The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted speedy but smallish wide receiver Ace Sanders out of the University of South Carolina to return punts and maybe contribute to the offense at the slot position. Sanders' punt returning skills were fair with a 5.6 yds per return average for the 2013 season.
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Sander's offensive production was better than anticipated. With only four starts, Sanders still ending up playing in 15 games. He caught 51 passes for 484 yards. While that was pretty productive, especially for a chaotic at times passing offense, it can not be denied that a 9.5 yards per catch average and only one touchdown for the entire season were underwhelming results at best.
Most would chalk this up to rookie growing pains and questionable quarterback play. Ryan O’Halloran, Jaguars beat writer for the Florida Times-Union, had this to say about Sanders and a perceived potential to not make the 2014 Jaguars team.
“It wouldn't be a shock because 5-foot-7 players who don’t make guys miss don’t have a ton of value. That said, if he improves his punt return stats in August, he deserves to make the 53-man roster.”
From what I have been able to formulate, this opinion is purely O'Halloran's, at least publicly. No other Jaguar reporter, team representative, coach, player, or agent has expressed concern about Sander's position on the roster.
With Justin Blackmon not looking like a participant for the 2014 Jaguars and the mystery that will come with two rookie WRs slotted for major playing time this year, it appears that Sanders position on the team should be safe.
The offseason signing of punt return specialist Tandon Doss could hurt Sander's roster spot hold, but it could also allow him to focus purely on his slot position mechanics and his yards after catch statistics.
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is renowned for his philosophy that competition breeds excellence. I see no reason to believe after last year's performance that Ace Sanders will continue to compete and will be on the Jaguars 2014 roster at the season opener.