Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey liked what he saw this week from Justin Blackmon.
Mularkey, after praising the rookie wide receiver early in the team's mandatory mini-camp, closed camp Thursday by again saying the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft appeared to practice very well throughout the three-day session at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
"He had a little bit of an attitude about himself," Mularkey said. "Even in the individual drills, he just sped up everything he was doing."
Blackmon said any change in approach is about adjusting his play to the level necessary in the NFL.
"I just came out and tried to work as hard as possible," he said. "Just try to get out there and show him that I know what I'm doing and just trying to make a point. I think it's just coming out and competing every day. It's part of the job and a different level of play, so I have to up my level of play…"
Mularkey said while he couldn't evaluate Blackmon Thursday until he watched film, he thought Blackmon had a good practice despite one drop.
"I think we got a lot done with him," Mularkey said of the week.
Mularkey said Blackmon asked a lot of good questions in practice this week, something he said the rookie perhaps was reluctant to do early.
"He's starting to want to do it and get everything right," Mularkey said. "It was good the way he approached it."
Mularkey said following an arrest for aggravated DUI last month, Blackmon made a comment that he wanted to show people about himself by his actions.
"I think he's attempting to do that with the way he came out here to practice," Mularkey said. "He has to continue to do that, and obviously the quicker he does that it's going to support what he said basically in front of America. He wants to correct this thing. He has a good start going."
BACK TO THE OFFSEASON
When mini-camp ended on Thursday afternoon, it was more than end of the three days.
It was the end of the offseason workout program, which meant a return to the rules that govern the non-workout portion of the NFL offseason – i.e., no contact between players and coaches, no footballs around the facility, etc.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by the players and owners last summer, teams are severely restricted in what they can do with players during the off-season.
"We'll give them what we can information-wise when they leave here," he said. "Because as of Friday and as of (June) 28th for the rookies, we cannot have any more discussions. We can't provide information for them. We can't send them video. It's all back to like it was when we started the offseason.
"When they leave here, they have got to be ready to go when training camp starts because that will be the last time we can meet with them."
WORKING WITH THE ONES
The offseason and organized team activities period has been a positive one for Andre Branch.
The rookie defensive end from Clemson, a second-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, has impressed coaches, and has shown signs of being able to contribute immediately as a rookie – certainly in passing situations and possibly as an every down player.
While veteran Austen Lane has worked with the first team opposite Jeremy Mincey during much of the offseason, Branch has had extensive time working with the first team this week, too.
"It's a great feeling," Branch said. "I've been working with the ones since I've been here. They're expecting a lot from me. That's what I'm trying to give them. I'm not making the call. Once my coach is confident in me, and once the coaching staff is confident in me, that's when I know. "
Branch said he feels his first offseason has been productive.
"The guys are taking me in like I'm one of their brothers," he said. "It's been a great journey so far."
WHAT WE SAW
For a second consecutive day, we saw a lot of fans – and a lot of sweat. The Jaguars closed their five-practices-in-three-days mini-camp with an open practice in 88-degree temperatures, and while practice remained high tempo, Mularkey also said the receivers also had too many drops. There were several highlights, with rookie safety Jeremiah Brown intercepting a long pass from third-team quarterback Jordan Palmer and wide receiver Lee Evans catching a long pass from Palmer in the same drills. Tight end Marcedes Lewis also continued to have a good offseason, catching a variety of short and intermediate routes. Linebacker Daryl Smith had a near interception off a pass from quarterback Blaine Gabbert to tight end Zach Miller and running back Rashad Jennings had a long run on a draw play early in team drills.
The mini-camp practice Thursday marked the end of the offseason for the veterans. Rookies will stay another two week as part of the rookie development program. The veterans and rookies will report to training camp July 26, with practice scheduled for July 27.
Mularkey emphasized a smart off-field approach long before the events of the offseason, and he made it clear Thursday that will remain a priority. Mularkey, who has brought speakers in on several occasions to discuss with players the importance of off-field decisions, said that was a priority before off-field incidents in the last three months involving players such as Terrance Knighton and Justin Blackmon. Unsurprisingly, that was a message Thursday as the Jaguars prepared for an extended period of down time before training camp. "I really want them to think about what they're about to do, how they're going to do it and when they're going to do it," Mularkey said. Mularkey said he didn't bring in a speaker Thursday and instead spoke to the team himself. "I told them it's forever," he said. Under Mularkey it's clear that's a message that's not going away.
*Lewis practiced full after tweaking a hamstring Wednesday, and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley returned to practice after missing Wednesday for personal reasons. Linebacker Clint Session missed a second consecutive day for personal reasons.
*Mularkey said he likes where the defense is as the offseason ends. "They're picking up right where they left off," Mularkey said of a unit that ranked No. 6 in the NFL last season. "They have an edge about them. We're not a very complicated team defensively and there's not a lot of miscommunication out here. They're very in sync with everything they do."
*Mularkey said with Session limited in the offseason, veteran linebacker Russell Allen – who has played extensively as a backup and part-time starter in recent seasons – was impressive in recent weeks. Mularkey also said there is strong competition at the receiver position. "That's probably the biggest one we're evaluating – to see how we can line up if we have two, three, four or even five guys (receivers) on the field at the same time," Mularkey said.
*Mularkey said another focus when training camp opens will be continuing to reduce penalties and mistakes. Minimizing penalties is a priority for Mularkey, with the Jaguars hiring officials to work every day of organized activities and mini-camp. "If we do anything, we have to clean up our penalties," Mularkey said. "We'll have to improve on something once we get the pads on. It's hard to evaluate the run game and protections without the pads on with the way we practice."