JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone spoke to the media Tuesday.
That was significant because it was his first time doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Jaguars' head coach discussed the challenges facing teams while preparing for the 2020 NFL season – and more immediately, the April 23-25 2020 NFL Draft.
"It has affected many people, obviously, all over the world; we've taken it very seriously – and we've taken it very seriously from the beginning," Marrone said during a video conference late Tuesday morning with Jacksonville media.
Marrone said recent offseason communication with players have focused on COVID-19.
"We're in a dead period [in terms of communicating with players about football]," Marrone said. "We've gotten a bunch of stuff out, more from a standpoint of precautionary and making sure you're listening, making sure everyone is on board with how serious this is and how we have to all pull together and do our part to defeat this virus and stop it from spreading."
Marrone on Tuesday also discussed Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II for the first time since the team reportedly traded quarterback Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears. The Foles trade leaves Minshew as the starter, a position he earned with a 6-6 record as a starter last season.
"Obviously, we want to see a big jump," Marrone said of Minshew. "We're excited for him. It's a great opportunity. He's not going to change the way he is. He's a hard-working kid who has a lot of potential. We've got to make sure everyone around him is doing their job and doing it at a high level."
Marrone said one of the first steps toward Minshew's second season is getting the quarterback material to learn a new offense, with Jay Gruden taking over in January as offensive coordinator.
As is the norm for this time of the offseason, coaches have yet to speak with players about football since the end of last season. Marrone said the league has yet to inform teams what communication will be allowed with players come April 20, which was when offseason programs – and accompanying meetings and workouts – were scheduled to begin.
"When Phase 1 [of the offseason program] actually opens up, then we'll be able to get our players material that they need," Marrone said. "Obviously, there are going to be some new things that we're going to have to learn.
"Gardner works at a very high level, so I'm not concerned about that. He's working extremely hard. He's doing everything he can safety-wise. I think we've just got to get him in here and start practicing at some point and see what he can do as far as with him and Jay and the system – and what he likes, what we've got to get him better at, improve at, then really work him on the things he did well – and really fine tune a lot of those things."
Marrone also on Tuesday discussed multiple areas of the Jaguars' roster, reiterating that he believes the free-agent signing of former Cleveland Browns middle linebacker Joe Schobert as an unrestricted free agent will improve the middle linebacker position – and also improve the weak-side linebacker position by allowing veteran Myles Jack to move there from the middle. He also said second-year veteran Quincy Williams will backup Jack at weak-side backer – and that newly-acquired edge player Cassius Marsh could play a role at strong-side backer along with Leon Jacobs while also rushing in pass-rushing situations.
He also reiterated that he believes the offensive line will improve next season, adding that a priority remains playmakers offensively around the quarterback.
"Do we have enough of those guys that can make plays?" Marrone said. "That's really the key when you look at it: the type of explosive guys coming from guys who are playmakers."
Marrone on Tuesday also discussed defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. The team placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Ngakoue earlier this month. He had been scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18.
"Yannick's been great in everything that he's done," Marrone said. "He's done everything that I've asked him to do as a head coach and everything that [defensive coordinator] Todd Wash has asked him to do as a defensive lineman. When the business starts getting involved, it's tough because you always want your players to be happy. You want the best for your players. From that standpoint, I understand the challenges that are going on for Yann….
"The organization and the rules of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) … the players have rights and the teams have rights. What you do as a coach is you hope that all this stuff can be resolved in a positive way, for everything.
"I'm just hoping that somewhere down the line, somehow, all this stuff can be resolved, but I understand both sides to it."