Training camp and OTAs are distinctly different, and on Monday – before the third of four weeks of on-field work for the Jaguars – Head Coach Doug Marrone made clear that a successful June is required for July and August to be productive.
"We're trying to lay this foundation so there's no cracks in it and trying to get out there, work through some things and see," Marrone said before the seventh OTA practice at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Fields.
"Obviously it's a new team, a new year. (We will) try and see what we can do and set our schedules for training camp where we can move forward."
These OTAs don't have the intensity of a training camp which allows players to work over and over on scheme or technique without the pressure of limited reps and a looming game. It's a critical time of year for new players to learn the system, for young players to show their progress from a year ago and for veteran players to show improvement which means the head coach is looking for something from everyone, including the quarterback.
"We're always trying to push guys along and he's (Blake Bortles) no different," Marrone said. "We're really harping on consistency we need and getting better at situational awareness, getting better at that.
"He's pushing just like everyone else. He's not different from the other players out there and what they're going through."
Bortles' story is well known and his handling of a new contract and the expectations of a new season has been well told. He's also entering new territory every time he takes his seat in the quarterbacks' room where, absent Chad Henne for the first time in his career, Bortles is now the sage veteran though Marrone thinks he sees something he likes.
"I don't look at it like you have to be here for a long period of time or you had to grow up together or throw together or maybe hang out together," Marrone said. "I think there is that in any room, not just a quarterback room, when people come in how they support one another, how they push one another is important and not just in a quarterback room but in every room and I see it in a lot of the rooms that we have.
"That's encouraging but it's easier now when there's not as much adversity but you'd rather see it here so you can make sure it carries over into the season."
Off the field Marrone is tireless in threading together what he accurately calls a 'new team.' Blending veteran free agents and a rookie class with last year's roster is how a coach gets his team ready for camp. He spends plenty of time to figure out who and what he has.
"Some of the guys that are new I try to sit down with a little bit and not with any agenda except just to get to know each other and talk. Genuinely I want to see how they're doing, how they're fitting in, how they feel, just making sure that they're doing OK because I really believe if you're doing OK and everything is going well then we should see the best of you when you're on the football field."
Marrone offered a few more notes as the Jags get set to take the field on Monday…
- The coaches and trainers are well aware of where the players are at heading into the busiest week on the field so far this spring. "We pretty much do the same, we kind of build them up during the week. We'll be mindful of what the players have the second day, tomorrow and Friday. You just have to be mindful of what the players are doing so you don't put them in jeopardy."
- There are a number of players who worked on the practice squad last season who are competing for roster spots this fall and Marrone believes in developing those players. "I really look at those guys as guys we're developing to be starters. We coach everyone like a starter because those are the next guys up if we have an injury and they've been in our system a year and in the meetings. So I'm looking to see if they truly understand what we're trying to get done."