Jaguars Deep Freeze

When the Jaguars signed eight undrafted free agent rookies way back on April 29th, most fans and media members never heard of any of the players, yet there was still some excitement. The reason for excitement is that the Jaguars front office and scouting department is arguably the best in the business at spotting talent and finding it from some of the most obscure places.

In the Jaguars new era, undrafted free agent rookies have made the final roster nearly every year. In 2006, the Jaguars found three UDFA's that made the final roster in Richard Collier, Montell Owens, and Tony McDaniel. Although Collier spent most of his rookie year inactive, the offensive tackle was simply too good in camp to release. Montell Owens came from literally the bottom of the depth chart and made a big impact on special teams, so big that the team decided to keep a sixth running back. Tony McDaniel may have had the best rookie year of the three, as he played very well at defensive tackle while Marcus Stroud was injured for much of the year. Other undrafted players that were signed from the practice squad in 2006 were wide receiver Charles Sharon, safety Jammal Fudge, and linebacker Brian Iwuh.

In 2005, running back Derrick Wimbush made the final roster, as well as center Dan Connelly. Although just Connelly remains on the Jaguars roster today, the front office was able to identify great talent through the undrafted ranks, and Derrick Wimbush helped win a few games over the last two seasons thanks to his special teams contributions.

In 2004, tight end Brian Jones and cornerback David Richardson made the team as UDFA's. Although Jones and Richardson's tenures with the team were brief, the string of luck that the Jaguars had with non-draftees continued.

In 2003, the Jaguars signed three UDFA's, wide receiver Cortez Hankton, place kicker Seth Marler, and defensive tackle, Matt Leonard. Although Leonard and Marler's tenures with the team were brief, Hankton remained on the Jaguars roster throughout the 2006 season, before leaving in free agency.

In the Jaguars new era, superior late round or post-draft scouting has led to success building one of the league's strongest back ends of the roster. In total, ten undrafted free agent rookies have made the opening day roster since Jack Del Rio has taken over as head coach, and they haven't been shut out until this year. None of the eight UDFA's signed back in April have survived the Jaguars first cuts. No Brett Goode, no Roosevelt Kiser, no Dan Murray, no Dan Parrish, no Tony Pudewell, no Lester Ricard, no D'Juan Woods, and no D.D. Terry.

The reason for the lack of UDFA's on the roster this year is likely due to the fine scouting of years past. The back end of the Jaguars roster is simply too strong for any of these guys to make it. When head coach Jack Del Rio was asked about the difficulties in keeping the undrafted rookies he responded logically.

"I think it's a difficult thing to do every year. You just don't have guys like Montell Owens. It's just unique when a guy like that comes out of nowhere and makes such a strong case that you end up keeping an extra running back, when you really went in and said ‘ok, we're only going to keep five' and you find a way to keep six because he was so good. Tony McDaniel last year was a great example of a guy who played too well, showed too much promise to not keep him on the roster. So, we're looking. I wouldn't want to make any sort of proclamations right now about that. Obviously, we're in the business of trying to protect our own guys and keep as many of our own guys here as we can. You don't find a lot of coaches bragging about some of their talent they're trying to keep around."

Although none of these guys are going to suit up against Tennessee on September 9th, don't count out a possible return to the roster later on. Lester Ricard, D.D. Terry, and D'Juan Woods are all practice squad candidates, and don't be surprised if they eventually find their way onto the natural grass at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in 2007.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.


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