JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone doesn't like this week.
That's first on his mind these days.
But while the Jaguars' head coach dislikes the roster cutdown that must occur in the coming days, he said Thursday morning he likes a couple of things. He likes the team's health as Week 1 of the 2020 regular season approaches.
And he sure likes the makeup of the roster.
"It's going to be different, but I enjoy it," Marrone said via videoconference Thursday morning.
What's different for Marrone and the Jaguars – in addition to major league-wide changes because of COVID-19 – is a young team, one that skewed younger this week with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue being traded to the Minnesota Vikings and running back Leonard Fournette being waved.
All NFL teams must reduce rosters to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m. The Jaguars at that point seem likely to have double-digit rookies, with many first- and second-year players – including second-year starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II – expected to be major contributors.
Marrone said he doesn't expect major growing pains because of the youth.
"I'm happy with where we are," Marrone said. "Our veteran guys have done a really good job, and the guys in years two and three have really done a good job from a leadership standpoint. … The way this year has happened, these younger players are closer to these veteran players than I've ever seen before."
Marrone said he believes that's because of how the Jaguars introduced and implemented concepts during training camp – with COVID-19 eliminating offseason workouts and forcing a more gradual "ramp up" period to the on-field portion of camp.
"There's a youthfulness and an energy about these guys that generates through the locker room – and even with the coaches," he said. "We're obviously excited about that."
The Jaguars' Thursday practice will be their last before roster cuts. They will then begin practicing Monday in preparation for the 2020 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday, September 13.
Marrone said the team's health entering the opener is good, with players such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook (shoulder) returning to practice on a limited basis this week.
"I really feel good about where we are from that standpoint," Marrone said.
Marrone on Thursday morning also discussed cutdown weekend, a time he considers one of the most difficult and emotional of the NFL year. Marrone was released six times as an NFL player and said Thursday the process "is already starting to weigh on me."
"It's tough," he said. "There are tough decisions. I'll address it with the team this afternoon just how I feel about them. Everyone who has been on that field had given everything they had. That's all you can ask for. Everybody on that field has a skillset. I know from my standpoint how appreciative I am of the amount of work that all these players have put in."
The NFL this season canceled preseason games because of COVID-19, which Marrone said means teams must project how players might perform in games rather than evaluating game performance.
"In the preseason, you can put them in situations where you can say, 'OK, is this guy a playmaker?''' Marrone said. "[Wide receivers coach] Keenan [McCardell] will always talk about, 'When the lights go on.' You have guys who when the lights go on, they show they can make those plays in those situations. That's the only thing that's kind of unknown.
"It does take the evaluation process and puts a lot more projection into it."
*Marrone discussed running backs Chris Thompson, Devine Ozigbo and rookie James Robinson, emphasizing the trio's every-down ability. "All three can play all three downs and have something to contribute in all three areas," he said. "Then it's just a matter of matchups and certain plays." …
*Marrone praised a Jaguars wide receivers group that stood out during training camp, saying "We have good depth and good players at that position – really from top to bottom. They've all competed. They've all been available. I would say that's a deep group of talented guys that in our opinion can all play in this league." Third-year Pro Bowl wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. has stood out in camp, as have rookies Laviska Shenault Jr. and Collin Johnson with veterans Chris Conley and Keelan Cole also standing out consistently. Westbrook is the lone receiver who missed significant time with injury in camp. …