At this point, there seems to be a sense of optimism from anyone close to the NFL and NFLPA's* negotiations concerning a new CBA. I've always believed that no football games would be missed, and I still hold firm to that belief. As such, we'll continue to operate under that assumption, and move forward ourselves.
With that belief, we can assume that training camps aren't all that far away, so; today we're highlighting positions and players to watch during training camp, and the pre-season. Some positions are obvious, while others may not be.
Quarterback: I'm personally hoping for a completely open competition that would include Luke McCown, however; that's not really likely. The focus will be on quarterbacks David Garrard and challenger Blaine Gabbert. This is likely the only battle that will attract any national attention to the Jaguars, and it's also probably the most interesting battle. I really believe that Garrard will be the starter week one, but if it's an open competition, Blaine Gabbert could steal the position, and the spotlight away.
Maurice Jones-Drew: I fully expect Jones-Drew to be 100% by the time he takes the field week 1, but if he has a hitch in training camp or pre-season, expect Jennings to get more carries.
Wide Receiver: Jason Hill will be the guy to watch before the season starts, and as the regular season progresses. He needs to step into the role that Gene Smith cast for him, or the Jaguars will struggle again with this group.
Offensive Tackle: Eugene Monroe needs to continue to develop into what we hope is the role of a franchise tackle. Eben Britton is coming off of an injury shortened season, and it'll be interesting to see how well he does early on.
Defensive End: Definitely the second most interesting position of interest. Will Derrick Harvey be cut? Will he make a comeback, and turn into the DE we thought he could be? Will Jeremy Mincey, Austen Lane, and Co. fill out that position with young talent? Will Aaron Kampman be back to full health after another major knee injury? All those are valid, interesting story lines going forward, and I'll be watching the DE position battles very closely.
Linebacker: Justin Durant is likely to be let go due to a injury problems. At this point, Kirk Morrison may be back for another year at MLB. Daryl Smith seems to be the only guy that is practically guaranteed to start week one. The Jaguars will likely add a couple of linebackers in free agency. New faces will certainly add a level of competition to the group.
Safety: You knew this spot would pop up on a list such as this. Courtney Greene may be able to grow into a solid strong safety. Many Jaguars fans (myself included) would like to see the Jaguars pursue Eric Weddle. It's a group that needs help, and hopefully Gene Smith can provide that help.
Those are my positions/players to watch when training camp finally starts. There are certainly other spots to keep an eye on (CB for instance), but these are the guys to keep tabs on. With so many story lines, I think we'll manage to find things to report on once this CBA crap is over. Until then, we'll push on.