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Jaguars could opt to put Tim Tebow on practice squad to learn tight end position

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During the Jaguars' offseason program, coach Urban Meyer didn't think it was necessary to issue official depth charts or put much focus on winning or losing when the offense competed against the defense.

But when the Jaguars reconvene for training camp in five weeks, position battles will take center stage. And one of the more competitive battles will be at tight end.

Perhaps the most significant point of interest will be whether Tim Tebow can make the 53-man roster.

He has never played tight end before in his career and has not been on an NFL team since 2015, when he failed to make the Philadelphia Eagles' final roster for the regular season.

Yet Tebow is reunited with Meyer, who coached him at Florida from 2006-09. A Heisman Trophy winner in 2007, Tebow helped the Gators win two national championships as their starting quarterback.

But now he is no different than an undrafted rookie trying to capture the attention of the coaching staff. Tebow, 33, is among six tight ends who will be vying for potentially three or four spots on the Jaguars' roster.

''We all know this is a new position for him,'' Meyer said during the final week of organized team activity practices. ''You wish you could see and do more. In spring football you have full pads and scrimmages, and you can really evaluate, but it’s kind of tough right now. But he’s a great teammate. He’s picked it up decently.”

Jaguars tight end Tim Tebow participates in passing drills during minicamp.
Jaguars tight end Tim Tebow participates in passing drills during minicamp.

Still there are no assurances if Tebow is good enough to earn a roster spot. After last season's final training camp cuts, the Jaguars kept only three tight ends — Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy and Tyler Davis.

Another potential option for the Jaguars could be to release Tebow and then re-sign him to the practice squad. Like last season, two practice squad players can be called up each week to the game-day roster.

The Jaguars' training camp, which opens July 27, will begin with 90 players. But the roster must be down to 85 players by Aug. 17 after the Jaguars' preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns. The roster must be down to 80 by Aug. 24, a day after they play their second preseason game at New Orleans. The final cut down to 53 players is by Aug. 31 after their third and final preseason game against the Cowboys on Aug. 29.

Six-year veteran Chris Manhertz, who was signed in free agency this spring to a two-year, $7.25 million contract, and O'Shaughnessy appear to be locked to make the team.

A fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft, Luke Farrell, is also likely to make the team.

6 tight ends could be vying for 3 of 4 spots

After those three, it could come down to Tebow battling for a spot with Davis and Ben Ellefson, who was on the practice squad last season. After the offseason program, Ellefson looked to be ahead of Tebow after drawing repeated praise from the coaches. Davis also had a strong offseason.

Jaguars (80) TE James O'Shaughnessy and (85) TE Tim Tebow on the field during a break between drills at Thursday's OTA session. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)
Jaguars (80) TE James O'Shaughnessy and (85) TE Tim Tebow on the field during a break between drills at Thursday's OTA session. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)

Meyer said O’Shaughnessy and Ellefson have been the "two of the most improved really on the team. When you watch last year’s film compared to this year, what I saw early in phase two, was very much improved.''

Determining who stays or goes could come down to who makes the biggest impact during the three-game preseason. What's for certain is that once the pads come on in training camp, Meyer and his assistants will be able to get a more thorough evaluation. In the offseason program, all of the work on the field was non-contact in helmets and shorts.

However, O'Shaughnessy flashed the ability to get open deep, Ellefson's route running stood out and Tebow didn't drop a pass during the open practices to the media.

''Some of the things that the tight end position is asked to do is really not going to show up in a camp like this,'' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ''It’s a physical position, it’s part offensive line and it’s part wide receiver. So some of the stuff is not going to be able to show up, but it’s a much-improved room from top to bottom.

''Ellefson is doing a great job, we have Tyler doing a great job," he continued. "I think O’Shaugn, I really like what he’s doing. It’s a good room and a lot of competition there.”

Strong praises Tim Tebow

Assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong praised Tebow for the way he handled himself during the offseason, especially with all the attention generated regarding his NFL comeback attempt.

''I think he’s done a very good job of just handling himself and just embracing it,'' said Strong, who was on Meyer's staff at Florida when Tebow played. ''What you wonder a lot of times when you get a player like that who’s been away from it is how is he going to be accepted in the locker room, and I think the players have done an unbelievable job at just taking him in.

''He’s handled himself the right way too and he wasn’t one of those guys who tried to push himself on them," Strong added. "He just let everything happen and he’s done a very good job at that.''

No invite for Tebow to 'Tight End University'

Tebow could have benefitted this week in Nashville, Tenn., by participating in the ''Tight End University,'' where most of the top tight ends in the NFL are gathered to train together and share knowledge.

Tebow, however, did not get an invite from organizers George Kittle, who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, and retired tight end Greg Olsen.

On the "Pardon My Take" podcast, Kittle said they have limitations on how many tight ends could be invited because of limited hotel space.

"I wish nothing but the best for Tim Tebow, and I hope he has a fantastic season playing tight end, but it's hard for me not to invite a backup tight end on, let's say the New York Giants, as opposed to inviting a guy who just started playing the tight end position because we do have limited spots," Kittle said.

Before Tebow was extended a contract, Meyer said the tight end room was in need of a rebuild. Yet with camp just more than a month away from opening, the Jaguars still lack a proven go-to caliber pass-catching tight end.

They went without getting one in free agency or the draft. Manhertz has only 12 career catches since 2016. And during Farrell's four seasons at Ohio State, he was primarily a blocker and special-teams player. However, Farrell was recruited by Meyer in high school when he coached at Ohio State.

It's likely Jaguars will make do with what they have at tight end. However, there's been speculation they could explore the market to make a trade to acquire the Eagles' three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, who wants out of Philadelphia.

Jacksonville appears to have enough talent at wide receiver, especially Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault, to offset the void at tight end to help franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence to maximize the passing game.

''We’re still not where we need to be at that [tight end] room right now, but we’re getting closer.” Meyer said.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Tim Tebow: Jaguars could put him on practice squad to learn tight end