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2015 OTAs: Defense making progress


JACKSONVILLE – A week into OTAs, this much is clear:

It may still just be the offseason – and that means there's little or no contact – but as of early June, the Jaguars feel good about their defense.

If there was a theme during the Jaguars' fourth day of 2015 organized team activities, then that was it – that whatever you can't learn from the non-padded workouts at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields, coaches and players have learned they like the early look defensively.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the progress has been really good," Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich said Monday.

Jaguars Head Coach Bradley agreed, saying, "Defensively, you just look for guys that are in the right spot and they're making the right plant and break."

"Until you have pads on you don't know, but it was good," Bradley added.

Babich, speaking to the media for the first time during the OTA period that began last Tuesday, spoke of the team's new personnel, and also said he likes not only the attitude and energy of practice but where the unit is mentally.

"I don't know how long you (the media) all were at practice, but if you watch it, we're really excited," Babich said. "We think they're playing fast. When you get to a position as a defensive unit where everybody on the defensive unit feels like even if they do something wrong, they're playing fast, I think that's a big plus.

"They're not worrying about what is happening and that type of stuff, and I think we're getting much better at that."

The Jaguars, ranked 26th in the NFL in total defense last season, addressed several positions in the offseason. They released veteran end Red Bryant and signed Jared Odrick at the same strong-side position. They signed unrestricted free agent Dan Skuta to play the Otto linebacker position, also signing cornerback Davon House and safety Sergio Brown in free agency.

Skuta is expected to start at the Otto, with House, third-year veteran Demetrius McCray, second-year veteran Aaron Colvin and third-year veteran Dwayne Gratz competing at corner. Brown is working at free safety, with the Jaguars drafting James Sample in the fourth round to compete at the position.

Babich said the overall look of the defense in OTAs can be attributed not only to the additions, but to the maturity and growth of young players already on the roster.

"We're extremely pleased with our personnel and our young guys have grown up, so the competition helps us," Babich said. "These guys are just doing a fantastic job. That's a big emphasis, so we want to make sure we play fast and get our hands on balls and punch the balls out and create takeaways."

"A lot of it is third year. A lot of guys have grown up. Some guys that are new in the system like Jared (Odrick) and Davon House and Dan Skuta, they've done a good job of catching on, but they're veterans, so it's easier for them.

"The younger guys, though, are catching up to the veterans, which is the cool thing."

Also around the Jaguars Monday:

*Bradley on the fourth day of OTAs: "I thought it was a highly spirited practice. … I thought the offense really executed and did a nice job today." …

*Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons, after missing the first week of OTAs, missed the first day of Week 2. He is the only uninjured Jaguars player not attending OTAs in some capacity. OTAs are voluntary under the NFL/NFL Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement. Bradley said he was aware before Monday that Clemons would not attend. "I would say that he will not be here this week unless something happens, but we've had conversations," Bradley said. "I'm not going to go into the exact reasons why; he just won't be here."  …

*Tight end Julius Thomas, who signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, continued to draw praise in OTAs, with Bradley saying he and veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis looked good in red-zone drills Monday. "You look for guys like that that show up when you're working in that area," Bradley said, adding of Thomas, "I thought he did a nice job. He continues to be great in meetings and on the field."

*Odrick missed practice with tightness in his back and defensive end Andre Branch missed with knee tendinitis. …

*Wide receiver Allen Robinson remains on schedule, doing some individual work. The second-year veteran could return to some team work next week. …

*Other players not working in practice Monday included: wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee), defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee), center Stefen Wisniewski (shoulder), wide receiver Bryan Walters (hamstring), tight end Clay Harbor (calf) and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (knee). …

*Wide receiver Damian Copeland returned to practice after missing the first week with a quadriceps injury. …

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