JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's four takeaways from the final day of 2015 Jaguars mandatory minicamp Thursday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields …
1. Better roster, better feeling.To quantify why the Jaguars feel better as the 2015 offseason ends than they did the past two offseasons, it's … it's … well, it's just about everything. Although still a young roster, it's more experienced – and deeper. The offseason featured the signing of tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick and right tackle Jermey Parnell among other unrestricted free agents; there's a feeling that those additions along with the maturation of young players has made this a more talented team. Head Coach Gus Bradley said following Thursday's final 2015 minicamp practice the Jaguars are more talented and more competitive on offense, and General Manager David Caldwell said he overall feels good about the roster's speed and athleticism entering the offseason. Caldwell also said experience on offense should make for a more confident unit. "The young players last year who were rookies, you can tell now they know where to go and how it's supposed to look," he said. "If they don't, they're going to correct themselves before the coaches do. Defensively, I think there's a strong confidence there, especially in our secondary."
2. The right fit.Middle linebacker Paul Polsusnzy likes many things about the Jaguars' defense. He said it's unquestionably playing faster, and that the benefits of being in the third season in Bradley's scheme should be evident next season. As minicamp closed Thursday, Posluszny said he was particularly anticipating playing next to Otto linebacker Dan Skuta, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from San Francisco in March. "We finally have the guy, the body, that's supposed to be the Otto linebacker," Posluszny said. "He's a big guy. You know he's physical. You know he's going to set the edge. He can drop. He can rush. That's great. That's the first time we've really fulfilled what it should be." Posluszny said Skuta's presence should change the defensive significantly, particularly against the run. "Now that we know we have a big, physical guy on the end of the line … when the ball heads to his side, he's a wall," Posluszny said. "He can put his foot in the ground and the ball is going to have to come back. With him and Odrick together, if they (opponents) try to run that side, the ball is going to have to come back. You can rely on them."
3. Feeling good.Clay Harbor missed much of organized team activities and minicamp with a calf injury, but the veteran "move" tight end said Thursday he believes he'll be ready when training camp opens July 31. "I'm definitely close," Harbor said after catching passes following the Jaguars' light practice Thursday. "If there was a game Sunday, I could probably play. They don't want to risk the re-injury." Most of the Jaguars' players who were out or limited in minicamp/OTAs are expected to return for training camp, including wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee), wide receiver Bryan Walters (calf), center Stefen Wisniewski (shoulder), safety Josh Evans (shoulder) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee). Only defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (knee), defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) and safety James Sample (arm) are expected to miss the start of training camp, with Fowler ruled out for the season, Marks aiming for a Week 1 return and Sample possibly returning midway through training camp. Harbor, meanwhile, said he is excited about the possibilities for a tight-end group that now includes Thomas and veteran Marcedes Lewis, as well as second-year veteran Nic Jacobs and rookie Ben Koyack. Harbor said while he and Thomas are both move tight ends, new offensive coordinator Greg Olson's offense has schemes that can feature two or three tight ends. "It gives our room a lot of chances to make plays," Harbor said. "We like that as tight ends. It's going to cause matchup problems. Defenses are going to have to react to that."
4. Pleased with progress.Quarterback Blake Bortles' offseason has been a major storyline in recent weeks, and Caldwell said the team has been pleased with his approach since the end of last season. Bortles, a starter in 13 games as a rookie last season, spent the first two months after the regular season in California working on fundamentals and mechanics, areas that continued to be a focus during OTAs and minicamp. "From the day the season ended last year, he set a plan and worked his tail off and did everything he said he was going to do," Caldwell said. "We're excited about his progress. He still has a ways to go. The thing we talk about, too, is the best thing Blake does you're not going to see on the practice field – game time, two minutes, things like that. If you like what you're seeing out here, that's really encouraging because those aren't the best things he does."
The Jaguars completed their final minicamp practice of 2015 in front of a large crowd at the Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields.