Jaguars safeties Johnathan Cyprien, Josh Evans, Winston Guy and Chris Prosinski have a combined total of 37 starts in their careers.
Safety Sherrod Martin has started 36. That experience is Martin’s ticket to making the team.
Martin, 29, will be one of the most intriguing players to watch when training camp opens July 24. The Jaguars signed him on Dec. 30, the day after last season ended.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell has liked Martin’s abilities for years. While Caldwell worked in Atlanta’s front office, the Falcons narrowed their choices to Martin and safety William Moore with the 55th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Atlanta chose Moore, who has become a Pro Bowl player.
Carolina took Martin four picks later, and the Falcons faced him twice a season.
Caldwell took no risk in signing Martin to a one-year, $780,000 contract with no guaranteed money.
Martin’s story is reminiscent of Jaguars cornerback Will Blackmon. Like Blackmon, Martin was out of the league for an entire season recovering from a serious knee injury.
Blackmon has triumphed with the Jaguars, enjoying a productive season last year and positioning himself as a safe bet to make the 53-man roster this fall.
Martin, 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, could do the same.
Martin recorded 199 tackles with seven interceptions, four forced fumbles and 20 passes defended in his four years with the Panthers. Playing in the final year of his rookie contract, Martin tore ligaments in his right knee against Kansas City and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 4, 2012. He was three months away from free agency. More than a year passed from the time of his injury until he had another chance in the NFL.
“It was a blessing to get the opportunity to perform,” Martin said. “It was way too long an offseason last year watching everything from the couch. I spent a lot of time in the gym with a therapist working out trying to prepare myself.”
Martin’s knee is at full strength, and he competed in the Jaguars’ offseason program until a groin injury kept him out of the final four practices. He’s expected to be fully healthy by the start of camp.
The Jaguars were able to find a gem in Blackmon and are hoping to harness the same hunger in Martin. He could give the Jaguars some valuable experience as a reserve. Last season, the Jaguars had three starting safeties — Dwight Lowery, Cyprien and Evans — miss at least one game with an injury.
“He’s very hard-working, internally driven and very grateful for this opportunity,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “He performs like he’s not going to miss this. Any time you have guys like that on the team, it’s good. His experience really adds to the locker room.”
Next draft predictable
Prior to this year’s draft, most experts had the Jaguars either taking a receiver (Sammy Watkins) or pass rusher (outside linebacker Khalil Mack) with the third overall pick.
They took quarterback Blake Bortles.
Don’t expect as much drama in 2015.
Barring something unforeseen, Caldwell will need to get Bradley a toy to play with on defense. Specifically, an elite pass rusher.
In Caldwell’s two drafts, he has taken four offensive players with his five picks made in the first or second round. The selections were sound because the offense was in dire need of upgrades.
In 2013, Caldwell took offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick and then chose Cyprien at No. 33.
This year, the Bortles pick was followed by two second-round receivers — Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.
In 2015, expect Caldwell to target the Leo position.
While there’s no player like Jadeveon Clowney, the draft could be loaded with depth at defensive end and outside linebacker depending on which underclassmen decide to enter the draft.
Therefore, whether the Jaguars draft in the top five or the top 15, the value and need at Leo should match up well.
Here are several players to follow as the season approaches:
■ Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska, 6-6, 245 pounds
The junior was credited for 10.5 sacks (three against Michigan) and 19 tackles for loss in 10 starts last season. He had at least one sack in seven of Nebraska’s last eight games.
■ Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State, 6-4, 257 pounds
Calhoun, a redshirt junior, scored three defensive touchdowns last season. He recorded 7.5 sacks and recovered four fumbles. He registered 34 hits on the quarterback, including seven against Michigan.
■ Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson, 6-2, 235 pounds
The redshirt senior tallied 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and forced four fumbles last season. Five of his sacks came against Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio State.
■ Dante Fowler, DE, Florida, 6-3, 277 pounds
Fowler, a junior, dominated against Tennessee’s top-notch tackles last season recording a sack with three tackles for loss, along with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He finished the season with 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
Joeckel’s ankle holds up
Joeckel proved his fractured ankle was fully recovered by competing in every practice during the Jaguars’ offseason program.
Joeckel began organized team activities taking two reps with the first unit before being substituted for. That number grew as the medical staff became more comfortable with how well Joeckel’s ankle responded.
“I gained confidence, because every single day I felt better,” Joeckel said. “I feel 100 percent now. We increased the reps every week. During minicamp, we stuck it at four reps per period. I was fighting it a little bit, but they have my best interests in mind. They’re taking care of me, and you can’t ever get mad at a guy trying to take care of you.”
Joeckel is planning on spending time with his family in Fort Worth, Texas, and working out at TCU.
“Being hurt I haven’t had time to spend at home, because I was here rehabbing the entire offseason,” Joeckel said. “I’ll come back a little early before camp just to get situated. But I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and playing some golf.”
Bryant staying hot
Of all the Jaguars offseason acquisitions, the one player who battled the heat the most was defensive end Red Bryant.
The former Seattle standout was allowed to leave practices a few minutes early on occasion to get out of the heat.
Bryant doesn’t want to be ill prepared for the conditions in camp, so he’s staying around Jacksonville during the break to continue to get accustomed to the climate.
“I’m trying to get acclimated and it’s coming along,” Bryant said. “I like the process I’ve made. I’ll hang around. I’ll come up here and get work in. I’ll try to keep my weight down and be ready to knock out training camp.”
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