JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone has seen progress; of that, there is no doubt.
And while Marrone emphasized Friday that the most important work is still to be done, he said he saw much to like during three weeks of 2018 organized team activities.
"The way the players are working with each other is good; I'm very happy with that," Marrone said Friday shortly before the final practice of Jaguars 2018 OTAs at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.
Marrone, in his second offseason as the Jaguars' head coach, said the improvement in how the team has practiced this offseason has been dramatic. The Jaguars held 10 OTA voluntary sessions over the past three weeks, with nearly all healthy players participating.
"There's an appreciation for the players who are here, because obviously it's voluntary," Marrone said.
The Jaguars will hold their three-day veteran mandatory minicamp next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. While players such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey and running back Leonard Fournette opted to train elsewhere during all or part of OTAs, Marrone said he expects full attendance next week.
"We expect them all to be here, and we look forward to it," Marrone said.
Marrone also on Friday said veteran guard A.J. Cann could participate in next week's minicamp after working in a limited role this week.
"We're going to try to be cautious and see what happens when the mandatory minicamp comes," Marrone said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he takes a couple of reps, but I think he'll go into that same category of the risk-reward. If there's a little bit of a high level of risk, then it's probably not worth it for the three days. If we don't see a lot of risk in it, then we'll let him go out there."
Marrone said OTAs have been productive despite the non-contact, unpadded nature of the practices.
"We've been able to go in and work with the players on installation [of schemes] and go out on the field," Marrone said. "Where I see the biggest improvement from the team is the ability to work with one another. We have very few people that ever go to the ground, very few people having real contact from the standpoint of trying to make a play and leaving their feet.
"From that standpoint, we've gotten a lot done."
Marrone, while emphasizing Friday that training camp practice in July and August is the most important part of preparation for the season, said perhaps the most encouraging part of the offseason has been the players' ability to handle increased work.
"I never try to get too excited, and I never get too high or too low – not until we really start playing," Marrone said. "I'm excited about the workload being up, being able to handle that; I think that's a positive. But at the end of the day, it's just a start. I really don't try to put too much into it.
"The most important thing that's coming up is when they leave here and go into training camp. Training camp obviously is where I'm actually watching them and I can actually make a true evaluation."
Marrone said next week's minicamp represents the final work to prepare for the beginning of camp in late July. The Jaguars are scheduled to hold their first training camp practice July 26, with veterans to report July 25.
"It will be a condensed three days of work where you're trying to put a lot in – a lot of situational work," he said. "You really want to set the base and the foundation, the knowledge of the scheme and the way we want to work so the players can continue in the offseason and make sure they're ready when they come back so we can start training camp working at a high level."