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Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: OTAs Week 3


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton with three quick thoughts during the third week of Jaguars 2018 organized team activities …

Oehser …

1. We'll lead this week's quick thoughts with a tricky question: where are the Jaguars most improved this offseason? It's easy to see that the additions of wide receivers Donte Moncrief and DJ Chark and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins give the skill positions an improved feel. But you can't yet judge the most important offseason focus: offensive line. The offseason could hinge on how much the addition of unrestricted free agent guard Andrew Norwell improves a unit that was very good last season but that also needed to be more consistent and dominant, particularly late in the season and in the postseason. Norwell makes the group better on paper; his presence should improve not only his left guard position but also left tackle (Cam Robinson) and center (Brandon Linder). The left side of the line looks like it should be a team strength. Still, offensive line is nearly impossible to judge until padded work. Check back on this topic in August.

2. Cornerback A.J. Bouye was honored again this week, and the good news for the Jaguars is one of the best unrestricted free agents in franchise history is motivated to be better in his second season with the team. Bouye, who signed as a UFA from Houston last offseason, on Monday was named No. 35 on the list of NFL Top 100 Players of 2018 by NFL Network. It was the latest accolade for Bouye, who was named to his first Pro Bowl last season and who also was named second-team Associated Press All-Pro. But even in the wake of this latest lofty honor, what resonates about Bouye most this offseason was his thought last week that he still doesn't get the respect he deserves – and that he spent the early part of the offseason working after receiving input from Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown at the Pro Bowl. Bouye and defensive end Calais Campbell are perhaps the best free-agent signings in franchise history. Their talent is one reason. Their motivation to continue improving on what they did a year ago is another – and it's a reason for optimism about this team heading into the 2018 season.

3. Keenan McCardell's meeting with media Tuesday was one of the highlights thus far of OTAs, with the second-year wide receivers coach providing insight into a position that promises to be one of training camp's most intriguing areas to watch. McCardell discussed multiple players, and he clearly likes his group. Maybe the most insightful moment came when discussing second-year veteran Keelan Cole, a player the Jaguars believe could make a significant Year 2 jump after leading the team with 748 receiving yards as a rookie. Cole's speed and athleticism was evident as a rookie, but McCardell said Cole's approach off the field bodes well for him being able to take advantage of his talent. "He studies his craft, which I love," said McCardell, who played 17 NFL seasons after being selected in the 12thround of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. "I love smart players. I try to make sure all my guys understand how and why we are doing this and what the defense is trying to do. If you know what the defense is trying to do to you, you have to be able to counter that like a great counter punch and come back and score. That's what I like to try teach those guys and he has been doing great and that's what he does." …

Sexton …

1. This Jaguars receiving corps has yet to prove anything, but it's deeper and more talented than any I've seen in Jacksonville in years. The rebuttal will be 2015 when Allen Robinson set franchise records and Allen Hurns finished with over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, but I said "talented" not "productive"  -- and the current group has potential. Donte Moncrief is as big as Robinson and though he might not have the body control to win as many 50/50 balls, he has speed; a few years in Indianapolis with quarterback Andrew Luck seems to have him well versed in nuances such as route-running and getting open in tight spaces. It's tough not to get excited about what Keelan Cole brings to practice each day and the whispers are his work in the classroom and weight room back that up; he looks like he has a chance to take a big step forward. D.J. Chark is the kind of rookie you know belongs. Dede Westbrook brings explosiveness and has the attention of McCardell as we work through the final few OTAs into mini-camp. Rashad Greene, who has played 17 games in three seasons, has flashed with a savvy understanding of the passing game – and has made more than a few tough catches. Let's not forget Marqise Lee. He could make a compelling case that after knee surgery – and after gutting through a sore knee to practice and play nearly all of last season – he should be home in California working and rehabbing. Instead, he's here. To those who know him, that tells the story about the kind of season he's planning on having. This group is better than any group of Jaguars receivers we've seen in years –  and that includes 2015.

2. After watching two days of special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis working his kickoff team using the newly adopted rules and the first generation of his new schemes, I'm not sure if the rule changes will make a difference. While the lack of a running start for the coverage unit seems to be a good start toward slowing the play down, watching it I couldn't really tell. It looked to me that the coverage team will still build a head of steam and there still will be the collisions that have some in the league hierarchy seeking to dismiss the play from the game. It's too new to judge fairly, but it's tough to say the changes will make the kind of difference keep the kickoff from extinction. Something DeCamillis told me in a piece for is certain: the onus is on the coaches to teach the blocking and tackling techniques that will change the play's safety curve. That's the true barometer for the future of the kickoff in football.

3. When I see Campbell, Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackson and Yannick Ngakoue laboring in the June Florida sun, I wonder if anyone notices that a superstar defensive line – maybe the best in football – is here for VOLUNTARY offseason workouts. Too much attention is paid, mostly by folks in my line of work, to who is not here for the VOLUNTARY workouts. Meanwhile, the defensive line as well as players such as linebacker Telvin Smith, linebacker Myles Jack, Bouye and others make their commitment to this season evident each day in OTAs. Tell me who is missing next week when the workouts become MANDATORY and I'll listen. Until then, pay attention to the number of star players who are here. For a team that lost the AFC Championship game in the final 10 minutes, it is a great story that so many stars and starters have been here all along.

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