JACKSONVILLE – Doug Pederson hardly could have sounded more pleased.
The Jaguars are two weeks into 2022 Organized Team Activities, meaning they're about halfway through the on-field portion of the offseason. The Jaguars' first-year head coach likes the progress made thus far. A lot.
"I think this offseason has been a success for us, and for me," Pederson said Monday morning, shortly before OTA Day 7 practice at TIAA Bank Field.
Pederson, who took over as the Jaguars' head coach February 6, on Monday reiterated what he has said throughout the offseason program – that attendance for the voluntary work has been impressive and encouraging. He spoke of the "excitement and enthusiasm in the building."
"The team's in a good place," he said. "We're throwing a lot at them in all three phases mentally. They're able to handle that right now. We're getting a lot of great looks from our defense. There's a lot of good film we can study as we make the transition into training camp.
"That's really the next phase as we get into camp."
Pederson said the team is close to having the "full force" of his program implemented. The Jaguars open training camp in mid-to-late July, opening the preseason against the Las Vegas Raiders in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on August 4 in Canton, Ohio.
"The next phase obviously is the pads and physicality and how I handle the transition to training camp," he said. "I think they're getting close. We haven't gone through a training camp yet. There are some things there that will probably be a little different for them."
Pederson said of his approach to padded, contact training camp work: "I'm big on still protecting the guys and making sure they're fresh and ready to go for the regular season. At the same time, they have to know we have to get work done. I spend as much time as I can in pads.
"This is a physical game, and we need to do that. That's the next phase for them to understand more about how I handle that."
The Jaguars are scheduled to hold three more OTA practices this week. They are scheduled to hold their three-day mandatory minicamp at TIAA Bank Field next Monday through Wednesday, with that minicamp marking the end of the offseason program for veterans.
"We still have this week and next week to wrap things up," Pederson said. "We still have a lot to kind of get accomplished. The guys have done an excellent job. We've had great attendance. We want to keep that momentum as we sort of wind down in the next couple of weeks."
Pederson on Monday spoke highly of running back Travis Etienne Jr., saying that the 2021 first-round selection who missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury has performed well thus far this offseason. "It's exciting to get him out here, get him on the grass this whole offseason and really work with him," Pederson said of Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the '21 draft. "He's doing a great job handling a lot of information that we're throwing at the guys. We're putting him in different spots and seeing what he can do right now. This is the time to do that stuff, to really experiment on both sides of the ball and see what the guys can do. He's one of those guys."
The Jaguars have made major additions along the defensive front this season. As Pederson sees it, a player who could benefit from those additions is fourth-year veteran outside linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen. "I think it can only help him," Pederson said. Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, registered 10.5 sacks as a rookie. He registered 2.5 sacks in eight games in 2020 and 7.5 in 16 games in 2021. The Jaguars selected outside linebacker Travon Walker No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, also drafting linebackers Devin Lloyd (Round 1, No. 27 overall) and Chad Muma (Round 3, No. 70 overall). They also added linebacker Foye Oluokun, defensive lineman Arden Key and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi as unrestricted free agents.
"He's an excitable player," Pederson said of Allen. "He's someone who can make a lot of plays on defense. I think with some of the new additions he'll be able to get back to that. If the success is there [for the offseason additions], and we hope it is – as teams scheme us on defense – it maybe frees Josh up to be more of what he was a couple of years ago. I think having those pieces around him could do that."