JACKSONVILLE – The offseason is over, so the wait begins.
Jaguars 2018 Veteran Mandatory minicamp ended at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex last Thursday, with three weeks of voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory minicamp practices now in the rearview.
Training camp begins July 26, leaving a little more than five weeks between practices for a team that won last season’s AFC South title and one that many expect to contend for a playoff position – and more – in 2018. Where does the roster stand now that the offseason is over and training camp looms?
That’s what we’ll examine in the coming days. Here’s a look at the Jaguars’ offense:
Projected starter: Blake Bortles.
Projected reserves/others: Cody Kessler, Tanner Lee.
Offseason moves: The Jaguars committed to Bortles – at least for the next two seasons – and reshaped the position behind him, extending Bortles’ contract in February through 2020 then allowing longtime backup Chad Henne to sign as an unrestricted free agent with Kansas City. The team then traded a conditional draft selection to Cleveland for Kessler before selecting Lee in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
As the offseason ends and camp approaches: This overall was a good offseason for the position. Bortles was among the Jaguars’ big stories of OTAs and minicamp, turning in perhaps the best of his five NFL offseasons. He looked more confident, in control and accurate than in any of his previous offseasons –and he plans to continue his offseason work with personal throwing coaches Adam Dedeaux and Tom House in California between now and training camp. Bortles appears poised for perhaps his best season. Kessler and Lee are bigger unknowns, with both still learning the offense and showing expected inconsistencies during on-field offseason work.
Running back (6)
Projected starter: Leonard Fournette.
Projected reserves/others: T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, Tim Cook, Brandon Wilds and Tommy Bohanon (fullback).
Offseason moves: The Jaguars tweaked depth here, releasing veteran Chris Ivory after he played sparingly late last season and in the playoffs. They re-signed Grant – a restricted free agent – and surprised many observers by not addressing the position in the draft.
As the offseason ends and camp approaches: The Jaguars made clear throughout the offseason that they like their top three running backs – Fournette, Yeldon and Grant – and like the group’s versatility. Fournette is a power back whose style defines the offense, Yeldon has proven to be a very good third-down back and Grant’s speed makes him a threat not only on special teams but as a change-of-pace back in the offense. The team likes Cook as a backup, and it remains to be seen if depth here will be addressed sometime in training camp.
Wide receiver (12)
Projected starters: Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief.
Projected reserves/others: Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark Jr., Rashad Greene Sr., Jaydon Mickens, Allen Lazard, Shane Wynn, Montay Crockett, Dorren Miller and DeAndre Smelter.
Offseason moves: This is another area reshaped in the offseason, with major moves among the starters and reserves. The Jaguars allowed Allen Robinson to sign with Chicago as an unrestricted free agent and released Allen Hurns, signing Moncrief as an unrestricted free agent and selecting Chark in the second round of the draft.
As the offseason ends and camp approaches: The new-look Jaguars receiving corps impressed throughout OTAs and minicamp, gaining chemistry with Bortles. Moncrief showed speed and athleticism and seems likely to be a major contributor if he can avoid the injuries that limited him in four seasons in Indianapolis, and Cole appears poised to take a dramatic step up in his second NFL season. Lee underwent surgery early in the offseason, and the Jaguars worked him back slowly, and Chark showed the athleticism that had the Jaguars trying to trade up for him throughout the second round. A major story to watch in training camp: Greene, who has played just 17 games in three seasons and who appears to have a real chance at earning a roster spot as a sixth receiver.
Tight ends (6)
Projected starters: Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Projected reserves/others: Niles Paul, James O’Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, David Grinnage, Scott Orndoff.
Offseason moves: This was another area of major offseason reshaping, with the Jaguars signing Seferian-Jenkins from the New York Jets as an unrestricted free agent and Paul from the Washington Redskins – also as a UFA – and releasing long-time veteran Marcedes Lewis after 12 seasons with the organization.
As the offseason ends and camp approaches: If any Jaguars player other than Bortles stood out during the on-field portion of the offseason, it may have been Seferian-Jenkins. He looked in sync with Bortles throughout the offseason, and Bortles along with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett both talked during the offseason about the dynamic Seferian-Jenkins’ athleticism as a receiver can bring. Paul, signed primarily as a special teams player, flashed as a receiver in the offseason. The primary question is whether this group can replace Lewis as a blocker, but there seems little doubt it will factor significantly in the passing offense.
Offensive line (15)
Projected starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell.
Projected reserves/others: Tackle Josh Wells, tackle Will Richardson Jr., guard/center Tyler Shatley, guard Chris Reed, tackle William Poehls, guard Josh Walker, guard Brandon Thomas, tackle Sean Hickey, Kc McDermott, tackle Brandon Smith.
Offseason moves: The Jaguars didn’t make a slew of moves here, but the major move on the line was really, really major: the signing of Norwell, an Associated Press All-Pro selection for the Carolina Panthers last season. The team also allowed last year’s starting left guard, Patrick Omameh, to sign with the New York Giants as UFA and selected Richardson in the fourth round of the draft.
As the offseason ends and camp approaches: Gauging this group before padded work begins is tricky, but optimism is high that the addition of Norwell will have a major impact. It should not only strengthen left guard, but help Robinson and Linder around him as well. The line was very good much of last season, helping the Jaguars lead the league in rushing and allowing a franchise-record low 24 sacks. But there were times the line wasn’t as dominant as needed, particularly in the postseason. The addition of Norwell could make the line in reality as good as it was statistically a year ago.