There will be a new coach, a new system and several positions up for grabs when the Jaguars begin training camp on Friday.
Here are three key position battles to keep an eye on as the Jaguars open camp:
1. No. 1 WR – Laurent Robinson vs. Justin Blackmon. After finishing last in the NFL in passing yards in 2011 (136.2 yds/gm), the Jaguars made upgrading their receivers the top priority in the offseason. They signed former Dallas Cowboy Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million deal and drafted Blackmon out of Oklahoma State with the No. 5 overall pick. Both have talent, but one needs to emerge as a true No. 1 target for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Robinson holds the advantage at the beginning of training camp. He averaged a touchdown per game in the Cowboys’ last nine contests in 2011 and finished the year with 858 receiving yards. Blackmon has the potential, however, he’ll have to finalize his contract and show consistency on and off the field.
2. DE – Andre Branch vs. George Selvie vs. Austen Lane vs. John Chick. Jeremy Mincey is penciled in at one defensive end spot, but the other is up for grabs after veteran Aaron Kampman was released in June. Second-round pick Branch out of Clemson will get a crack at it. The Jaguars liked him enough that he became only the fourth defensive end they’ve taken in the first two rounds in franchise history. Selvie, Lane and Chick only have 55 games of NFL experience between the three of them. Selvie has the most seniority with 27 games under his belt along with 27 tackles and two sacks.
3. CB – Rashean Mathis vs. Aaron Ross. Mathis is heading into his 10th season with the Jaguars and is a fan favorite who holds several franchise records. Despite that, he is coming off a torn ACL and will be 32 before the season starts. The Jaguars signed former New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth just over $15 million in the offseason. They’re not paying him that money to sit on the bench. With Derek Cox’s emergence as a consistent starter on one side, Ross and Mathis are left to battle it out for the other starting role.
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