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What We Learned: First Four Days

Posted Jul 29, 2014

What We Learned in the first four days of Jaguars 2014 Training Camp …


JACKSONVILLE – Here’s What We Learned in the first four days of Jaguars 2014 Training Camp …

1. This team is better. There’s little question about that. The Jaguars have more talent, more depth – particularly on the defensive line – and the team is faster and more athletic. You can see the athleticism in the secondary, at wide receiver and at running back. It’s not close to a finished product, but this just feels more like a competitive NFL team than this time a year ago.

2. This team still has a ways to go. Remember in Entry No. 1, when we said, “It’s not a finished product?” That’s real. The team hasn’t been in full pads, and there are still plenty of questions on the offensive line, at linebacker … well, pretty much everywhere. The receiver position is very young and the offensive line has more youth than experience. The Jaguars are on the right path. There is talent, with wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson looking good early, and players such as defensive end Chris Smith looking good, too. As time goes on, those questions will get answered, but answering them will take time.

3. Cecil Shorts III can’t catch a break. Those were his words Friday after sustaining a hamstring strain, and he’s right. The veteran wide receiver entered training camp feeling as good physically as he has in four NFL seasons and now he’s out at least two weeks. He’s experienced enough to be productive without a full camp, but his frustration level is real.

4. Shorts is dedicated. Credit Shorts with being a team player. A lot of players talk about team, but not all players out with injuries spend each practice coaching – really coaching – younger players. Shorts is doing just that.

5. Allen Robinson has a chance to be really good … The second-round selection impressed during rookie minicamp, then missed much of the team’s offseason on-field work with a hamstring injury. He has worked full speed in the first four days of camp and shown no aftereffects of the injury. That’s significant. So are his size and physicality, and wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan said Sunday Robinson has been exemplary working on fundamentals and footwork. So far, he looks like the real deal.

6…. Marqise Lee does, too. Lee missed much of the on-field offseason work with an ankle injury, but – like Robinson – has returned full speed. The pads may not be on yet, but Lee has impressed with his speed, quickness and route-running ability.

7. Chad Henne likes the young receivers. The veteran quarterback was asked this past weekend if Lee and Robinson were farther ahead than he anticipated. He said they absolutely were. “I think it’s due to their coaching background, Bill O’Brien at Penn State with Allen (Robinson) and Lane Kiffin with Marqise (Lee),” Henne said. “Those offenses are pro-style offenses which leads into the NFL and different terminology. That’s what good coaching backgrounds at those colleges will do. Those coaches really benefitted them.”

8. Henne is still the starter … There’s no doubt about this around EverBank. Henne is the starter, and as Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said late last week, ideally it will be that way for all 16 games this season. If that happens, that means Henne is playing well and the Jaguars are competitive.

9... and Bortles is absolutely the backup. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said as much late last week, saying that Bortles would almost certainly enter the season as the top backup to Henne.

10. LaRoy Reynolds has a chance to be good. The versatile second-year linebacker just continues to show up and make plays. That’s a trend that started last season and one that will make it difficult to keep him off the field.

11. Brandon Linder is challenging for the starting right guard role. It’s too early to say he is winning the job, but Linder worked extensively with the first-team at right guard Monday night. The Jaguars drafted him because they felt he could start quickly and he’s on his way to doing that.

12. Bortles is getting better. The No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bortles struggled at times during organized team activities and minicamps. He impressed Bradley with his ability to address trouble spots and improve, and he has impressed the first four days of camp with his ability to bounce back from difficult plays. So far in camp Bortles has looked significantly improved from the offseason. He still is working through footwork and fundamental issues, but he is throwing with accuracy and has had a few of the Jaguars’ better throws during the first four days of camp. He’s not outplaying Henne yet and he won’t start, but he’s showing good signs.

13. The Jaguars can put on a show. We sort of knew that already, and anyone driving by EverBank Field in recent weeks and months had a feeling the video boards, cabanas and pools – and all of the other cool stuff – was going to be … well … really, really cool. But the “Jacksonville in Motion” video and the concert and the soccer friendly that made up Saturday’s Mega Event far outdid the hype. Remember this: the video boards, cabanas and pools are here to stay. Events at the ‘Bank are going to be really, really cool for a long, long time.

14. Shad Khan loves Jacksonville. After Saturday night is there any doubt?

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