With the 2023 Hall of Fame game in the books, it won't be long before the Jacksonville Jaguars are taking the field for their first preseason game this Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys. When the team takes the field, it will give coaches their first opportunity to evaluate the roster in a game day setting as they will have to trim the roster to 53 players on Aug. 29.
For the most part, the Jags will have most of the starters from their 2022 roster returning, and the biggest question will be at offensive tackle as Cam Robinson will be suspended to open the season. Aside from that, most of the key roster decisions will involve the players who are on the team to provide depth, especially after the Jags drafted 13 players in April.
Typically, it's easier to wait until the first preseason game to decide who will make the team. However, we've decided to make things a little bit interesting and take an early guess at how the final 53-man roster could look. Based on the reports we've seen from training camp, here are our first predictions of the preseason:
Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
Thoughts: Lawrence will be entering his second season in Doug Pederson's offense and should take another huge step. The team brought Beathard back through a two-year extension, giving the Jags another quarterback who is familiar with the system. Canadian football standout Nathan Rourke should end up being the team's practice squad quarterback.
Running back (3)
Travis Etienne, Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
Thoughts: Fans would probably like to see one more player here, but the Jags are going to have to shorten their numbers somewhere. Doing it at the running back position makes sense, especially considering they initially went with three last year, too. We all saw the explosiveness Etienne brings to the mix, but now they have a hammer to compliment him for tough yardage situations with Bigsby. Johnson adds experience as he's heading into his fifth year and has played for the Cleveland Browns, a team that emphasizes running the ball.
Tight end (4)
Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Gerrit Prince, Luke Farrell
Thoughts: This is perhaps the deepest group the team has. Engram, who signed a new three-year deal last month, had the best year of his career last season under the Jags and should only get better. The team brought in Strange in the second round of April's draft to give them a dual-threat that can help them with blocking and in the passing game. He's had a good camp alongside Prince, who was an undrafted free-agent addition last year. With the way Pederson utilizes the tight end position, there should be room for another player to make the team with the top-3 options, and if so, it should be Farrell.
Wide receivers (6)
Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew, Parker Washington, Kevin Austin
Thoughts: Ridley has simply been the star of camp. Jones, Kirk and Agnew look like they won't miss a beat from what they displayed last year. Washington was a late round addition for the Jags in this year's draft and he's a player that can help them on special teams. Lastly, Austin has had an impressive camp, and the staff (Pederson included) has spoken highly of him. I considered throwing Elijah Cooks in the mix as the Jags WR6, too, but Austin's experience could give him the edge.
Offensive Line (9)
Walker Little, Tyler Shatley, Luke Fortner, Brandon Scherff, Anton Harrison, Josh Wells, Ben Bartch, Cole Van Lanen, Blake Hance
Thoughts: Robinson, as mentioned earlier, won't make the final 53-man roster because he's going to be suspended for the first four games. That makes things rather interesting, but Harrison and Little will be the bookends until he returns. While Bartch is recovering from a knee injury he sustained last regular season, he should be returning later in the preseason. If so, he's likely to make the team due to having several starts to his name. However, if he isn't starting, he should join Van Lanen, Wells and Hance as a backup.
Defensive line (6)
Roy Robertson-Harris, Foley Fatukasi, DaVon Hamilton, Adam Gotsis, Tyler Lacy, De'Shaan Dixon
Thoughts: Robertson-Harris and Hamilton were two players who the Jags gave new contracts to this offseason, and just as they did in 2022, both will see a significant amount of snaps on the field. Fatukasi wasn't able to stay healthy during his first season with the team, but he's back to 100% now, and he should help tremendously. Gotsis and Lacy would be good rotational pieces, especially when it comes to their abilities against the run (which is a specialty for AFC South offenses). Lastly, Dixon is a player the Jags approached about a position change (previously played outside linebacker) and he's had occasional flashes in camp.
Note: Dawuane Smoot may start the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. If so he would have to wait until October to be activated.
Outside linebacker (5)
Josh Allen, Travon Walker, Yasir Abdullah, Jordan Smith, K'Lavon Chaisson
Thoughts: The Jags obviously will enter this season with Allen and Walker as the starters on the edge -- and both must take a step forward for the Jags' defense to have a chance. While fans were hoping for more help on the edge, they did at least add Yasir Abdullah in the draft. He could be a third-down rusher for them throughout the regular season. Chaisson feels like a roster bubble player, but when considering his status as a former first-round pick, it's possible the Jags could remain patient with him for the last year of his contract.
Interior linebackers (5)
Foye Oluokun, Devin Lloyd, Chad Muma, Ventrell Miller, Shaquille Quarterman
Thoughts: The Jags have spent a significant amount of draft picks at this position over the last few years. Lloyd and Muma were drafted in the top-3 rounds last season and are expected to take a leap forward in 2023. However, Lloyd has especially been praised as a standout in camp. Oluokun, who led the league in tackles last season, will continue to be one of the leaders for this defense in 2023. Miller, who was drafted in April, should see significant special teams snaps and the same could be said about Quarterman.
Tyson Campbell, Darious Williams, Gregory Junior, Tre Herndon, Erick Hallett II
Thoughts: This is a position many may identify as a weakness for the Jags. Of course, they have a top-10 cornerback in Campbell and a No. 2 in Williams, who would be serviceable if he takes a leap in 2023, but things need to be figured out after them. There will be a battle at the nickel role between rookies Hallett and Christian Braswell, but it's unlikely that both will make the team. Hallett offers the most versatility, so that may give him the edge. Junior's name has also emerged in the conversation for the starting nickel role as he has impressed at camp. As for Herndon, while he still could make the team, he's probably a player they prefer to see on special teams.
Rayshawn Jenkins, Andre Cisco, Andrew Wingard, Antonio Johnson, Daniel Thomas
Thoughts: Unlike the cornerback position, the Jags appear to be pretty strong at safety. Jenkins, the veteran of the group, will lead the way alongside Cisco, who is entering Year 3 with the Jags. Cisco should only get better in 2023 as he started in 15 games for the Jags in 2022. Meanwhile, Johnson has impressed in camp and he offers versatility that could earn him a role as the starting nickel. Thomas and Wingard bring plenty of experience to the table and can come in as starters if the top options are injured. They are also players who have helped tremendously on special teams.
PK Brandon McManus, P Logan Cooke, LS Ross Matiscik
Thoughts: Cooke and Matiscik will be returning as starters, while McManus will be the new addition for the specialists. He'll be replacing Riley Patterson after the team signed him this summer to give them more leg strength.