JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jaguars travel to South Florida to face the Dolphins Sunday. Miami is still in the playoff chase at 7-7, while the Jaguars can only play the role of spoiler. At this point in the season, player development for the future is more important than a win. Here are the four players I’ll be watching closely to see how they develop:
David Williams--The rookie running back from Arkansas was plucked off the Denver Broncos practice squad this season and he showed some promise Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Williams ran five times for 32 yards, including a 15 yard gallop. Doug Marrone said after the game the reason Williams was active and Carlos Hyde was not was because Williams had worked hard in practice and Marrone didn’t think the drop-off from Hyde to Williams would be very much. The Jaguars are likely to lose T.J. Yeldon in free agency this off-season and Williams might be able to fill that role next year. Consider this an audition.
Nick DeLuca--DeLuca made himself known with three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble Sunday in just 20 snaps on defense. The past two weeks, DeLuca has been used at linebacker. Again, it’s an audition for the four-time national champion from North Dakota State.
Taven Bryan--The Jaguars haven’t gotten value out of their first-round pick this year. In the first nine weeks of the season, Bryan played more than 20 defensive snaps only once. In the last five weeks, he has played more than 20 snaps on defense every game. Against Washington, Bryan recorded a tackle for loss that was initially called a sack. It would have been his first sack as a professional. The former Gator told me that he is much more comfortable playing the 3-technique position, rather than the defensive end spot where he has played as well. So far, Bryan has failed to live up to his draft position and the Jaguars brass needs to know if he is someone they can rely on as a backup going into next year.
Dede Westbrook--It’s not much of a stretch to say that Westbrook has been the brightest spot on the Jaguars’ offense over the past two months. His punt return for a touchdown Sunday was the latest big play turned in by the second-year receiver. Westbrook leads the team with six total touchdowns. The key question for the Jaguars to answer going into the offseason is whether Westbrook can be a starting wide receiver. In my opinion, if Westbrook is your No. 3 receiver, you are in great shape. If he is the No. 2, then the Jaguars would need an upgrade at the No. 1 receiver position to make the receiver corps something to contend with.
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