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Offseason program in focus: Ready for his close-up

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the first few days of the Jaguars' 2016 offseason program at EverBank Field …

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Ready for his close-up

Let's take a break from Josh Norman/No. 5 overall selection talk this morning.

Instead: a few leftover takeaways from the first media availability of the Jaguars' 2016 offseason program. Among the notable aspects of Wednesday's session were the collective thoughts of several key offensive players on tight end Julius Thomas.

Quarterback Blake Bortles, wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson …

All spoke at EverBank Field Wednesday, and all spoke highly of the 2015 unrestricted-free-agent signee from the Broncos. And all made it sound as if Thomas' role could increase next season.

"I think guys kind of forget about what truly Julius Thomas has done," Hurns said. "His last three years in Denver, he put up 24 touchdowns."

Actually, Thomas did that over his last two seasons with the Broncos.

Thomas made the Pro Bowl each of those seasons, catching 12 touchdown passes each season as part of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history.

"I think he's going to bring a different aspect to us," Robinson said. "I don't think people really know how good Julius Thomas is. For me, watching him every day in practice, I can honestly say I think he's probably the best tight end in the game route-running-wise and catching-wise."

Could Thomas push for Denver-type production with the Jaguars? That could be difficult, because 12 touchdowns receiving is a lofty number, particularly for a tight end. But Thomas' red-zone effectiveness could be valuable as the team focuses on what at times was a trouble area last season.

An issue at times for Thomas and Bortles last season was chemistry. After establishing a good bit of it during an offseason in which Thomas looked like the roster's most-talented skill player, some was lost when Thomas missed much of the preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season with a hand injury.

On that front, Bortles said the coming two months will be important.

"I think we should be able to pick up where we left off and continue to build and grow," Bortles said.

 

Big months for Lee

Bortles on Wednesday called a chance to work extensively with third-year wide receiver Marqise Lee this offseason "huge."

Lee, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, has missed much of the last two offseasons with injuries, but reported for the offseason program this week fully healthy.

"It's been hard to get on the same page and work for an extended period of time, so I'm excited he's here and he's healthy," Bortles said. "What he can do is really special and he's super talented."

 

The players put in work in the weight room on Wednesday as they continue their offseason workouts.

Around the Jaguars

*The Eagles-Browns trade Thursday that sent the No. 2 overall selection to Philadelphia was – like the Titans-Rams trade that sent the No. 1 overall selection to Los Angeles last week – unquestionably good for the Jaguars. Jacksonville holds the No. 5 selection and if – as is widely assumed – the Jaguars are targeting defense, the trade likely guarantees them a chance at a premium defensive player. The Rams and Eagles presumably will select quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively, ensuring the Jaguars at either Florida State cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, Ohio State edge defender Joey Bosa and Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner. …

*We haven't had time to put together a post-Eagles-Browns-trade mock draft on jaguars.com. If we did, the first five selections might look like: 1, Rams – Goff; 2, Eagles – Wentz; 3, Chargers – Buckner; 4, Cowboys – Ramsey; 5, Jaguars – Bosa. This is assuming the Jaguars pass on Jack because of long-term concerns about his knee, which they won't necessarily do. Expect Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell to be asked about Jack's knee at his annual pre-draft media luncheon Friday. Don't expect Caldwell to say much. …

*Expect Caldwell, too, to be asked extensively about whether the team has interest in Norman, the cornerback who became an unrestricted free agent Wednesday when the Carolina Panthers rescinded the franchise tag they had placed on him last month. A pursuit of Norman is possible because of the Jaguars' cap situation. As of Thursday morning, there has been no public indication of interest on the part of the Jaguars. …

*Robinson said this about the pressure of expectations for himself after making the Pro Bowl in his second season – and for an offense that is expected to continue ascending next season: "You live for the lights and the expectations … that's what you play this game for." …

*Hurns also said he is running routes full speed after undergoing sports hernia surgery in January. He played through the injury in 12 of the final 13 weeks of the season, with his only missed game last season coming because of a concussion. …

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