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2018 rookie minicamp: “Pretty good group”

JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone looks for a few things during rookie minicamp.

But what the Jaguars’ second-year head coach mostly wants from his first look at each year’s draft class and undrafted rookies is to not see players looking out of place – or out of shape.

On that front, Marrone called Friday a success.

“It’s way too early to say who stood out, who did this … I don’t like to get too excited,” Marrone said early Friday afternoon at EverBank Field, where 2018 Jaguars rookie minicamp is being held through Sunday.

“But I will say that I didn’t go out there and say, ‘Ugh, who brought this guy in? Let’s get him out of here.’ I didn’t say that – and there have been times in the past where I’ve been like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to be careful: this guy’s going to get somebody hurt or he’s going to get hurt himself.’

“I don’t feel that way. I feel like it’s a pretty good group.”

The Jaguars’ seven rookies and 12 undrafted free agents participated in the first of three days of rookie minicamp Friday. So, too, did five first-year veterans, one 2017 draft-eligible rookie, and 42 players invited to camp on a tryout basis.

Marrone said on-field competition isn’t as much of a priority as watching to see if a player can listen and be available.

“First impressions are important – what you’re going to do,” Marrone said. “I’m not talking about making plays right now. I’m talking about the way you handle your business. That’s what I’m looking at.”

Four of the Jaguars’ ‘18 draft selections – seventh-round punter Logan Cooke, seventh-round linebacker Leon Jacobs, sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee and fourth-round offensive tackle Will Richardson – signed their rookie contracts Thursday, with the 12 undrafted rookies signing before practice Friday.

“You get a chance to meet them, and there’s a lot of eyeballing,” Marrone said. “You’re just trying to match names to faces and trying to get used to them.”

Three other draft selections – first-round draft defensive lineman Taven Bryan, second-round wide receiver DJ Chark and third-round safety Ronnie Harrison – remain unsigned, but they participated in rookie minicamp and will work with the team as the offseason moves forward next week.

“It’s the same thing every time you come in new,” Bryan said. “Everybody starts out and you have to work your way up. Same thing in high school. Same thing in college. You have to work your way from the bottom.”

Marrone said while he hesitates to get excited about practices in which players are “basically playing in our pajamas” – i.e., without pads or tackling – he said there were good signs.

“The one thing I did see from the group as a whole … obviously it’s very hot out there, but I didn’t see anyone who was out of shape or not prepared,” Marrone said. “I thought they were trying to listen to direction and do exactly what we want them to do, which is one of the things we evaluate.

“I thought they did a nice job from that standpoint.”

Marrone said the hope was to get a little more “football-related” Friday evening rather than Friday morning, with the end goal of the weekend being to prepare rookies and young players for working with veterans in the rest of the offseason program.

“We’re watching those guys and getting them introduced to how we stretch, how we lift, how we coach our drills,” Marrone said. “This way when our [veteran] players come back in, those players can come right in and we’re not wasting time. I cannot stand wasting time. That’s probably my biggest pet peeve.”

Marrone said he emphasized a simplicity of approach entering the weekend, and also said a major issue for rookies trying to make the team is being available.

“One of the things I talked about after practice was, ‘Whether you’re good enough to make an NFL team,’ that’s going to depend on a lot of things,” Marrone said. “But if you want to get better as a football player every single day you basically need two things: You have to be coachable and you have to be available.

“Today was a good lesson for all of them in that they were all coachable and all available, and now it’s going to go to their true athletic ability as far as being a football player whether they make it or not.”

Marrone said he told players the fastest way to be released is to be on the ground during practice because players become injured in that situation.

“My experience in any rookie minicamp – or in any type of minicamp when you’re not in full pads – is when you someone on the ground, that’s bad,” Marrone said. “It’s bad for everybody. It’s bad business. That’s the one thing I told them, ‘If I see you on the ground or not listening to directions, we’ll get rid of you right off the bat.’”

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