JACKSONVILLE – The offseason is now done, and what's to come matters much more.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone made that clear Thursday as minicamp officially closed to mark the end of the veteran, on-field portion of the 2017 offseason program:
Yes, the Jaguars accomplished quite a bit over the last two months.
Yes, there were positives, particularly in the area of gaining strength, gaining conditioning and preparing for the 2017 training camp that is now six weeks away.
"We'll see how we are when they come back," Marrone said early Thursday afternoon after the third of three minicamp practices this week on the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field.
The Jaguars' offseason program began in late April, with 13 on-field days – 10 organized team activities the last three weeks and this week's minicamp – marking the offseason's highest-profile period. Marrone, who served as interim head coach in the last two games of last season before having the interim tag removed in early January, said in his first offseason as head coach he wanted to establish a "good working environment," meaning that "we knew how to work."
"That was my main thing coming in, knowing 'We've got to start this foundation that way,''' Marrone said. "I think we have made strides in that area and we're going to have to keep that up.' …
"We've got a long way to go, but I think now there's a vision of where we need to get to as far as being in shape, how strong we want to be, how fast we want to practice and how many plays we want to get run."
Marrone said the Jaguars ran 100 plays in Tuesday's first minicamp practice, but struggled to run 86 the following day.
"I think in this league the teams that are able to win a lot of football games are able to put back a good 100-play practice, a good 80-play practice, a good 80-play practice; they're able to keep going out there and doing that," Marrone said. "Those are things we're trying to get set as we go into this next phase where now it's going to be a lot of results on the field."
Marrone said while the Jaguars will "start from the beginning" in training camp when it comes to installing the offense and defense, working on situations, etc., the hope is that "now we don't have to go back as far" into the foundation.
"You never pick up where you left off," Marrone said, "but we hope to get through the foundation and early core principles of what we're trying to get done so we can concentrate on the execution and the result-oriented aspect of what we're trying to get done on the field."
Marrone has talked throughout the offseason of establishing the Jaguars as a tough team.
"I don't think we're there yet, but I don't think you can do that without actually being out there and doing it," Marrone said. "For us, we want to be tough and we want to be physical. But the statement Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All … I'm a big believer in that statement.
"For us, in order for us to be a tough physical team, you have to be in shape and you have to be strong. You have to withstand the mental toughness."
Marrone said he expects the early part of training camp to be critical in the evaluation process.
"We'll have a window of about five straight days, and I talked to the players about it this [Thursday] morning: We're going to be in full pads and it's going to be a tough deal,'' Marrone said. "During that time, I think a lot of questions will be answered to see how we are.
"I don't think it will be the final exam, but I know where we'll be starting and how far we'll have to go."
Also on Thursday:
*Marrone was asked his message to the Jaguars' offensive line, where multiple players have worked at multiple positions through the offseason: "We're going to have to make some decisions. We're going to have to make them quick. You better come in ready to go. If you're not ready to go, and if you're thinking 'It's going to take me a little while before I get this thing going and I'm ready to play,' you won't be in the mix.'' …
*Marrone addressed veteran tackle Branden Albert, who missed OTAs before participating in the three-day minicamp. "He looked like a player who wasn't here, like I said before; I'm not going to leave that statement," Marrone said. "The next day you get a little better and the next day you get a little better. I think he understands that when he comes back he's going to have to be in much better shape to go perform. He's a professional, so he knows that.'' …
*Safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church continued to work on the side, as they did throughout OTAs. Other players not practicing/working on the side Thursday included cornerback Aaron Colvin, running back T.J. Yeldon, tight end Neal Sterling and defensive tackle Stefan Charles. Marrone declined on Friday to speculate on the possible availability of players when training camp opens. …