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Sexton-Oehser Quick Thoughts: Vikings Week

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Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (17) celebrates a tackle on a punt return during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Oehser …

1.Maintaining perspective won't be easy when it comes to the suspensions of defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but perhaps we can try. The Jaguars on Sunday suspended the pair – reportedly for a week of training camp – following a post-practice altercation between Fowler and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Ramsey yelled at media for recording the incident and was suspended after tweeting at a media member later in the day. This will be a major topic, but the thought here is it won't be as big a deal within the team as it is publicly. Regarding Fowler/Ngakoue, players don't always get along – and fights/disagreements are common inside NFL locker rooms. Regarding Fowler specifically, the Jaguars have dealt with incidents involving him for several seasons with little negative effect on the team. As far as Ramey's suspension, this is clearly a case when the team believed an emotional, on-the-edge player was operating a little over the edge. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell just as clearly believed this was the right time to pull back from that edge. The guess here is Ramsey will respond fine, respect the decision and perhaps learn from it. This team has navigated tricky situations before under this leadership. This may be the trickiest situation yet, but it shouldn't define the season.

2.A big camp storyline has been rookie DJ Chark Jr., with the second-round selection from Louisiana State showing signs of developing into a go-to wide receiver. As notable has been second-year wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who may be playing his way into a spot among the top three receivers. Despite being a key player during the last half of last season and postseason, Westbrook entering training camp seemed in a position of needing to earn his way into significant repetitions. Donte Moncrief and Marqise Lee were running with the first team at receiver, and second-year veteran Keelan Cole was getting extensive first-team repetitions. But a day rarely has gone by in camp that Westbrook hasn't stood out, and starting quarterback Blake Bortles appears to be going his way more quickly as camp continues. Bortles talked early in camp about Westbrook's grasp of the offense having improved. Westbrook last week talked about having improved as a route runner. This is a player, remember, who won the Biletnikoff Award as college football's best receiver, so he has enormous physical ability. Now, in his second season, he appears to be putting together the entire approach necessary to be a consistent, productive NFL receiver – and that could be earning him a far bigger role this season than some observers expected.

3.Preseason is about way-too-early conclusions, but a play early in the preseason opener may have been a good sign for the Jaguars: A three-yard run by running back Leonard Fournette on third-and-1 from the Saints 46. Fournette rushed five times for 24 yards on the drive and his shortest gain was three yards; the line also appeared to be getting good push on all his runs. While neither the play nor the drive was earthshattering enough to draw much postgame analysis, it was a positive development for a team that wants to dictate style with the running game. While the Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, they too often struggled to run when they needed to run. If third-and-1s such as Thursday's are routinely converted with powerful three-yard runs – and if the running game routinely creates positive down-and-distances – this is team becomes much tougher to defend than it was last season.


1.These guys are ready for the season already, at least mentally. Sunday was the 11th consecutive day of fully padded practices and each one feels hotter than the day before. It's hard to blame Ramsey for mixing things up with a shot here or there to a receiver to keep his squad's edge, and it's tough to blame tight end James O'Shaughnessy for letting Ramsey feel his displeasure. The first scuffle of camp was long overdue and looked worse than it really was, but it served as a reminder that Head Coach Doug Marrone runs a physically and mentally demanding camp, one which can strain a team to near its breaking point daily. The Jaguars are off on Monday and leave for Minnesota on Tuesday, which should be perfect timing for a team that loves to prove itself but is tired of proving it to itself.

2.Talking to the Jaguars' receivers about the matchup in Minnesota it's clear they feel as if they couldn't be more prepared to see the league's second-best secondary. Last year the Vikings were No. 2 in passing yards allowed, just behind the Jaguars. Ramsey this summer on a daily basis has been chirping about making 'his' receivers the best in the league. You can see the improvement in Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook from a season ago; after a couple of weeks on the practice fields with the NFL's No. 1 secondary, their confidence now is on full display also. This group led by Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief is vastly different than last year's receivers – and much more talented. That might seem crazy to write with Allen Robinson in Chicago but to watch Cole and Westbrook and DJ Chark Jr. and Shane Wynn work … is to believe.

3.I am eager to see more of the Corey Grant Show. Grant thrilled us all with his explosive special teams plays last season and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis kept inventing ways to get the ball in his hands. If only offensive coordinator Nate Hackett could have found a way to get him more involved in the AFC Championship Game… but the past is the past. The future looks inviting for Grant, who signed a one-year, $2.9- million contract this past offseason and who was a featured performer in the preseason opener. Grant's speed has wowed observers since he arrived as an undrafted rookie in 2015 and he steadily has grown into a role. His 122-yard performance as the feature back in the 2016 regular-season finale in Indianapolis gave us a glimpse of what he could do with the ball on the ground, and the role expanded. The fake punts and kickoff returns last season showed us another dimension, and those three catches for 59 yards in New England in January completed the package. Hackett is too smart to leave a weapon like Grant on the sidelines again. Expect to see more of Grant this season, maybe a lot more.

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