Jaguars Training Camp: Three things to watch
By David Levin
Will the Jacksonville Jaguars be able to take care of these three things in training camp?
Welcome to Jacksonville Jaguars training camp. The road to the regular season continues tomorrow as players and coaches step onto the practice field, hoping to make more progress after what head coach Doug Marrone deemed was a solid three weeks of OTAs and three days of mandatory minicamp.
This might be the most pivotal season in the 25 years this franchise has been part of the NFL based purely on the idea that the performance on the field must change or changes will once again be made within the organization.
That means the coaching staff is under pressure to perform just as much as the 89 men who walk onto the practice field Thursday morning. As the sun rises over TIAA Bank Field here are three challenges the franchise faces moving forward.
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Strengthening the running game – I like the running back room and the players the Jaguars have brought in to compete for playing time. With Leonard Fournette the starter and Alfred Blue his primary backup, the sifting through the rest of the group is where the challenge begins.
Ryquell Armstead should be next in line for carries. The fifth-round rookie out of Temple is a bruising type of runner who could take carries away from Blue by midseason. There should only be four openings on the roster for five players. That means Thomas Rawls and Benny Cunningham are fighting for one spot. Rawls looked strong in drills in camp in June. Cunningham is a good special teams player.
I think this is one of the more interesting groups to watch.
Sorting out the Yannick Ngakoue situation – Do I think Yannick Ngakoue gets a contract before the start of the regular season? Yes. Do I think it’s a blockbuster deal like others who have cashed in for $100 million? No.
This is a tricky situation where social media has been heavily in favor of the fourth-year pass rusher getting a new deal. The Jaguars don’t have a lot of cap space and would have to put together a contract that is team-friendly. Ngakoue has already stated it isn’t about the money, but he missed time at OTAs and minicamp.
I don’t think the Maryland star holds out and expect him to be in the building today. But this is a situation that will continue to fester until it gets resolved.
Find a true backup quarterback – So much has been said about Nick Foles becoming the man who changes the direction of this franchise. But it is also a “Foles or Bust” feeling here in Jacksonville. If the Jaguars lose their star quarterback, what happens next?
The Jaguars have three other quarterbacks in camp who have looked good at times in drills, but none make you any of us feel safe if the unthinkable happens. It appears fans here in DUUUVAL want rookie Gardner Minshew to win the role, but he is green and needs time to develop.
As one of my football friends told me, it may take a few years, but he thinks Minshew has the tools (not the cannon arm) to be a solid starter in this league because of his smarts and his moxie.
I know the front office was excited to draft him. There is a reason for that.