5 Jaguars bubble players who have earned a roster spot

The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t have a ton of roster turnover during the 2023 offseason. The team kept 21 of its 22 starters, allowing only offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor to leave in free agency.

Even backups like C.J. Beathard, JaMycal Hasty, Adam Gotsis, and others were brought back. That left very little room for newcomers and other bubble players to earn spots on one of the NFL’s deeper rosters.

These five Jaguars players entered August seemingly in a fight for a place on the team’s 53-man roster. But with cutdown day coming Tuesday they now have little to worry about after securing their spots in camp and preseason:

CB Gregory Junior

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

The Jaguars hoped to see some standouts emerge from their bevy of cornerbacks picked late in the 2022 and 2023 NFL drafts. Junior rose to the occasion.

The 2022 sixth-rounder put together a strong training camp and preseason, and made a strong push for the starting slot cornerback role. It seems Tre Herndon III probably held off Junior, but the second-year corner left no doubt about his place on the roster.

OL Blake Hance

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Hance has played for six different NFL teams since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019. While the veteran spent half the 2022 season with the Jaguars after getting claimed off waivers in November, he didn’t particularly standout as a roster lock.

However, a strong camp coupled with a few injuries on the line pushed Hance to the top of the depth chart for much of August. Now that Ben Bartch is back from the PUP list, Hance is no longer a starter. But his place on the 53-man roster looks secure.

“Hance is probably that guy,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said last week when asked who will be the team’s swing tackle in 2023. “We got to see where Bartch and [Tyler] Shatley pan out, see where Josh [Wells] is at with his health. Right now, if this were Week 1, it would be Blake.”

RB D'Ernest Johnson

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

The former Cleveland Browns back joined the Jaguars as a free agent in March, but his place in the backfield was immediately cast into doubt when the team added Tank Bigsby in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft.

Johnson has spent most of camp fourth on the depth chart behind Travis Etienne Jr., Bigsby, and JaMycal Hasty. While it was always possible that the Jaguars would keep four backs, Johnson secured his place by showing more than Hasty in August.

In three preseason games, he picked up 93 yards and scored three touchdowns on 17 carries (5.5 yards per carry). What was most telling was Johnson getting touches late in the first half with the second-tea against the Dolphins, while Hasty handled second half duties with the third unit.

DL Jeremiah Ledbetter

Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The list of players across the entire NFL who had a better preseason this August than Ledbetter is awfully short.

The 29-year-old defensive lineman has been with the Jaguars since 2021, but has seen the field for just 11 regular snaps with the team. That appears set to change in 2023 for Ledbetter.

With DaVon Hamilton dealing with a back problem, Pederson has already said that the team will lean on Ledbetter and Adam Gotsis in his absence. On Saturday, Ledbetter and Gotsis were both starters with Folorunso Fatukasi also sidelined.

TE Gerrit Prince

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars carried four tight ends through the 2022 season (Evan Engram, Chris Manhertz, Dan Arnold, Luke Farrell), but it wasn’t clear that they’d do it again after allowing both Manhertz and Arnold to leave. Prince has made keeping four into the 2023 season an easy choice, though.

The 2022 undrafted addition shined in training camp and — while he didn’t put up big numbers as a pass catcher in preseason — his 69.2 special teams grade on PFF this preseason was among the best on the team.

Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire