JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's notes and observations from Day 14 of Jaguars 2018 Training Camp Thursday at the Dream Finders Homes Flex Field at Daily's Place
1.Tuesday marked the first Jaguars practice since Sunday's suspension of cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler Jr. for violating team rules and conduct unbecoming of a Jaguars player. Ramsey and Fowler did not participate in practice Tuesday, and Head Coach Doug Marrone said they will return to the team Monday following the Jaguars' joint practices and preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis this week. As expected, the suspensions were a major topic with the Jaguars Tuesday, with Marrone setting the tone early in the day at his media availability. "Those conversations are private," Marrone told reporters. "That's all I'm going to say about it." Marrone repeatedly called the matter internal, focusing instead on the other topics – including this week's joint practices. Strong safety Barry Church was among several players who spoke to the media after a two-hour practice inside the Dream Finders Homes Flex Field, saying of the situation, "It's no problem at all. Things happen, so it will be no problem."
2.The Jaguars and Vikings will practice Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, sessions that will feature the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense last season (Minnesota) and the league's No. 2-ranked defense (the Jaguars). "That's what we need to get better at," Church said. "We felt like we were the best defense [last season], but statistically they were the No. 1 defense. That's what we strive to be: the No. 1 defense. Going up there, it's not really much about our defense versus their offense. It's our defense versus their defense. We'll see who can perform better." Church said while the Jaguars haven't scouted the Vikings extensively entering the week, they have watched the Vikings' Preseason Week 1 victory over the Denver Broncos to get a feel for the week's opponent. "We're not doing much game-planning," he said. "We're kind of going out there, running our defense to see what we've got, then we'll watch the film after the first practice and go from there. It's not really big scouting or big tendencies to go off of when we go out there." …
3.The Jaguars' defense not only ranked No. 2 in the NFL in yards allowed last season, it ranked second in interceptions, takeaways and points allowed. It also held seven opponents to 10 or fewer points and 10 to 20 or fewer points. But one area players and coaches want to improve this season is a tendency last season to allow explosive plays, particularly in the passing game late in the season. The Jaguars allowed 14 pass plays of 20 yards or more in the last 11 games including postseason, a trend Church said increased cohesiveness in the secondary could help reverse. Whereas the secondary last season had two key players in their first season with the team – Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye – the entire starting secondary of Church, Bouye, Ramsey and free safety Tashaun Gipson this season will enter their second full season together. "Offenses couldn't drive the ball 90-some on us; it was just giving up a big play here and there," Church said. "Now, with our better understanding of the defense, and a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each player, we should be able to limit those big plays and make teams have to drive the length of the field on us, which is a hard feat to accomplish."
4.Marrone in advance of this week's joint practices praised the Vikings' talent level, particularly on defense. "They have outstanding players at each position," Marrone said. "There are really not a lot of things that you can expose. … When you look across the board from defensive fronts to linebackers to safeties to corners, they have outstanding, outstanding players." Marrone also on Tuesday was asked about the value and importance of dual practices when it comes to evaluating the roster. He said while a joint practice perhaps wasn't quite as important as a preseason game, it is "very close. I think if you look at it, you have the practices that you have here as a team versus each other – and that is weighted. Then you have the preseason games and I think that is a performance; you have to be ready to go out there and get the results that you need, so I rate that a little bit higher. I think when you go into a controlled environment against another opponent, you are looking at matchups and where your players are. That is probably a little bit more weighted only because it is a limited amount of reps in a two-day period."