JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from Day 11 of Jaguars 2015 Training Camp Wednesday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields …
1)Helping hands.We begin Day 11 takeaways with insight from Gus Bradley into just why the Jaguars' head coach feels good about this team entering the preseason. Yes, it's more talented. Yes, quarterback Blake Bortles looks improved. But Bradley on Wednesday after practice noted other reasons he likes the direction, pointing – literally – around the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields to guard Brandon Linder helping rookie guard Chris Reed, to free-agent tackle Jermey Parnell and defensive end Chris Smith working on pass rush and to free-agent tight end Julius Thomas and safety Johnathan Cyprien working on open-field tackling. "It's unbelievable," Bradley said. "You talk about, 'Help everybody get better,' and that's what this day was all about … What I love about it is it's starting feel more real. It's not because people said to do it; they're doing it on their own and we've been stressing that throughout."
2)Plays needed.If a specific statistic has been discussed more than any other around the Jaguars this offseason and training camp, it may be interceptions. Most of the team's offensive statistics must improve, but the tangible difference an increase in interceptions could make could be dramatic. The Jaguars last season finished sixth in the NFL with 45 sacks and played solid defense more often than not. The pass rush also helped the defense forced 22 fumbles. But the team finished with just six interceptions, making field-turning, momentum-changing plays an offseason priority. "I know that compared to now and compared to OTAs we have a lot more PBUs (pass break-ups) by the (defensive backs) than we had in the spring," Bradley said. "It was just, 'Stay true to it, man, and keep going.' Those are going to turn into interceptions. …Being around the ball and making plays on the ball, it just feels like more aggressive, tighter coverage and it's challenging the offense even more."
Take a look at the 10 best images from the Jaguars Wednesday practice.
3)Bennett showing up.A player to watch entering Friday's preseason opener remains defensive tackle Michael Bennett. The rookie from Ohio State is working at the three-technique tackle position, where is he listed behind "co-starters" Tyson Alualu and Ziggy Hood on the unofficial depth chart. With Sen'Derrick Marks likely out most or all of the preseason while returning from January reconstructive knee surgery, Bennett could get extensive playing time against Pittsburgh. If so, it will be chance to build on what has been a productive camp. Bennett at times has been as good as any interior pass-rusher in one-on-one pass-rush drills and has looked like what the Jaguars expected when they selected him in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The preseason will be a different speed, which makes Friday important for Bennett. "He's always been pretty good against the run, but those flashes in the one-on-one pass rush are good," Bradley said. "That three-technique position, he's going to have a lot of one-on-one opportunities, so to start seeing that out of him would be great."
4)Preseason break down.Coaches will meet Wednesday evening to discuss playing time for Friday night, but don't look for a huge break in past form. Starters typically get 10 or so plays – or two series –in the preseason opener, then about a quarter and a half in Preseason Week 2 and two quarters and a series or so in Preseason Week 3. That's about the breakdown you can expect from the Jaguars. Though the Jaguars could play the offensive starters a bit more than usual, Bradley said the team will be cautious with injured front-line players such as running back T.J. Yeldon, defensive end Jared Odrick and defensive tackle Roy Miller. While playing time on offense can benefit a young unit on that side of the ball, being healthy and fresh entering the regular season likely will remain the primary objective.
5)Keep an eye on … Ryan Davis.This may not be a necessary entry for many observers; Jaguars defensive end Ryan Davis, after all, has earned being the focus of attention the past two seasons. The Leo pass rusher has accomplished the not-very-easy feat of lasting through a regime change as a former undrafted rookie free agent, emerging as a critical part of the defense in the process. Davis registered a career-high 6.5 sacks last season, rushing mostly from the interior, where he has taken advantage of matchups against offensive guards and centers. Davis has looked improved this camp, excelling in one-on-one pass rushing drills against tackles. Could Davis get an increased role as an outside edge rusher with the training-camp absence of Chris Clemons? We'll see.