JACKSONVILLE – Virtual time has been a productive time, Doug Marrone said.
Jaguars players and coaches have worked effectively, diligently – all via video conference. Preparation has been efficient, thorough. And normal progress toward the regular season has been made.
"There is a point where it's, 'Let's go,' and I think that point will be in the next week or two,'' the Jaguars' head coach said.
The Jaguars in recent weeks have held their 2020 offseason program virtually thanks to COVID-19 regulations. This means a lot of video conferencing – but no on-field practice as would have been the case in a "normal offseason."
Marrone said attendance has been great. Players have paid attention.
"For me, that's great," Marrone said. "You need that, but I think anyone can retain the information and anyone can learn the information. The difficult part about our sport is the ability to go out and do it."
Marrone during a video conference Friday with local media detailed the Jaguars' offseason progress. He said the virtual offseason has allowed coaches to install the offense, defense and special teams schemes. "Installation" is the No. 1 objective of every NFL team's offseason, and Marrone said the process is essentially complete.
The limitations to the virtual approach are obvious – that while coaches can give players information, players can't practice what they're taught.
"Those are the things that create anxiety," he said.
In lieu of the usual install process – meetings, practices and reviewing tape of those practices – Marrone said the Jaguars have tested players to determine retention. He said players have also worked on their own in recent weeks, a process quarterback Gardner Minshew II said Thursday often involved him calling plays in a Microsoft Teams "whiteboard" and players discussing their responsibilities in the plays.
"They're getting together on their own," Marrone said. "I like that because the players are talking to each other and creating some chemistry. I think it creates a chemistry and an accountability amongst themselves."
Marrone also said he has challenged players to find a safe place to work on the drills that the team will do during the season. Tapes of those drills have been provided virtually.
"Obviously, a lot of where we are now will influence what we do in the future whenever it opens up," he said.
New Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden this week talked of needing to practice – not because he worried about players retaining information as much as needing to get a feel for what roles players would best fit into the offense. Marrone expressed a similar sentiment Friday.
"Who are you going to be? What are you going to do? Whose role is what? Whose role is this?'' Marrone said. "It's very difficult because we do have a young football team. We are going to have a lot of competition. It's really a performance-based business of what you do on the field.
"These are the types of discussions that have been going on with myself and the coaches. From a coach's standpoint, we have everything ready."
Marrone said he has felt some anxiety in recent weeks about whether he indeed was doing enough during the virtual period.
"Having talked to some of my colleagues around the league it's like, 'Well, normally right now we're practicing, watching practice, evaluating the practice and evaluating the technique,''' he said. "That takes up a huge part of your day and that part's not in the plan."
Marrone said the Jaguars will continue to meet virtually, and that he did not yet know a timetable for the coaching staff to return to TIAA Bank Field. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week in a memo to teams said members of coaching staffs could be allowed to return to facilities as early as June 1.
While NFL facilities – previously closed because of COVID-19 restrictions -- have begun reopening with a limited number of employees in recent weeks, coaches were not among those allowed to return in "Phase 1" of the reopening plan.
"I don't know if we're going to go in as coaching staff as a phase," Marrone said. "I don't know about the players because the [NFL Players Association] is involved in that. But we're prepared either way. We've had time to make sure we're prepared.
"Right now, the one thing we're missing is the ability to be with our players. When they tell us that it's safe, we'll be ready to go and we look forward to it, but we know there's a lot of work and a lot of preparation for that as we go forward."
As far as when the Jaguars will have done all they can realistically do virtually to prepare for the season, Marrone said for veteran players that will be "sometime in June."
"Everything's been put in place to make sure all of these things have been covered by what would have been the end of our minicamp (scheduled for mid-June)," he said. "We've been trying to stay in phase with that plan. That's when I would say, 'Hey, that's it.'
"Now, for the rookies it's a little bit different. The rookies can be expanded a little bit more with a little more of a follow-up and a little more time with any questions."