has said many times in camp, “You know you can trust him.” Washington was on the Jaguars practice squad last year and has been called, “Maybe the best route runner in the group,” by wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan. This will be a close call.
Two familiar names appear to be competing for the same spot on the offensive line. Austin Pasztor and Sam Young have seen playing time with the Jaguars over the past two years with Pasztor capable of playing guard and tackle. Young was originally a draft pick while Pasztor has fought his way into the league as a free agent. Both are capable backups in the league that are getting better. Both will have jobs in the NFL somewhere, if not here, this season.
It’s a little different at running back where second year player Storm Johnson and rookie Corey Grant are locked in a battle for the final job at that position. Johnson was a 7th round pick of the Jaguars last year while Grant was picked up as an undrafted free agent this season. Prior to camp, General Manager Dave Caldwell said the team could keep five running backs on the roster because they won’t carry a fullback. T.J. Yeldon, Denard Robinson, Toby Gerhart and Bernard Pierce seem to have the top four spots, leaving one for two players. Johnson has had some injury issues in his year with the team. Grant on the other hand, has blazing speed and can return kicks equally as well as Johnson at this point in his career. If the Jaguars didn’t have a draft pick invested in Johnson, Grant would most likely have this spot wrapped up but for now, it’ll be another close call.
Don’t expect to see the starters much, if at all. Bradley has said he’ll know if he made the right decision or not to keep them out of this game “if they’re sharp against Carolina.” Washington has a set of it’s own problems, starting at quarterback where they have $16 million wrapped up in Robert Griffin III for this year but have named Kirk Cousins the starter. Last year the Jaguars gave away their game at FedEx Field, Chad Henne suffering 10 sacks in the second game of the year, a 41-10 loss that dropped thw Jaguars to 0-2.
The game can be seen on Channel 4 at 7:30 with a live pregame show beginning at 7pm.