There is plenty of optimism about the Jacksonville Jaguars’ “new” defense and the thought of second year defensive end Dante Fowler and free agent prize Malik Jackson playing side by side makes many fans in north Florida giddy.
This is one of the best rosters this franchise has had since the last time the team made the playoffs in 2008.
That’s the mark of a team on the rise.
There is a strong belief that this is a team that will compete for the post season and for good reason.
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At the end of training camp and the preseason, Jacksonville will have to release quality players who will find homes with other franchises.
Everyone in Jacksonville is jumping for joy that Myles Jack will return to the city next week from college and Jalen Ramsey was spotted running sprints on the sidelines following surgery to repair a meniscus injury.
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All the while, Sen’Derrick Marks got his first taste of OTAs last week as the defensive end, who was the team’s best defensive player two years ago, has been beset by injuries that have all but wiped out the majority of the last 18 months of football time.
For an NFL veteran, that’s a lifetime, but the former second-round pick by the Tennessee Titans has been a force since signing in Jacksonville in 2013.
Now, there is a belief he can help this franchise, but his role is undefined as of now with his return to the practice fields outside EverBank Field just another reason to be optimistic that this season is “the” season for this Jacksonville Jaguars.
Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com wrote in his blog late last week:
“It had been nearly seven months since he last had one on. That was the Jaguars’ 22-20 victory over Baltimore on Nov. 15, during which Marks suffered a torn right triceps and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. He had been working off to the side during offseason conditioning and the Jaguars’ previous organized team activities.”
Marks will not only help provide a push up the middle to stop the run and chase the quarterback, his leadership is a welcomed return as well.
On a roster that is taking shape with veteran presence and youthful speed and ability, the 29-year-old is part of the puzzle fitting into place.
Marks hasn’t been cleared by team doctors to play in group activity, but he can participate in individual drills as of now.
Any situation where the team and the fans see him on grass putting in time is something to be happy about and no one is happier than Marks to be playing again.
"I actually thought I was going to return next week for minicamp but it was good to get out today, actually get a feeling and get back in the groove and basically see what I can do." - Marks on his return
Marks led the team with 8.5 sacks in 2014 but now that the defensive front has more playmakers, the feeling amongst myself and others is this is a unit that could be downright scary. Marks will be part of the horror show, once he is fully recovered.
Marks suffered a torn right ACL in the season finale and wasn’t able to return to the field until Week 5 of the 2015 season, He played just four games before his arm injury put him on injured reserve.
In addition to Jackson, the Jaguars drafted Sheldon Day out of Notre Dame and still have Michael Bennett and Roy Miller on the roster to give this team a solid defensive tackle rotation.