JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser’s notes and observations on the Friday media availabilities of Jaguars HC Doug Marrone, rookie DL Taven Bryan and WR DJ Chark at 2018 rookie minicamp …
1.While no player will secure a roster spot this weekend, it’s highly likely the work at EverBank Field will mark the beginning of an underdog story. Rookie minicamp not only marks the Jaguars debut of their seven-member 2018 NFL Draft class, it marks the debut of 12 players who officially signed as undrafted free agents Friday morning: Miami cornerback Dee Delaney, Vanderbilt cornerback Tre Herndon, Nevada-Las Vegas defensive tackle Michael Hughes, North Carolina Central linebacker Reggie Hunter Jacksonville State linebacker Darius Jackson, Cincinnati defensive end Lyndon Johnson, Iowa State wide receiver Allen Lazard, Miami offensive tackle Kc McDermott, Stanford cornerback Quenton Meeks, Carson-Newman wide receiver Dorren Miller, Virginia Tech linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka and Marshall safety C.J. Reavis. Marrone said he pointed out to this year’s group past Jaguars players who have made the roster as undrafted players. That group that includes second-year wide receiver Keelan Cole, who led the team in receiving yards as a rookie last season after making the team undrafted from Kentucky Wesleyan. The Jaguars also have 42 players working this weekend on a tryout basis. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a tryout player does get signed,” Marrone said. “We want to create competition right off the bat. I want players to do well in this room (at this weekend’s camp) so that we can replace some of the players on the team. If we’re replacing players, it means we’re replacing them with better players.” Marrone also emphasized that tryout players could be among the first players considered and re-signed to replace injured players. “It’s a win-win,” Marrone said.
2.Marrone emphasized throughout his Friday afternoon meeting with the media something he has emphasized since becoming the Jaguars’ head coach late in the 2016 season – that he keeps draft status out of evaluation as much as possible. While he said late during his Friday media availability that early-drafted players such as Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan (Round 1) and Louisiana State wide receiver DJ Chark (Round 2) obviously will get more opportunity and repetitions than some rookies, he emphasizes with coaches the importance of accurately evaluating on ability. “We have to put people on the field that win football games, period,” he said. “My thing with the players is I really don’t necessarily care how you’ve been acquired. Whether you’re a tryout, a free agent or a draft pick – that’s over. That stuff doesn’t mean diddly-doo. It’s, ‘What are you going to do now?’ … The players know anyone who’s on this team, there’s something good about them.”
3.While Marrone said there’s a limit to on-field evaluation during rookie minicamp, he said the evaluation of all players has begun – and it’s intense. Marrone’s message for coaches entering Friday: “We cannot afford to have someone walk away from this camp who can help us as a football player; that’s taboo. That’s the worst mistake you can make. It’s a constant evaluation process.” He said his primary focuses this weekend include how players learn and their ability to pay attention. “I told them, ‘I’ll look at how you sit up in a meeting,’’’ Marrone said. “If you slouch down in a meeting, you’re probably going to get a minus from me. If you’re slouching down now and you don’t have a job, what are you going to do when you get that job?” Marrone said coaches will meet at the end of each day to discuss players, as will Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, General Manager David Caldwell and the team’s personnel staff. “It’s not to say if a guy is in or out … but it’s not a thing where we’re concentrating on draft picks and just filling in spots,” Marrone said. “Our scouts have put a lot of time in filling positions with players that we feel have traits that can carry over and play in the NFL.’’
4.You don’t see veterans observing rookie minicamp every offseason – or around every NFL team, for that matter. But you saw it around the Jaguars Friday, with offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive tackle Malik Jackson among veterans observing Jaguars draft selections, rookie free agents and assorted first-year veterans working without pads. Their presence was notable – and it was noted by at least one rookie participating. “That’s something I definitely respect and I’m excited for,” second-round wide receiver DJ Chark said. “These guys have a bigger picture in mind. I feel like guys who are on that practice field right now (this weekend), we all want to contribute. Everybody’s fighting for a spot to try to help those guys out.” Chark roomed with Fournette as a freshman at LSU, but said he was more concerned about dealing with the Northeast Florida weather Friday than catching up with a friend. “I saw Leonard and talked to him for a split second,” Chark said. “I didn’t notice many of them, (the veterans) because that heat was getting to me. You can never (be prepared for) that heat. Once you’re in it for a while, then you’re used to it. But once you come from running inside at LSU and come outside – it’s an adjustment.”