Training camp is well and truly underway at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville. The Jaguars have endured the searing heat through five days of minimal contact drills and workouts. And despite pads not due to be on until later today (Sunday), some people are making a name for themselves…
This Jags roster has seen a lot of turnover. Because of this, Doug Pederson and his staff will be relying on a host of new faces to make an impact in 2022. As well as some high priority free agents and first round draft picks, there is also an opportunity for lesser known additions to stake a claim. As full contact drills are about to separate the men from the boys, here are three rookies who have already caught the eye:
3 – Lujuan Winningham, Wide Receiver
As predicted in this piece two weeks ago, UDFA receiver Lujuan Winningham has been making an impact on the training fields. The former Central Arkansas pass catcher has showcased his soft hands with some impressive receptions so far. Working with the third string, Winningham has been a constant thorn in the defense’s side, primarily working the middle of the field on short to intermediate routes. He simply catches EVERYTHING thrown his way, something of a trademark of his during his collegiate career. His natural hands can be seen here working the jugs machine:
Lujuan Winningham getting some early work on the jugs machine. pic.twitter.com/mMOJRMmjwM
— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) July 25, 2022
On day one, Winningham made an incredible diving catch in traffic from a Kyle Sloter pass. Not 24 hours later he was at it again, reeling in a tough grab from Jake Luton and impressing Zay Jones in the process. A leading quartet of Marvin Jones, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones & Laviska Shenault may be a tough unit to crack. But as a possession receiver rounding out the position group, Winningham has a real shot at taking Laquon Treadwell’s job off him.
2 – Montaric Brown, Cornerback
Okay, confession time here; I am a huge fan of Montaric Brown. During my draft scouting this offseason I was blown away by his tape. And my draft grade was a lot higher than the seventh round pick the Jags used to take the Arkansas corner:
“Sleeper alert! Montaric Brown is likely going to fall to day three, and I think it’s a crime against talent. An experienced corner who has 34 games under his belt, Brown has seen everything whilst he plied his trade in the SEC for four years. A lot was expected of the five star recruit when he stayed home and committed to Arkansas, and the Razorback did not disappoint. Brown plays with an impressive level of intuitiveness for the position, at his best in zone coverage where he can use his smarts to full effectiveness. It’s fair to say that Brown is a touch scheme-dependent and likely won’t be courted by teams who use a lot of off-man coverage concepts that require elite agility from the defensive backs. But as a cover 2 or 3 corner with added press and slot ability, I’m inclined to believe that he has immediate starter potential.”
NFL COMPARISON: RONALD DARBY
PREDICTION: 4TH ROUND PICK
Despite my affinity for ‘Buster’, Brown has backed up my praise so far. The sticky coverage he was famed for with the Razorbacks has translated to training camp. Every ball is contested, no inch given to the receiver. And as his college days show, he has a nose for where the ball is going to be on any given play.
Brown elicited some wows and claps for a particular rep on Friday, bullying fellow rookie Kevin Austin throughout the route. Brown made a play on the ball and ultimately led Austin rolling on the ground as the pass fell incomplete. So far, the 222nd selection overall has had a pass breakup on every day of camp.
With the secondary short on depth, Brown has a real opportunity to cement a roster spot. There are a lot of bodies vying for a job behind presumed starters Shaq Griffin, Tyson Campbell and Darious Randall. ‘Buster’ will need a few more head turning plays, but his natural aptitude and feisty nature stands him in good stead.
1 – Luke Fortner, Center?
Move over Tyler Shatley! The Jaguars o-line is far from a cemented unit this early in training camp. Only two spots – left tackle (Cam Robinson) and right guard (Brandon Scherff) seem nailed down. That leaves a lot of opportunity for others to stake a claim, and one rookie seems to have impressed the coaches.
Veteran Tyler Shatley has plenty of experience at center. But it seems Luke Fortner is getting every opportunity to make the job his own. The former Wildcat started day one at the pivot and is yet to relinquish the role, a testament to how quickly he has acclimated. On Tuesday, Fortner spent extra time with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, practicing snap exchanges. Despite the coaching staff saying nothing is confirmed, it looks more and more like the job is Fortner’s to lose:
OC Press Taylor says the #Jaguars haven’t anointed Luke Fortner their starting center / have been rotating in other players during walk-throughs in the afternoon
(Guess who’s with Trevor again today tho) #Jaguars pic.twitter.com/xTjvrHqUE7
— Mia O'Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) July 27, 2022
The Jaguars o-line has some options with Fortner’s ascendency. Shatley has predominantly lined up at left guard, making Ben Bartch the swing lineman. At right tackle, Jawaan Taylor seems to be holding off Walker Little despite a minor injury. Fortner was a draft darling due to his impressive showing at the Senior Bowl, and he’s carried that momentum into training camp. Watching him snap the ball to Lawrence could be a fixture of this offense for years to come.
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE