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OTA 9: "Stacked with talent"


JACKSONVILLE – A few weeks in, Calais Campbell's view remains the same.

Campbell, a veteran defensive end and perhaps the Jaguars' highest-profile free-agent signing of the '17 offseason, reiterated on Thursday what he said earlier this offseason:

He likes this team, and his defensive-line teammates.

And he absolutely believes the Jaguars are good enough to win now.

"This team is stacked with talent, especially at D-Line," Campbell said Thursday shortly after a rain-soaked session under gray skies on the practice fields adjacent to EverBank Field. "We have a lot of guys who are just flashing and making plays. It's just being able to turn the corner. I'm excited to see how it translates when we put pads on."

Campbell, a 10-year veteran who made two Pro Bowls with Arizona, talked extensively Thursday about what he believes is a talented young Jaguars' defensive line. He discussed specifically three players expected to be key to the pass rush:

*Dawuane Smoot, rookie defensive end: "He's got a lot of potential. We're just in shorts, so you never get too excited. But he's flashing a little bit. I told him, 'Don't disappear on me when the pads come on now. I need you to keep it up when the pads go on,' but he's got a lot of potential. He's good at dipping and ripping; he's got rip moves and a feel for timing, which usually carries over.'' …

*Yannick Ngakoue, second-year defensive end: "He's hungry. He's always trying to get better, working on small things every day – whether it's hand placement, first step, the way he comes off moves; he's working every day. You see his progression get better every day, too."

*Dante Fowler Jr., third-year defensive end: "He's the best athlete on the field. That guy's special. His technique may not be perfect, but the things he can do are amazing. He's getting his technique better every day."

Take a look inside another rainy Thursday practice at EverBank Field.

Campbell, whose signing in March was in part about bringing an experienced leader to the locker room, said the Jaguars' younger defensive linemen have approached him during the offseason.

"It's kind of flattering, because a lot of guys are coming to me for the little things," Campbell said. "I love passing knowledge down. I'm still learning myself, but I do have a lot of knowledge to pass down, so I encourage them to come talk to me about anything."

Campbell also said while the Jaguars are by NFL standards a young team, there are core third- and fourth-year veterans who are "starting to kind of get it."

"I wanted to make sure everybody knew we were closer than not," Campbell said. "I've been a part of winning teams. I know what it takes. We have every piece. It just comes down to execution. It comes down to taking care of the small things. Once you take care of the small things the big things come easy."

Also on Thursday:

*Jaguars tight end Mychal Rivera, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Oakland Raiders in March, also spoke to the media Thursday – and he explained why he switched from No. 80 to 81 this week. Wide receiver Bryan Walters previously wore No. 81 but was released from the Jaguars' injured-reserve list recently. "It means a lot to me," he said. "I'd had that number since high school and I was able to wear it at the University of Tennessee and able to wear it for four years in Oakland. I love that number, and I'm glad I got it back." …

*Tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Neal Sterling returned to practice. Lewis had been out several sessions and Sterling had worked on the side during much of OTAs. Running back Chris Ivory also remained working on the side.

*Rivera on playing with Lewis: "Marcedes is awesome. I've looked up to him. We're both Los Angeles kids, so I watched him when he was at UCLA and I was in high school, so to play alongside him is an absolute dream come true. He's a really good leader." …
*Wide receiver Dede Westbrook remained out of practice working on the side along with cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and Tyler Patmon, running back T.J. Yeldon and safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson. …

*Rookie running back Tim Cook and rookie wide receiver Kenneth Walker are not in attendance because of NCAA rules prohibiting players from participating in offseason programs until their schools finish spring classes. …

*Left tackle Branden Albert continued to remain away from OTAs. The Jaguars acquired Albert in a trade with the Miami Dolphins in March and he has yet to participate in the team's offseason program. Offseason activities are voluntary until the team's mandatory June 13-15 minicamp. …

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