JACKSONVILLE – The ramping up continues, and Doug Marrone likes what he sees.
Full practices are approaching, teaching is getting done around TIAA Bank Field and the unprecedented football environment that is Jaguars 2020 Training Camp now is well under way.
Marrone's assessment of it all?
So far, so good.
"I'm very happy with the way the week's going," the Jaguars' head coach said Thursday afternoon.
Marrone, speaking to the media via videoconference for the third time since players began reporting for '20 training camp, discussed multiple issues during the half-hour session. He talked about liking – really liking the approach of young players such as DJ Chark and Josh Allen – and he characteristically expressed regret that the unusual nature of '20 camp will make this perhaps the most difficult season ever for unknown, undrafted players.
"Maybe I'm looking too far into it, but I think that's sad," he said.
The Jaguars this week have been continuing to go through walkthroughs and virtual meetings during what the NFL is calling a ramp-up period because COVID-19 eliminated the offseason program. Non-contact practices are scheduled to begin next week with padded practices starting the following week.
And while Marrone doesn't like that the elimination of preseason games because of COVID-19 will make it difficult for the bottom end of the roster, he does like how Jaguars players and entire organization has approached a camp defined by the pandemic.
"The players have been really compliant in trying to do all the right things," Marrone said. "With the rules and the protocols that are in place, that was my biggest goal starting out – was to try to get everyone used to it. …
"I think everybody's been doing a really good job of it. You don't hear, 'Oh, I can't believe we have to do this,' or, 'I can't believe we have to do that,' or, 'Why can't we do this or that?' From a standpoint of being educated on it and knowing what we have to do, everyone's been really good."
The Jaguars and all NFL teams are conducting camp as they will the regular season – with protocols and rules in place throughout the facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those practices have included split-squad work, videoconference meetings and badges to ensure necessary distancing.
Marrone said all involved may need to consider the situation the "new normal."
"People say, 'When this happens it will be close to normal …''' Marrone said. "Everything we're doing is different. I guess you condition yourself to get used to what you're doing now with the protocols. But if you say in your mind, 'Hey, when we get back to normal…' I don't know that that's a good thought to have rather than saying, 'Here are the protocols … here's what we're doing … let's do the best job we can with it.' I look at it that way."
Marrone said the team's split-squad approach – necessary because the Jaguars opted to carry 90 players rather than 80 in the first few weeks of camp – has worked well, giving young players more extensive early work than otherwise might have been the case.
"It's been really beneficial for us," Marrone said. "We've been getting a lot of reps with the young guys, and really that's what you're looking to do. Normally, you have the rookie minicamp where they get a lot of reps, but when the rookies get put back in with the whole team, then their exposure gets reduced.
"It's something that I kind of have in mind that in the future this might not be a bad way to start your offseason. The way we're doing it is beneficial."
Marrone said while full practices – and therefore full evaluation – of players won't begin until next week, he has liked what he has seen from players thus far.
"You try to create expectations of the situation that you're in," Marrone said. "Are you taking good notes? Are you studying? Are you able to carry that over to the walkthrough? On the field, since it's still walkthroughs, it's about communication. If someone's not communicating now with their teammates, obviously when it gets live you don't think that player will be communicating then.
"We're taking the situations we're in and creating expectations for what's going on right now, knowing we'll have to make some decisions without a full evaluation. Whether that's fair or not … it's just the situation we're in. We have to be able to do that."
All NFL teams must reduce rosters to 80 players by August 16, the day before padded practices can begin.