Weatherford Not Just a Fill-in for Jaguars?

The Jaguars were forced to place second-year punter Adam Podlesh on the injured reserve list this week as he suffered a knee injury in the Jaguars 30-12 loss against Minnesota last Sunday. Jacksonville signed punter Steve Weatherford to take Podlesh's place for the rest of this season, but could it be longer?

The Jaguars faced a somewhat similar situation last season when kicker Josh Scobee injured his leg in the season opener, and they were forced to bring in veteran kicker John Carney. Carney did an admirable job of filling in while Scobee was down, but there was never any real consideration of the team making a switch to Carney, even though Scobee was somewhat inconsistent at that point in his career.

Things are certainly different this time around as Podlesh, a former fourth-round pick in 2007, hasn't been overly impressive, nor has he shown the booming leg that convinced the Jaguars to make him the first punter taken in the draft. Podlesh struggled with hang time as a rookie, but most explained that his low 41.6 yard gross average had more to do with the Jaguars directional punting strategy rather than a lack of leg strength. Although Podlesh's numbers have improved somewhat in 2008, his 43.2 yard gross average ranks him just 24th in the NFL. He continues to lack hang time on his punts, and the team may be growing weary, despite his draft status.

Podlesh was never challenged for his position in 2008, as the Jaguars appeared to be somewhat of a victim of numbers with the smaller training camp rosters due to the lack of NFL Europe exemptions. It is possible that Podlesh could finally get challenged for his job as Steve Weatherford wasn't given just a contract until the end of the year, he was given a contract for 2009 as well.

"As far as I know, it's an open competition," Weatherford said. "But I've been in the NFL long enough to know that you can't always swallow what they're feeding you. Adam is a great guy. I'd love to get a chance to compete against him. But I'm just worried about the next five games. I want to try to help the team out."

Although Weatherford has only been in Jacksonville a matter of days, he likes what he has seen of the Jaguars.

"I'm happy here," he said. "I really like the coaching staff. Everybody on the team has been really cool. I've been enjoying it."

Weatherford has averaged 43.4 yards per punt in his NFL career as he is 25 years old and on his third team. The former University of Illinois product began his career in New Orleans back in 2006 and was with the Saints all the way until last month when he was waived after a bad game in Carolina.

"I definitely didn't see it coming. It was a shocker," he said. "I was disappointed in the way I played, but a guy is going to have rough games. To cut a guy after one (bad) game is rough, but I'm past that."

Weatherford has a golden opportunity for the next five games to make a difference and earn a roster spot to at least compete for the Jaguars punting job next year.

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