JACKSONVILLE – Stay healthy.
That was the first thing Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson mentioned Friday when discussing rookie minicamp – and that's the spirit of the coming days around TIAA Bank Field.
It's a time for learning. And for acclimating.
And a chance for the team to learn about young players, too.
"We're trying to really see what these guys can do," Pederson said Friday morning, shortly before the Jaguars' first 2022 rookie minicamp practice at TIAA Bank Field.
Forty-two players participated Friday – including seven 2022 NFL Draft selections, four first-year players from last year's roster, 18 players signed as free agents this offseason and 14 tryout players. Included in that group were the team's two '22 first-round selections – outside linebacker Travon Walker (No. 1 overall) and linebacker Devin Lloyd (No. 27 overall).
Friday's practice was mostly drills and teaching, with the offense and defense working through the basics of the schemes and with a late – and short – 11-on-11 period.
"Obviously, today is Day 1," Pederson said. "You just want to see gradual improvement every day – whether it's in drill work or in a team setting. That's what you look for from these young guys, to just see how they're fitting in and how they interact with the veterans when we get the vets in here next week."
The weekend marks the first rookie minicamp under Pederson, who took over the Jaguars' head coach on February 6.
"We want to challenge them in the classroom and take it to the practice field, and let them kind of showcase their talent," he said. "We want to let them play fast, protect each other and just learn how we do things here. Those are all things I'm looking for these next few days."
Pederson added, "We just want to see how much they can take from the classroom to the field, showcase their talent and to begin the competition process."
Rookies will participate in minicamp though Sunday, then join the team's offseason program as part of the 90-player offseason roster on Monday. The Jaguars currently are in Phase 2 of the offseason program with the third and final phase – a four-week period that includes organized team activities and minicamp – scheduled to begin May 23.
"Our team has really embraced the offseason extremely well," he said. "These guys are excited. There's a lot of energy in the room right now, in the building. This is just another element to that. It's a weekend right now where the rookies don't have to feel the pressure of veterans being around, where we can focus on them and get them caught up.
"Come Monday, we're all together as a squad. It's an exciting time for me and for the organization."
Pederson on Friday updated the injury status of multiple returning veterans, saying running back Travis Etienne Jr.– who is participating in the offseason program after missing his 2021 rookie season with a Lisfranc injury is "doing great extremely well. It's a process and we're going to continue to monitor that and keep it slow." Running back James Robinson, who missed the final two games last season with an Achilles injury, "is progressing well" according to Pederson. "He's obviously not doing the things physically now on the football field," Pederson said of Robinson, "but we're hoping at some point during training camp that that's becoming more of a reality for us." Pederson said wide receiver/Jamal Agnew, who sustained a season-ending hip injury on a November 21 loss to San Francisco, is "probably a little ahead" of Robinson. "We're going to be real cautious with all three of those guys as we head into the season," Pederson said.
Among Friday's tryout players: Wyoming running back Trey Smith III, son of former Jaguars wide receiver and Pride of the Jaguars member Jimmy Smith. Pederson said the elder Smith's status with the organization factored into the move. "Something that I've sort of adopted philosophically is the respect factor of that," Pederson said of Smith (6-feet-0, 210 pounds). "Obviously, Jimmy was a tremendous athlete and player and played here. His son's a talented player as well. It was a good fit to extend that to him." Pederson said among the traits he seeks in a tryout player is really "how professional they might be." He added, "We're always looking to develop our roster and to add talent and value to our roster. If someone catches our eye that way and you want to make a move, you make a move. It's not out of the question for a tryout guy to do that even if it is three days. It would take something pretty special for that to happen."