JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' lineup in the regular season finale on Sunday is going to look very little like it did in the season opener.
Depending on how some players respond to injuries this week, the Jaguars may only start nine players in Week 17’s game against Indianapolis that started against Kansas City in Week 1. All teams have to deal with injuries to key players throughout the season -- the Denver Broncos just lost linebacker Von Miller with a torn ACL -- but turning over more than half of the starting lineup in four months doesn’t happen on a regular basis.
The Jaguars (4-11) didn’t exactly have a deep roster to begin with, but they’ve somehow managed the through the personnel losses to win four games in the second half despite having to rely on some young, unproven players -- especially at linebacker and receiver.
"We really didn’t make that big of a deal about it, but what we did talk about was to really go in there and sometimes special stories take place with opportunities," coach Gus Bradley said. "We really taught our whole team the mindset you’ve got to have to go in there."
The results have been hit and miss, which is what you’d expect from those players. Good plays -- like receiver Kerry Taylor catching four passes for 45 yards against the Titans -- and bad, like Taylor dropping an easy reception that would have converted a first down against Buffalo.
"You’ve just got to do it all the time," Bradley said. "There’s going to be times when young guys get [out of position or make a mistake] but we just need to limit that. That’s what we’re seeing right now and that’s what happens sometimes with younger players especially if they’re getting their first opportunity."
Here’s a breakdown of the missing starters:
WR Justin Blackmon: Suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, played four games, and then was suspended indefinitely for violating it again.
WR Cecil Shorts*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a groin injury.
LT Eugene Monroe*: Traded to Baltimore on Oct. 2.
LT Luke Joeckel* (started Week 1 at RT): Suffered a fractured ankle against St. Louis on Oct. 6.
G Will Rackley*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a concussion.
LB Russell Allen*: Placed on IR on Dec. 18.
G Mike Brewster: He replaced Rackley in the lineup and suffered a fractured ankle against Buffalo on Dec. 15.
Here’s a breakdown of other starters who may miss Sunday’s finale:
LB Geno Hayes*: He did not play last Sunday because of a knee injury. He likely won’t practice this week.
DT Roy Miller*: He has battled a shoulder injury all season and did not play last Sunday. He likely won’t practice this week.
CB Dwayne Gratz*: He suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and likely won’t practice this week.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew*: He fought through a hamstring injury and started against Tennessee last Sunday but will be limited this week.
LT Cameron Bradfield: He joined the starting lineup after Joeckel was injured and suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and will be limited in practice this week.
*Denotes started season opener.