JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the Wednesday that was as the Jaguars continue preparing for the 2016 regular-season opener against the Green Bay Packers at EverBank Field Sunday …
RACING TO BE READY
The Jaguars worked pretty much full strength at pretty much full speed Wednesday.
That was the plan throughout 2016 Training Camp – to have as close to as full a roster as possible going as close to 100 percent as possible during the first week of the regular season.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said part of that plan was to have a padded, intense practice on Wednesday, the first day of full preparation for the regular-season opener Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Bradley said that was very much the case.
"We designed it that way," Bradley said as the Jaguars prepared to play the Packers at EverBank Sunday at 1 p.m. "We wanted it really straining on our guys. They took to it. There were some things that came up, but that is why you practice."
All 53 active players practiced Wednesday, with defensive end Jared Odrick (jaw) and running back Chris Ivory (calf) limited. That makes the Jaguars as healthy as they have been for any regular-season opener in recent memory.
The team de-activated five players because of injury for last year's regular-season opener, but could enter Sunday with no players deactivated because of injury.
"That part we really appreciate," Bradley said. "I know we have had a plan through training camp. It is a fine line with how much you challenge them, how much do you strain them yet stay healthy. How much should we challenge them and strain them? We will see. I know we came out of it healthy and that is ultimately what we want."
Dante Fowler Jr. continues to be a focus as the regular-season opener approaches, with Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash making news on this issue Wednesday when he said the team has changed Fowler's pre-snap stance since the beginning of the offseason. "It has helped him get a better get off,'' Wash said. Fowler, the Jaguars' second-year starting Leo end and the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, missed his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament then impressed with his athleticism and suddenness this offseason and early in training camp. His production in preseason didn't match his offseason performance, and Bradley mentioned Monday that Fowler's conditioning had improved since early in the offseason. Wash on Wednesday said Fowler is beginning to "really understand the [defensive] package." "He would be in meetings last year but he wasn't getting the reps," Wash said. "He is a guy that has to learn on the grass [in practice] and he has done that so we are ready for him to go."
Images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars prepare to open up their season against Green Bay.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on Wednesday said he likes the state of the offense entering Sunday's regular-season opener, and said the area made necessary strides during the offseason and training camp. The Jaguars were particularly focused through the offseason on starting faster, an area of weakness last season. "I think everything we showed in the preseason kind of backs that up," Bortles said. The Jaguars' first-team offense played well in the first two preseason games before struggling in its final appearance – a three-point first half in a Preseason Week 3 victory over Cincinnati. "I think in the Cincinnati game it was shocking that we didn't play well or start fast," Bortles said. "I think that was cool because it showed how expectations have changed. It wasn't, 'Here we go again.' It was, 'What's going on. Why aren't we doing what we should do?''' Bortles said personally he believes he is making better pre-snap decisions. "I think that just comes with going through the reps, studying over and over again and preparing," Bortles said.
"Green Bay is a good team. They [the Packers] usually are every single year, so it will be good. I think it's an opportunity for us to go out and rise to the level of our expectations and play well. We expect to play well."
"He has a really good understanding of his defense and his pass coverage. … Some issues that showed up a year or two ago [in coverage] are not becoming issues any more for us. He has a really good understanding of the scheme. If it is the speed thing that you are talking about it, is the experience and that wisdom of playing in the package now that really helps him."
---Bradley on middle linebacker Paul Posluszny