JACKSONVILLE – The week's offensive priority gets clearer by the day.
Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo spoke to the media Monday morning, echoing the recent thoughts of Head Coach Doug Marrone:
Seeing the offensive line work together this week is key.
"Obviously, the more those guys can play together early and often, especially with [quarterback] Nick [Foles] in there, is going to be a good thing," DeFilippo said Monday shortly before the Jaguars' practice at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
The Jaguars on Thursday are scheduled to play the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, with Marrone saying he plans to play the starters extensively for the first this time preseason.
What that means for the offensive line remains unknown, but DeFilippo said "without a doubt" the line ideally would work in a preseason game before the regular-season opener against Kansas City September 8.
"Anytime you have a chance to solidify the offensive line up front when you don't know what's coming, when you're playing an opposite color jersey, that's a good thing," DeFilippo said. "We're happy it's happening soon."
While the Jaguars projected starting offensive line has practiced together this week for the first time since training camp began, three of those projected starters – left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Jawaan Taylor – missed the first two preseason games with injuries. Their status for Thursday remains uncertain.
Regardless of who plays along the line Thursday, DeFilippo made something else clear Monday:
A key recent development has been the return of Robinson, who was activated from the physically unable to perform list August 12 after missing the start of training camp while returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained last September.
"It's great to have him back," DeFilippo said. "He loves football. He brings an energy to the field. He was really great when he was hurt – being enthusiastic and those things. But I like seeing him out there enthusiastic playing. We're really happy to have him back for sure."
Other takeaways from DeFilippo's media availability Monday:
*Leonard Fournette is going to get a lot of opportunity in DeFilippo's scheme. "I'll know a little bit more after this week in terms of how many plays he gets winded and all those things in a game-like atmosphere," DeFilippo said of the third-year running back. "But I know Leonard's goals. Leonard's goal is to be the best back in this league, and unique star players play a lot of football. So, to me, he needs to play and so that's where we're at with that." …
*Brandon Linder is making DeFilippo more comfortable with the offensive line. "Having Brandon Linder here really helps us," DeFilippo said, adding that the presence of the sixth-year veteran center helps speed the cohesion process of a unit that just began practicing together this week. "Brandon's a really sharp guy and he's a really good player. Whenever you're solidified in the middle of the offensive line with a guy who knows what you're trying to do in terms of the (middle linebacker identifications), the rotation of the safeties, is the nickel pressed, is it inside leverage or outside leverage depending on what blitz is coming … the fact that we have Brandon in there, and that he's seen a lot of things, helps that cohesion grow faster." …
*Gardner Minshew's football intelligence has impressed DeFilippo, who on Monday said the rookie backup quarterback "did a fantastic job" in a 19-of-29, 202-yard performance in a Preseason Week 2 loss to Philadelphia last Thursday. "I think you see his football IQ and his reaction time really quicken up as he plays," DeFilippo said, adding that Minshew has been exceptionally quick picking up quarterback options at the line of scrimmage. "He's been able to pick up some of the nuances faster than other young quarterbacks I've worked with."
*DeFilippo understandably didn't provide deep detail, but he did discuss Monday his philosophy on play-calling early in the game. While some offensive coordinators largely stick to a "script" for the game's first 15 or 20 offensive plays, DeFilippo said he will choose early plays from a list of options. "I skip around," he said. "Some guys may go, 'Boom, boom, boom.' I don't want to give away any of my play-calling tendencies, but I'll skip around. It's feel for me more so than just going down the list."