JACKSONVILLE – Organized team activities are in the rear view – and the offseason nearly is, too.
What’s left of the Jaguars’ 2018 offseason program is this week’s veteran mandatory minicamp – three days of non-padded practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.
What’s different about this week’s session from other offseason work?
Good question – and on the surface, this week’s three minicamp practices will differ little from the OTA practices held the past three weeks. The work remains non-padded and non-contact in nature, which means you may hear Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone call the work underwear practice – or something to that effect.
Not that Marrone doesn’t consider this week’s minicamp important.
“It will be three days of work where you are trying to put a lot in, you are trying to get a lot of situational work and things of that nature,” Marrone said last week as ’18 OTAs drew to a close. “Really, it kind of sets the base of the foundation of the knowledge of the scheme and the way we want to work.”
That remains the main benefit of offseason work – either OTAs or minicamps. While there’s comparatively little value in terms of evaluating players, there’s plenty to be gained in terms of getting players ready for training camp – particularly rookies and particularly mentally.
The mandatory nature is one difference between minicamp and OTAs. That means players who weren’t here before (Jalen Ramsey) will be here now.
Marrone said a primary aim this week will be to reinstall the offense and defense, something the team has done twice this offseason and will do again in training camp.
“You have the installation prior to your OTAs starting, then you want to review the installation again during the OTAs and then you want to go ahead during the mandatory minicamp and review the first three installations again and then hit yourself in the training camp with the installation,” he said. “This way, basically overall three times of the same installation so that you can potentially have better retention obviously as you work your way into training camp.”
Here are 10 things to know as the Jaguars enter this week’s 2018 veteran mandatory minicamp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex …
1. Jalen Ramsey will be there … The All-Pro cornerback didn’t attend OTAs, a decision that made headlines despite the voluntary nature of the last three weeks. He is expected to attend this week’s minicamp and is expected to speak to the media following practice Tuesday.
2. ...and Leonard Fournette will be there, too. The second-year running back didn’t attend the last two weeks of OTAs. He also is expected to attend minicamp. Note: Voluntary is voluntary – and until the NFL offseason rules change, there’s nothing wrong with Ramsey and/or Fournette not participating in OTAs.
3. The Jaguars look like a veteran team – or at least an experienced one. That was among the most noticeable elements of OTAs. Marrone talked last week about liking the team’s ability to maintain a practice workload, and the team has looked like a more efficient team than last offseason. That’s to be expected in the second season under a head coach, and the Jaguars have that look.
4. They look like a motivated team, too. If people thought focus or motivation would be a problem following January’s loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, they couldn’t have been more wrong. The Jaguars throughout the offseason have echoed Marrone’s sentiment that last year gives them no head start on this season – and there’s no doubt listening to Marrone or the players that the desire is there to reach beyond last season’s success.
5. Quarterback Blake Bortles looks good. This may be the most important story from OTAs: Bortles, who underwent wrist surgery in February and who signed a contract extension the same month, has had the most impressive offseason of his five-year NFL career. He appears comfortable in his second season in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s system. All signs point to Bortles being in the best place of his career entering ’18.
6. The wide receivers look good, too. Chemistry and cohesion with Bortles appeared high in OTAs, with players such as second-year veteran Keelan Cole and rookie D.J. Chark standing out among the receivers. A player to watch: four-year veteran Rashad Greene Sr., who has played just 17 games in three seasons but who looked good in OTAs, could challenge for a roster spot in ’18.
7. Corey Grant looks like he’ll have an increased role. Jaguars rules limit what can be reported from offseason practices, but those clamoring for the fourth-year running back to have a bigger role next season may not need to clamor as much next season.
8. Donte Moncrief looks like a good free-agent singing … We left the veteran off the list when discussing wide receivers a couple of entries ago, but that’s because he deserves his own entry. The fifth-year veteran signed as an unrestricted free agent from Indianapolis in March, and his chemistry with Bortles has stood out.
9. … and so does Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins, like Moncrief an offseason unrestricted free agent signee, looked during OTAs like the athletic, two-way receiving option the Jaguars have lacked at tight end in recent seasons.
10. Health is a priority. Three days remain in the offseason. Improving is important this week. Getting out of the next few days healthy? That’s more important.