Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Jaguars-Ravens, Joint Practice No. 2

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Oehser …

1.This was more like it. If Monday’s first joint practice of the week between the Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens lacked intensity, Tuesday’s work did not. The energy level rose on both sidelines – and the Jaguars appeared faster and more on point after appearing sluggish Monday following an evening trip to Baltimore Sunday. Tuesday’s practice even featured more “interaction” between the teams, but it was the sort of stuff expected during a hot football practice. A few Jaguars players – including running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. – exchanged words and a shove or two with a few Ravens defensive players during a goal-line drill. Both teams collectively gathered and voices elevated, but it ended quickly. This was the definition of no big deal. As Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh told Baltimore media when asked about the incident, “It’s not all sunshine and roses, is it?” All in all, Tuesday’s work had just the right combination of edginess and competitiveness.

2. If there’s a major positive takeaway for the Jaguars from these two days, it’s that there’s much to like about the offense. There has been a growing feeling in Jacksonville early in training camp that the offense – particularly the passing offense – is improved. New quarterback Nick Foles has appeared to gain chemistry with wide receivers Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook and DJ Chark Jr. by the day – and that trend continued in Baltimore. Foles on Tuesday completed deep passes to Chark and Conley, with a 65-yard touchdown bomb from Foles to Conley perhaps the Jaguars’ prettiest play of 2019 Training Camp to date. “We got a lot out of this,” Conley said. “We were challenged this week. Guys really rose to that challenge and got better.” Conley said he was particularly optimistic about the progress in red-zone work. “That’s an area we’ve been trying to fine tune,” Conley said. “Things happen a lot faster. There’s a lot more pressure. As the week went on, we started to get better in the red zone. We were a little rough in the beginning. We made some really big plays at the end. We’re going to continue to try to build on that.”

3.It’s difficult to overestimate the development of the Jaguars receivers a week and a half of camp. It’s difficult to judge the run game or pass rush during any NFL practice because of the controlled nature of the hitting. But it’s easier to get an accurate feel for receivers and quarterbacks, and Conley, Westbrook and Chark have taken turns standing out. The chemistry Foles and Conley showed in on-field offseason work has continued, and Conley had a huge two days against Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. One area to watch here: the ability of these receivers to get deep, something Chark and Conley showed Tuesday. “That’s what we want to do,” Conley said. “[Wide receivers coach] Keenan McCardell said, ‘Hey, we’re going to run go routes until they back off.’ We really have the talent in that room that we can do that. We have Dede Westbrook, DJ Chark, Keelan Cole, Marqise Lee – a lot of guys who can run and take the top off, make plays downfield. That’s what we’re going to live by.”

Sexton …

1.Just plug Jawaan Taylor in at right tackle and be done with it. I understand Head Coach Doug Marrone’s “he-has-to-earn-the-job” approach – but to my eyes, he already has done that. The rookie might be the Jaguars’ best offensive lineman and he won’t take his first game snap until Thursday night. I asked one observer in the know if I was all wet on that theory; he smiled and shook his head. I get that center Brandon Linder and guard Andrew Norwell are more professionally accomplished, but Taylor has the look of a special-offensive line talent; if he isn’t the best, he’s a very close second – and the last time I checked, this coaching staff wanted its best five on the field. It’s Taylor’s job. What a great stroke of luck that he fell to them in the second round.

2.The Jaguars might have more and better depth on this defensive line than in either 2017 or 2018. Several backups prompted this thought with their performance Tuesday. Datone Jones, the former first-round selection of the Packers, was impressive with his power. Rookie tackle Dontavious Russell had a nice day against the interior of the Baltimore offensive line, as did nose tackle Eli Ankou. I could see Jones backing up Calais Campbell at the big end spot, Russell behind Abry Jones at the nose with Marcell Dareus and Taven Bryan playing the three-technique and Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen on the open side. Think of the positional flexibility those guys possess, then imagine the multitude of ways defensive coordinator Todd Wash – with defensive assistant Dom Capers’ help – can create schematic headaches for offensive coordinators. These guys can play.

3.It’s early in camp, so I’m not going to push any buttons. But the linebacking corps is suddenly an area worth watching. The group looked a bit shaky in 9-on-7 run against the Ravens. I know those are situational drills, but it didn’t seem like anything to be concerned about before rookie Quincy Williams went down with a knee issue late last week. Marrone says he expects to see Williams when the lights go on in September, so it’s not worth getting worked up about on August 6. But don’t be surprised to see some roster machinations from General Manager Dave Caldwell and Co. if linebacker seems shaky Thursday. By the way: Who would have thought that Williams – the third-round pick from Murray State whom no draft analysts knew anything about – would be so crucial so quickly? Kudos to the scouting staff who found him.

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