UBIC - Offense
Kelvin Beachum (LT - #68) The man that was supposed to be the starting LT for the Jags was Luke Joeckel, taken in the first round of the 2013 draft. At this point, the Jacksonville faithful consider Joeckel to be an absolute bust. When you are the 2nd overall pick and end up as the team's starting left GUARD, that is an understandable assessment. When you get beaten out for a job that you were expected to go to Pro-Bowls doing by a man that was a 7th rounder in 2012, the assessment seems legit.
Not that Beachum is bad; not at all. The fact that he has been as good as he has been in his career is a surprise given where he came from and where he was drafted. The 6'3", 305 pound Beachum played his college ball at SMU, hardly known as an incubator for quality linemen. He was considered an adequate pass blocker in SMU's hybrid spread/run & shoot offense. Evaluated as bringing nothing to run blocking and limited to delaying and redirecting on pass blocking, he was considered a developmental project when drafted.
It appears that Pittsburgh takes developing players seriously and actually does it. In his four-year career in the steel city, he appeared in 44 games, starting in 39 of them. His first start in 2013 was due to an injury to the starting LT. It came against division rival Baltimore and Beachum was praised for his efforts. He took over the starting job in 2014 and 2015. He did tear an ACL in late 2015, which resulted in a low ball offer from the Steelers. He signed a potentially (the contract is laden with incentives) monster deal with the Jaguars in the off-season.
Apparently fully healed from his ACL tear, he beat out Joeckel for the LT job in camp. He is now considered an excellent pass blocker and average to above average run blocker (think a smaller King Dunlap). On Sunday, he will be tasked with keeping Cory Liuget and Melvin Ingram away from Bortles and opening some holes for our offensive Honorable mention. History suggests that Beachum has decent chance of holding up his end of the bargain.
TJ Yeldon (RB - #24) Yeldon gets an honorable mention because he is not exactly unknown. Last year's second-round draft pick, Yeldon had a solid, but not spectacular rookie year. Posting a decent 4.1 YPC average, he ran the rock 182 times in 2015 for 740 yards and 2 scores on the ground. He also caught 36 balls on 46 targets for 279 yards and another score. Coming out of Alabama, he had a reputation as a fumbler, but that has not been a part of his brief NFL career. With a mysterious ailment already ruling Chris Ivory out for Sunday's game against the Bolts, the versatile but unspectacular Yeldon will get a lot of work on Sunday.
UBIC - Defense
Davon House (CB - #31) House was acquired via free agency from Green Bay before the 2015 season. Last year, he was Jacksonville's primary CB, leading the team in INT's (4) and passes defended (23[!]). House, like Beachum was another team's "developmental project" that Jacksonville managed to acquire for a contract more than his original team (the Green Bay Packers) were willing to offer a reserve CB.
Originally drafted with a supplemental pick in the 4th round, House was regarded as a good sized (6'0" & 190 pounds), physical corner coming out of New Mexico State that was willing to tackle and play run support. He dropped to the 4th round for lacking elite speed and playing too stiff. It was also believed that he would have issues learning to properly play zone coverage in the NFL. He has improved. He is now regarded as savvy DB that tracks a QB's eyes well, honors his assignments, and makes up for his lack of elite speed with technique and positioning.
If Jalen Ramsey lives up to his hype, the Jags should have a capable duo of CB's. House should match up well with Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams, but could be at a disadvantage against Travis Benjamin. Look for House to press every receiver but Benjamin; he will most likely give Benjamin a cushion to make certain he does not get beaten deep. The former development CB has become one of the better CB2's in the league. Out of the choice of Ramsey, House, and whoever the Jags have playing slot or nickel CB (probably Dwayne Gratz), Rivers would be well advised to go after the rookie or the slot CB before challenging House.
Telvin Smith (OLB - #50) 2nd round pick Myles Jack was expected to supplant Smith or Dan Skuta as one of the Jags starting OLB's this season. That has yet to happen. Expect to both Smith and Skuta on the field a lot in the basic defense and Jack not on the field at all except for special teams.
Smith has been a pleasant surprise for the Jaguars. Coming out of Florida State, Smith was thought to be woefully undersized at 6'3" and 220 pounds to play NFL LB. As a result, he fell to the 5th round in 2014. There was some speculation that the Jags may try to convert him to safety. If that was the plan, it got shelved when he got into a few games his rookie year and the coaching staff saw his tackling ability. Smith is rounding into a player that does everything an LB needs to do well. He finished 2015 2nd to only Paul Posluszny in tackles. He was tied for 2nd on the team in passes defended. Yes, he is undersized, but the speed, understanding of angles, coverage ability, and flawless tackling technique keeps him on the field for all 3 downs. Look for him to be all over the field on Sunday.