IN OR OUT, A LOT OF ACCOMPLISHED
A change in venue did nothing to dampen Mike Mularkey's enthusiasm.
While a heavy Thursday morning rain forced the Jaguars inside for the final day of a three-day veteran orientation mini-camp, Mularkey said the walk-through practice on the lower suite level of EverBank Field still allowed the Jaguars to accomplish their goals for the week.
"We felt like as a staff we'd gotten a lot accomplished in the first couple of days, and if we came in, we'd get something else done," Mularkey said Thursday afternoon in a press conference wrapping up his first mini-camp as the team's head coach.
"We came in and it was really outstanding. We got every snap repped – even if it was just a matter of hearing the play and going through the play. We got a lot done today."
Mularkey said, as was the case throughout the week, the tempo of practice exceeded his expectations.
"They went up there and had great focus," he said.
Mularkey said he may speak to Jaguars Owner Shad Khan about the possibility of an enclosed practice facility sometime in the future. "A bubble would be great for days like today," Mularkey said.
Overall, Mularkey called the three-day camp "a good start." He said the staff will meet Friday morning to review camp, and see if there are things that can improve.
This week's mini-camp is very much about teaching and getting players and coaches acclimated to one another. That's true to the point that Mularkey said there isn't competition in the sense that roster spots or depth chart positions are at stake.
The time for that is later, once players know the system enough to function at a high level.
UP NEXT: PHASE TWO
The Jaguars begin Phase Two of the off-season program Monday.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Mularkey said that means voluntary coaching sessions, with the team being able to recommend two hours for players to be coached and then two additional hours that players can condition on their own.
"We've given them an idea of when we'd like to meet with them for 30 minutes and be out on the field with them for an hour and a half," Mularkey said. Mularkey said the on-field work must be "on air," meaning no offense against defense.
Mularkey said the coaching sessions the next three weeks are critical coaching time that was missed during the lockout last off-season, and that most of it is individual instruction.
"It's great to finally get a chance to work with them. It's still part of building that trust factor, that relationship from coach to player, so it felt like we made some strides in that area. They got a chance to get a feel for me and I got a chance to get a feel for them, so it's positive. I was happy with the progress we made. I've got three real intelligent quarterbacks, three willing workers and three guys who seem to be very coachable. It's early in the process, but early indications are I've got a good group."
--- Jaguars quarterbacks coach Greg Olson
*Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Kicker Josh Scobee, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, defensive end John Chick, linebacker Stephen Franklin and safety Darcel McBath did not attend practice.
*Cornerback Rashean Mathis, cornerback T.J. Heath, cornerback Ashton Youboty, linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive end Aaron Kampman and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu attended practice, but did not practice or work extensively.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"I don't think you can play this game and not miss it. Some people are, 'Oh, I can't wait for a break,' but when you have to miss it it's another story. You want to be out there."
--- Jaguars DT D'Anthony Smith on missing the last two seasons on injured reserve
"It was a blast. We had a lot of fun learning all the new stuff we installed. It was great to get on the field and interact with the coaches and the other guys a little more than in the pre-mini-camp scenario."
--- Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert on minicamp
"I think they have a better idea (of the right way to do things) now that they've heard me in team meetings for three days. They've been in offensive and defensive and special teams meetings. It was a great chance to see how we operate. The way they responded in practice was an indicator that things were done right by the coaches when they were in front of them."
---Mularkey on what was gained during the three-day minicamp
WHAT WE'RE SEEING
On Thursday, there wasn't much to see. The Jaguars worked on the lower-suite level inside EverBank Field, which limited activity to little more than a walk-through.
It has been vogue in the last few days to see newly signed wide receiver Lee Evans as a "safe" free agent signing, and that's fine. Because he signed a one-year deal, he indeed is a safe acquisition in that if he doesn't work out, the move won't hurt the Jaguars. But watching Evans in mini-camp you get the idea it's wrong to pigeon-hole him into an "aging-veteran" role. Evans this week made some moves on intermediate routes – and some catches after getting open – that looked like the moves and catches of a player who can contribute. Can Evans still be a 1,000-yard, game-breaking guy? Time will tell, but early on, he absolutely looked like a player who can be a consistent, reliable, productive player at a position that didn't have that a year ago.
*Mularkey said while he likes the idea of practicing against another team in training camp he won't do it this year because the coaching staff is in its first season together. "I knew we didn't want to do that this year," Mularkey said, adding that it may be something the Jaguars do in the future.
*Defensive end Aaron Kampman got the highest score Thursday on a pop quiz given by Mularkey to players. On the quiz, Mularkey – who says he does things out of the box at times to see how well players are paying attention – asked players for words that appear on the walls of the Jaguars' weight room. Kampman tied middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and defensive end John Chick, then got the tie-breaking word correct. "The guys who got the most right, I could have told you they would," Mularkey said. The tiebreaker was naming a keyword Mularkey believes is important to what the Jaguars' philosophy is. The tiebreaker? Violent.
*The upcoming three-day rookie mini-camp will be made up of solely rookies and first-year players not on rosters, Mularkey said. Mularkey said he estimates about 40-to-42 players, including drafted players and undrafted free agents, will attend the May 4-6 minicamp. "A lot of people will get a chance to be seen up close and personal," Mularkey said. The downside is that the practices won't be as extensive as the ones this past week because of numbers, Mularkey said. In the past, young players already on rosters often attended rookie mini-camps. Mularkey said the camp essentially will be a tryout camp for many of the players.
*With learning and becoming familiar with the coaches a focus this week, an emphasis was on what some see as an off-season cliché – i.e., tempo and pace. But during this period, the Jaguars are focused on establishing how they want to practice and approach preparation, and toward that end, veterans said this week tempo and pace is important. "Tempo is a big thing with us," wide receiver Laurent Robinson said. "We're not doing any conditioning after practice so we're going to do it during practice. Up tempo, get to the line of scrimmage, come off the ball, attack hard and fast pace. Get the tempo going."