JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines Head Coach Urban Meyer's Monday media availability as the Jaguars prepare to play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas in 2021 Week 1 Sunday at 1 p.m.
1. Exciting stuff. Sunday's 2021 regular-season opener will feature many firsts for the Jaguars and Meyer, with a particular topic when he spoke to the media Monday being how he will approach his first NFL game as a head coach. Meyer, one of the most successful head coaches in college football history, said his excitement level was high – in part because, as opposed to college, the NFL features no significantly weaker Week 1 opponents. "I don't remember ever coming out of the chute where the talent is equated across the board," Meyer said. Adding to the excitement: it will be the debut of rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. "You've got a young quarterback, so yeah … there's a lot going on. I like where we're at. I'm really excited. … I feel good about our coaching staff. I feel very good about the locker room, which may be the most important thing in any organization."
2. Speed, speed, speed. Meyer's desire for a fast offense is no secret – and he reemphasized that focus Monday, discussing extensively the speed of receivers such as Phillip Dorsett II, Tyron Johnson and Devin Smith. Dorsett, signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, is on the practice squad – but Meyer has made clear that's because of a hamstring issue. The Jaguars signed Smith shortly before the preseason finale and acquired Johnson off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers last week, with Meyer calling speed a major factor in obtaining both players. "He's fast, fast, fast," Meyer said of Johnson, adding that Smith is "a legit deep threat." Meyer said the Jaguars were extremely limited in this area in preseason, particularly with veteran wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. missing all three preseason games with a hand injury. "There was a time when we just didn't throw the ball down the field," Meyer said. "Running on offense without exceptional speed outside … I don't know that offense and I don't want to know that offense. I don't want anything to do with that offense. We have to have speed." Meyer said he expects Smith and Johnson to be able to play Week 1.
3. Familiar faces. The Jaguars could start nine Week 1 starters from 2020 on offense Sunday, with as many as three starting defensively – and while the Jaguars had major roster turnover in the offseason, Meyer said it's also no surprise that so many returners have key roles. "That was part of the reason I took the job," Meyer said. "There are good players here. They didn't necessarily play well all the time. But I studied this thing hard. I think we have good players here in Jacksonville. I think there are good players who are going to play better. I believe in some of our core players here."
4. The offensive line is healthy. The Jaguars activated guard A.J. Cann from reserve/COVID-19 Monday, which could mean the entire offensive line being healthy for Week 1. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor started all three preseason games, with left guard Andrew Norwell (elbow) missing all three games, left tackle Cam Robinson (ankle) missing two and center Brandon Linder missing two. "It helps when you have your linemen back," Meyer said. "Everybody should be ready to play Sunday, so that really lifts up practice right there." Meyer said while veteran cornerback Tre Herndon appears two or three weeks from returning from a preseason knee injury, the rest of the roster appears healthy entering Week 1. "Everybody's good," Meyer said, who added that either rookie Andre Cisco or veteran Andrew Wingard likely will start at strong safety.
5. Whoa, big fella. While running was a part of Lawrence's game in college – and while running quarterbacks often were integral to Meyer's offenses in college – Meyer said Monday that will be minimized in the NFL. "We're being very cautious about that for a lot of reasons," Meyer said. "There's a tendency that I'd like to with him, but I just zip it usually. I can't see a direct run called. Not many people do that, really, in the NFL – especially with the No. 1 pick overall. His legs are going to be part of the game naturally – with any scrambles and any read plays. He could. He's fast and big and a very courageous runner. We're going to be very cautious."