What we learned from Jacksonville Jaguars minicamp
The Jacksonville Jaguars concluded their three-day minicamp on Thursday. After four weeks on the practice field, which included OTAs, here is what we have learned.
After four weeks on the practice field and 13 practice sessions with the coaching staff, the Jacksonville Jaguars have ended both their OTA‘s and mandatory minicamp.
For the next five weeks, TIAA Bank field will be silent. The Jaguars have announced that their first training camp session begins July 25. Scheduled dates were fans can watch have not been released yet.
There was plenty to talk about the past four weeks. A new quarterback on the field and new offensive coordinator with a decidedly different outlook on this roster. The absence of Yannick Ngakoue for part of OTAs and minicamp over a contract dispute. The discussion of how Leonard Fournette needs to remain focused on being the focal point of the team offensive game plan this year. And the changes at both linebacker and in the secondary, with new faces competing for roster spots.
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Head coach Doug Marrone told the media following the team’s final minicamp practice he was pleased with the direction this roster is headed and the work the players have put in over the last month. Now comes the toughest part of the off-season – waiting for five weeks to start again, preparing for the 2019 season.
Just like the other 31 teams in the NFL, the Jaguars have plenty to be excited about, but until they put the pads on and hitting begins, we really don’t know how good this team can be. Here’s a look up three things we learned from minicamp this week.
Will Richardson is in the mix – Prior to the NFL draft, Marrone said Will Richardson needed to come into camp and practice hard.
The former fourth-round draft pick out of N.C. State has done just that. Richardson, who was originally drafted to play right tackle, has spent time at guard as well in camp. He has shown significant improvement over last season during the 13 practice sessions over the last month.
He received praise from Marrone on Thursday when he was asked about the player’s progress.
"“The guy came in, we drafted him high, we wanted some good things out of him. He probably has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, which is good. He has come back, he has worked extremely hard and he has played well inside,” Marrone explained."
While A.J. Cann still appears to be the incumbent at right guard and Jawaan Taylor should start at right tackle to start the season, the Jaguars have to feel more comfortable about using Richardson in different scenarios this season.
"“He is a guy that we think can play both guard and tackle, but we think we wanted to check him out on the inside to see where he is,” Marrone added. “Honestly, he has done a really good job. We will just have to see how he does when the pads come on. You can pretty much say that about a lot of positions.”"
Smoot has made an impression – While Ngakoue sat out a majority of the teams OTA‘s and the three-day minicamp, Dawuane Smoot was on the practice field, showing the coaching staff he could be part of the defensive line rotation this season.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash spoke about Smoot on Thursday morning, telling the media he has done as much as anybody to help himself during camp. Smoot, a third round pick in 2017 out of Illinois, has done little to distinguish himself as an affective pass rusher since he’s come into the league.
"“Even in the offseason, we talked about where Smoot is at,” Wash said. “This is going to be a big year for Smoot. You see him stepping up. He’s doing a real nice job playing a couple different positions. We’re short some rushers at this time. We’ve got different guys in there. Smoot has really helped his cause in OTAs and minicamp.”"
This is a cross roads year for the player who was originally drafted to play big end. While Ngakoue will hopefully be back at training camp, watching Smoot perform on the practice field will give Wash and he’s coaching staff a few more options with the line rotation this coming season.
The coaching staff likes their wide receivers – After listening to both offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and Marrone, you get the sense the coaching staff is comfortable with the wide receiver room this season. It also means this could be an underrated unit the local and national media will talk about favorably.
DeFilippo said he likes the diversity of the group, because each player bring some change to the offense. Whether it is the size and speed of DJ Chark, or the big physicality of Terrelle Pryor or the speed and playmaking ability that Dede Westbrook possesses, the passing game will benefit from having players who can fill different roles.
"“I’m a big believer in the receiver room and diversity… Different body types, different skill levels, in terms of [us having] a bigger guy that can body someone up and maybe a guy like Dede Westbrook that is a little bit of a smaller guy, but can wiggle and get himself open in different ways,” DeFilippo said.“You don’t want all big guys. You don’t want all small guys. You want a good, diverse group in that room that brings different skill sets to the table.”"
Last season, the Jaguars led the NFL in drop passes. Keelan Cole regressed. He has had a solid camp. Marqise Lee is expected to be back at some point during training camp, but no date is definite. He adds veteran leadership, as does Chris Conley. Conley, who was signed after the team after the Jaguars brought in the quarterback Nick Foles, could be a key contributor in the passing game given his familiarity with Foles from their time together in Kansas City.