JACKSONVILLE – The focus is on the rookies, but there was other Jaguars news Saturday, too.
That news primarily focused on two names – Blake Bortles and Branden Albert – and Head Coach Doug Marrone said he has seen much to like in recent weeks from the name perhaps of most concern to Jaguars followers.
"He's improved – there's no doubt about it," Marrone said Saturday during the second day of the team's 2017 rookie minicamp at EverBank Field.
Bortles, the Jaguars' fourth-year quarterback, isn't participating in this weekend's minicamp. The three-day event is for rookies and first-year players, with all seven selections in the recent 2017 NFL Draft participating along with 16 undrafted free agents and nearly 40 tryout players.
Still, Bortles remains the team's top storyline. He worked early this offseason to improve mechanics and fundamentals with which he struggled at times last season, spending time in California working with quarterback gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.
Marrone on Saturday said Bortles has looked better fundamentally during the early on-field portion of the team team's voluntary offseason program.
"There are certain things, as far as his elbow and his arm, that are much improved," Marrone said. "I think there are still other things we're still working on as well as everyone else at this stage."
Marrone said the plan is for Bortles to increase the number of throws in the offseason compared to past offseasons with Bortles likely throwing between 980 and 1,025 passes during that time.
"If we're throwing 100 footballs to 150 – if we throw 150 he'll be better," Marrone said. "If we throw 200 he'll be better – 250, he'll be better. What we're doing now is trying to build him up and build the arm strength and all the other things along with all of our quarterbacks to get there.
"The more he throws the better he'll be."
Marrone on Saturday also discussed Albert, the veteran left tackle who has yet to participate in the offseason program and who also has yet to contact the team regarding his absence from the voluntary work.
The Jaguars acquired Albert in a March trade for a 2018 seventh-round draft selection. It was expected at the time that he would start at left tackle next season.
Asked if there had been contact between the parties Marrone replied, "No. Still. None."
Marrone was asked if that was frustrating.
"I think what hurts me a little bit – and it actually hurts more than it does 'mad,' is I just want to know, so when you [the media] asks me a question I can answer it,'' Marrone said. "Or if [General Manager] David Caldwell asks me a question, I can answer it. …
"That, I think, is the more frustrating thing. I've been in situations a lot with players. I've had a player on the [NFL's Franchise] Tag, I've had a player on a couple of things: 'Hey, coach, I'm on the tag. I'm not signing the tag. I'm not going to come for anything, but I'm going to be working out, I'm going to be training.' I said, 'Hey, I get it. That's the business side. I'm good.'
"You just want to know where everyone's at and that's all I was expecting. I can't tell you what's true or not true, and I can't speak for Branden. I can only tell you I haven't talked to him.''
AROUND ROOKIE MINICAMP
*The Jaguars' three days of rookie minicamp were closed to the media and the public. Marrone offered some details, saying coaches introduced 20 or 30 percent of the offense and defense to the rookies "just to see if they could retain the information." He also said the rookies were on the practice field for about an hour each day with an emphasis on learning and without any "combativeness." "I really don't care how you got here," Marrone said he told players this week. "I really don't. I don't care if you were drafted. I don't care if you're a tryout person, or a signed free agent. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to make a first impression, to go out and do something to maybe create another opportunity of being on the 90 [-man offseason roster]." Marrone added that he wouldn't be surprised if the team signed at least one tryout player. …
*Marrone said rookie second-round selection Cam Robinson worked at left tackle throughout rookie minicamp. The Jaguars said immediately after selecting Robinson that the plan is for him to compete with Albert at the position. "He stayed at left tackle the whole time," Marrone said. "I like the things he did. I think he responded well. He really moved very well.'' …
*Marrone also said the early plan with fourth-round wide receiver Dede Westbrook is to have him focus on learning the outside receiver role. Westbrook, a 2017 Heisman Trophy finalist, played outside at Oklahoma, though some analysts project him as a possible slot receiver in the NFL because of his size, speed and quickness. ...