JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s too early to tell how good of a job general manager Dave Caldwell did in assembling his first draft class. That’s an evaluation that will come in the next several years.
But it is possible to appraise the job Caldwell did in his first run at free agency and mining the waiver wires, and the early returns are positive. He signed seven unrestricted free agents and eight other rookie, veteran and first-year free agents since Feb. 27 and five have had solid or better seasons through the first nine games.
Caldwell also has used the waiver wire to improve the bottom third of the roster, which is comprised mainly of special teams players. The Jaguars special teams are significantly better than they were in training camp thanks to the additions of those players.
Here’s a look at six additions that have worked out for the Jaguars:
CB Alan Ball (unrestricted free agent, Houston): Ball has started eight of the team’s nine games (he missed one with a groin injury) and has been a solid player. He has five pass breakups, second among all secondary players, and 30 tackles. The sixth-year player from Illinois has been a good example for rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz.
CB Will Blackmon (street free agent): He joined the team Aug. 28 and has started seven games because of Gratz’s ankle injury and worked as a punt returner early in the season while Ace Sanders eased into the role. Blackmon delivered the biggest defensive play of the season on Sunday with his forced fumble and 21-yard recovery for a touchdown.
TE Clay Harbor (claimed off waivers from Philadelphia): He did a solid job filling in as a pass catcher while Marcedes Lewis was out with a calf injury and has 13 catches for 166 yards and one touchdown. He hasn’t seen much action since Lewis’ return but can help make up for some of Justin Blackmon’s production.
LB Geno Hayes (unrestricted free agent, Chicago): Though he has been somewhat inconsistent, Hayes has had his moments. Last Sunday against Tennessee was certainly one of them, when he led the Jaguars with 11 tackles and had one pass breakup in the 29-27 victory. Head coach Gus Bradley said Hayes has played better lately but has to be someone upon which the defense can depend each week.
DT Sen’Derrick Marks (unrestricted free agent, Tennessee): Marks has been the team’s best free-agent signing and the team’s best defensive lineman. He’s on pace for a career year, too. He already has 2.0 sacks and four pass breakups and he entered the season with 3.0 career sacks and eight career pass breakups. He signed a one-year deal and it would be a surprise if he were not resigned.
LB LaRoy Reynolds (undrafted rookie free agent): Though he was just suspended for four games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy, Reynolds has been a key special teams player all season. He’s tied for the team lead with six special teams tackles and made a huge play against Tennessee when he downed a punt at the 1-yard line, which led to a safety.