Just two games stand between the Jacksonville Jaguars and their shot to make some sparks fly in the 2022 regular season. With so much young talent on the roster and a new coaching staff ready to prove their doubters wrong, the preseason is a perfect chance for the team to hone their craft and form a cohesive unit before the games count.
As it stands, the 85 players under contract in Jacksonville all have a chip on their collective shoulders as they look to improve on their wasted 2021 campaign. Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers could prove to be an opportunity to really show some life against a legitimately challenging opponent.
Here are four players that could use a huge performance to justify a spot on the final 53-man roster in September:
WR Laquon Treadwell
Treadwell was once considered a top prospect in college football but has floundered in his five years at the NFL level. His status as a former first-round pick has likely bought him more time in the pros than raw stats would justify, but he has a legitimate shot to be a contributor for the Jaguars this season if he flashes in the preseason.
The Jaguars went all-in on Christian Kirk and Evan Ingram in the offseason to beef up their pass attack, but the lanky Treadwell could prove to be their best value-option at receiver if he can return to the form he showed at Ole Miss so long ago. After spending 2021 on Jacksonville’s practice squad and seeing minimal action when elevated to the 53-man roster late in the season, Treadwell is still fighting for a chance to become a consistent playmaker.
Listed behind Kirk, Zay Jones, and Marvin Jones Jr. on Jacksonville’s depth chart, he will have to put on a show in the next few weeks to justify a significant role in the offense.
DE Arden Key
Another SEC stud turned NFL dud is defensive end Arden Key, who signed with the Jaguars in the offseason as part of the team’s rebuild effort on defense. He hasn’t been nearly as productive at the pro level as some analysts had predicted he’d be when he declared for the draft in 2018, but that doesn’t mean there he is necessarily a lost cause.
Entering his fifth year in the NFL as a 26-year-old veteran, Key is in fierce competition with Dawuane Smoot and Adam Gotsis for a role as a rotational pass rusher entering Saturday’s game. With a couple of sacks or nice plays off the edge against the run, he could force the coaching staff to consider taking a shot at playing him in more situations on defense.
QB EJ Perry
One of the most intriguing quarterback prospects in this year’s draft class, Perry has all the tools to make it as a backup in the NFL and could end up taking over Ryan Fitzpatrick’s role as the league’s foremost Ivy League quarterback if he makes the Jaguars final roster. After transferring to Brown from Boston College for the 2019 season, Perry tore up FCS competition for the Bears during his time in Providence.
While it is unlikely that he’ll beat out veteran backup C.J. Beathard for the number two spot on the depth chart, Perry could force the Jaguars’ hand to keep him on the final roster with a big performance against Pittsburgh. He tested out as one of the most athletic signal callers in his class at the combine, and with some big plays in the ground game could make waves as a versatile candidate for a bigger role in the future.
CB Montaric Brown
Seventh-round picks aren’t usually expected to make much noise in their first season, but this wiry corner has the chance to do something special in Jacksonville if he can manage to get enough snaps in the preseason to justify meaningful playing time come September. A breakout redshirt-senior season at Arkansas put Montaric Brown on the map as one of the premier ballhawks in this year’s draft, and could prove he is better than his draft slot would indicate with an interception on Saturday.
He saw action in just over half of the Jaguars’ defensive snaps last week against Cleveland with 28 downs played, which led the team’s rookies in raw usage. The coaching staff certainly seems to think they have something in him, so a big performance against Pittsburgh would surely help him compete for a higher spot on Jacksonville’s depth chart.