Jaguars roster analysis: Young, inexperienced, lacking stars

Because of a rule change due to the pandemic, the practice squad will be comprised of 16 players, not just 10

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars set their roster at 53 after making cuts Saturday.

One thing is clear, whether you call it a rebuild, blowing up the roster, or a youth movement, this is a very young team, one that needs stars to emerge in 2020.

All 12 of the Jaguars draft picks made the team. So did four undrafted rookies. Add to that eight players who were rookies last year, and the Jaguars have 24 players out of 53 who have played one year in the NFL or fewer. That’s more than 45% of the roster.

In the quarterbacks room, Gardner Minshew II, entering his second year, is the old man, along with rookie Jake Luton.

“I was very surprised,” said News4Jax sports analyst Mark Brunell. “I’m a firm believer that if you have a young quarterback and in our case, we do have a young quarterback and Gardner Minshew. If you’re going to go into the season with him as your starter, you really should have experience at the backup quarterback position.”

When the Jaguars waived Leonard Fournette, it left them with free agent signee Chris Thompson, who, at 29 years old, is among the oldest Jaguars on the roster. Only 30-year-old defensive back D.J. Hayden, tight end Tyler Eifert, also 30, and 33-year-old fullback Bruce Miller are out of their 20s. Thompson is joined by Devine Ozigbo and James Robinson, who between them, have nine rushing attempts, all from Ozigbo in last year’s season finale against the Colts, the team the Jaguars will see in the opener.

“Before we decide where we are or where we stand, let us play some games, and let’s see where we are,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. “Let’s see how these young guys are and I know the 53 players in this locker room are excited to be here and are excited for their ability to go out there and put a good brand of football out there.”

On defense, the only players who figure to start in the same positions they did last year are defensive tackle Abry Jones, a part-time starter in 2019, cornerback Tre Herndon, and free safety Jarrod Wilson, who got his first starting experience in 2019. Where are the stars?

On offense, DJ Chark will look to build on his Pro Bowl season at wide receiver. Minshew will try to take the next step at quarterback. And on defense, Josh Allen has the unenviable burden of replacing Calais Campbell as the key pass rusher on the Jaguars, and as a leader in the locker room.

The Jaguars could start rookies at wide receiver, where Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson both flashed in the preseason, at running back, if they go with Robinson over Thompson and Ozigbo, at cornerback, where they spent a first-round pick on C.J. Henderson, and potentially at strong safety, where fifth-round pick Daniel Thomas has received good reviews.

For those rookies on defense, the season opener will be a baptism by fire with 38-year-old Philip Rivers quarterbacking Indianapolis this season.

“On a Monday, I would obviously go to the roster, and I would start with the secondary,” Brunell said. “How long have these guys played? Who are their veteran guys? Who’s somebody I can pick on? Is there a rookie starting somewhere? Because regardless of how good that rookie rut might be, he’s still a rookie. Teams will try to take advantage of that.”