Jaguars Roster Analysis

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

53-man roster projections as of Aug. 26

Quarterback (3)

-- Projected starter: Mark Brunell or David Garrard.

-- Backups: Byron Leftwich, Quinn Gray.

-- Analysis: The Jaguars reportedly offered Brunell in a trade after the third preseason game and might release him as part of a money-saving youth movement. If Brunell is cut, Garrard appears likely to get the starting nod over Leftwich -- the team's quarterback of the future -- because of Leftwich's inexperience. Garrard has a live arm and is extremely mobile. And, at a strapping 235 pounds, he can withstand the punishment that could be forthcoming behind an unsettled offensive line. Leftwich doesn't appear suited for the West Coast offense but showed in the preseason that he is a heady player with a strong arm and leadership skills. Gray, a former undrafted free agent from Florida A&M, also has a good arm and made the most of his second training camp with the Jaguars.

Running back (5)

-- Projected starters: Fred Taylor (running back), Marc Edwards (fullback).

-- Backups: LaBrandon Toefield, Joe Smith, Malaefou MacKenzie.

-- Analysis: Taylor played in all 16 regular-season games last year for the first time in his career and ran for 1,314 yards despite an injury-riddled offensive line. The Jaguars rewarded him with a new contract and an $8 million signing bonus, so it will be interesting to see how Taylor responds. Will there be a letdown? The Jaguars also must wonder about his durability with Stacey Mack no longer around to take the punishment of short-yardage duty. Toefield and Smith are rookies, but both showed impressive quickness and power in the preseason. Edwards was signed in free agency and, thanks to his receiving skills, already is the most versatile fullback in team history as well as a good fit for the West Coast offense. MacKenzie is a rookie and was hurt for part of training camp but -- like Edwards -- is versatile (he played running back, receiver and fullback in college) and has potential.

Wide receiver (7)

-- Projected starters: J.J. Stokes, Matthew Hatchette.

-- Backups: Donald Hayes, Jermaine Lewis, Micah Ross, Jimmy Redmond, Cortez Hankton.

-- Suspended list (Jaguars receive four-game roster exemption): Jimmy Smith.

-- Analysis: This position is the most unsettled because Smith, the Jaguars' all-time leading receiver, will miss at least the first four regular-season games because of an NFL substance abuse suspension. The Jaguars will get a roster exemption during Smith's absence. Not having Smith also means that Stokes, a first-round disappointment in San Francisco, becomes the No. 1 receiver. His lack of speed makes Stokes ill-suited for that role, but the Jaguars' options are minimal. Hatchette has NFL experience and showed during the preseason that he can make the tough catch. Hayes has size at 6-4 but has bounced around and may not last longer than one season in Jacksonville. Lewis is a kick-return specialist whose receiving opportunities will be limited to keep him healthy. Ross and Hankton, a rookie, are inexperienced but showed the most potential of the young receivers in camp.

Tight end (3)

-- Projected starter: Kyle Brady.

-- Backups: Chris Luzar, George Wrighster.

-- Analysis: Brady, who took a pay cut in the preseason to stick with the Jaguars, was a Pro Bowl alternate last year and is one of the top blocking tight ends in the league. The West Coast offense also will afford him the chance to match or better the career-high 64 receptions he made in 2000. Luzar is a better blocker than a receiver and missed much of the preseason with a knee injury. Wrighster -- a fourth-round pick this year -- was inconsistent in training camp and the preseason games.

Offensive line (9)

-- Projected starters: Maurice Williams (right tackle), Chris Naeole (right guard), Brad Meester (center), Jamar Nesbit (left guard), Mike Pearson (left tackle). …