Better than expected. That’s the vibe the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff is getting as Ronnie Harrison continues to turn heads during OTAs.
The third-round draft pick was a player the team had targeted for his playmaking at Alabama and his ability to play both safety positions in the Jaguars’ defensive scheme.
"“I like what I see so far. We’re not in pads; I think that is a big part of his game from what you saw in college – being able to tackle well and tackle well in space,” head coach Doug Marrone said of Harrison on Friday morning prior to the team’s six OTA practice.“I think the thing that we’re impressed with is coming from the school that he came from, Alabama, and Coach [Nick] Saban and his background being a defensive backs coach, I don’t think there is really anything you can throw at – and not just Ronnie, but any of those Alabama defensive backs – there is not really anything you can throw at them coverage-wise and scheme-wise and even technique-wise that maybe they have not seen before.”"
Harrison walks into a situation where he does not have to start for the team, but can still make an impact early in his rookie season. Having veterans Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson ahead of him will lay the groundwork for his education this coming year.
Harrison’s pedigree should tell you he is ready for the task of learning on the job. An All-SEC performer last season coupled with playing on two National Title teams in 2015 and 2017 is a solid resume to build on. The rest is up to him and what he learns from the Jaguars’ coaching staff.
"“He is matter of fact and does a good job and studies and is smart. He’s really picking things up, so that’s exciting. We’re looking for the transfer … Obviously, we have more work to do, but we are looking for that transfer for when the pads come on and we get on the field,” Marrone added."
While the team’s head coach was excited about what he saw, defensive coordinator Todd Wash told the media on Thursday Ronnie Harrison may be better than advertised, that the team is pleasantly surprised he is ahead of what was anticipated.
Wash has been pleased with the work Harrison and first-round pick Taven Bryan have performed so far with the defensive unit.
"“Both him and Ronnie are very intelligent. They are adjusting to the package well, and you can see their athleticism showing through,” he said."
Because of his size and speed, there is a belief Harrison will be a solid blitzing safety in different packages – another wrinkle in the Jaguars’ defense this season. Wash said the only way to take advantage of that is to have him do what he does best.
"“He is actually, I think, a little bit better than we thought we were going to get. We knew he was an in-the-box safety, around the football and a physical player,” Wash explained. “But now we are seeing him in the middle of the field back in our two-shell coverages that we run. You see his athleticism really show through. He adds obviously great quality depth to some very good players we have back there.”"
Ronnie Harrison is a starter in the future, but for now, it’s about watching and learning and continuing to perform while on the practice field. If he continues to show he can handle more of the team’s base package, there is no reason to think he won’t get more playing time as the season progresses.