In two weeks, it all begins.
That’s right, just two weeks until Jaguars 2012 Training Camp. Then, we spend the better part of two weeks basking – er, baking – in the early morning sun at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields before sneaking in a few indoor hours to do it all again in the afternoon.
We’ll be watching a young team with a first-year head coach and a new offensive coaching staff. We’ll be watching for rookies to develop, for young players to continue to grow and for a team with more potential than many believe to begin coming together.
The beginning of camp July 27 will mark the end of a long offseason. We’ve seen an ownership change, a coaching change, a holdout running back, a franchised kicker and months and months of speculation about a quarterback position that holds the key to a whole lot about the franchise’s future.
But while the offseason has indeed been event-filled, the overriding theme remains the same – that as the 2012 season approaches, the excitement level around EverBank Field is real.
It’s a new era. And the beginning of training camp in two weeks is a big date.
For some, that two weeks seems an interminable wait, but here’s betting it passes quickly. We’ve got some pretty interesting content planned during that period. Most notably, we’ll roll out the jaguars.com Top 25 Jaguars of All-Time in the days just before camp.
For today, we’ll mark this two-weeks-out date with something of a camp primer, offering 10 storylines/questions to watch as training camp approaches:
1) Basking – er, baking – in the sun. The most obvious change to training camp is the schedule. Whereas last season most of the full-padded practices were at night, first-year Head Coach Mike Mularkey is holding all but two of the two-and-half-hour “full practices” from 8:30-11 a.m. Two other full practices – the ones on the first two days of camp – will be at 2:15 p.m. Jaguars rookies spoke often in the offseason about the unreal heat and humidity. Just wait.
2) Up close and personal. For many fans, this camp will be the first time seeing Mularkey and the staff, not to mention newcomers such as
3) Noticeable difference. It’s a question that people who watched practice in the offseason hear a lot: what looks different? If you’re coming to camp, expect the defense to look about the same. With Mel Tucker entering a second season fully in charge of that unit, the defense will be the same high-tempo, organized group. Offensively, you’ll see quicker, higher-tempo practice than last season, and you may be struck at times by the improvement at the receiver position and the efficiency of the passing game.
4) The MoJo watch. Nothing is certain here yet, but the guess here
5) Gabbert the guy going in. This gets asked a lot, so we’ll answer.
6) Marked improvement. You can joke all you want that the passing game would have to be better – and considering it ranked 32nd, that’s indeed true – but the Jaguars made significant upgrades with Blackmon and Robinson. As we mentioned, Gabbert looks improved as well. There will be preseason hiccups. This is, after all, a new offense for nearly every player involved. But pretty soon we should be seeing a passing offense that can complement the NFL’s leading rusher.
7) The kicker issue. After Jones-Drew, the major question concerns kicker
8) Rookies to watch. The draft picks are obvious, and second-rounder
9) Battle at cornerback. Most of the starting positions are relatively set. A possible exception is cornerback opposite fourth-year veteran
10) High expectations. Most people nationally expect little from the Jaguars this season. Talk to players around EverBank, and there’s a different feeling. There’s an energy and excitement that hasn’t been felt for a while. Some of it’s a new coach. Some it’s confidence in what they have seen from Gabbert. Some of it’s a belief that a young roster is a year older and a year better. A lot of it’s a belief that the team is a lot better than it showed last year, and that with a new direction, that belief will be proven out. Is that belief right?
We start finding out in two weeks.