JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars went through their first practice of 2017 Training Camp Thursday.
The Jaguars practiced about two hours in 84-degree temperatures that turned into a pouring rain near the end of practice. Head Coach Doug Marrone and quarterback Blake Bortles spoke to the media afterward.
We also caught up with left tackle Branden Albert, who said he's playing this season with a chip on his shoulder. We'll cover that later in this story.
Marrone talked about the first practice, and it's clear he's going to emphasize having the Jaguars use the Florida heat to their advantage. Several players cramped on Thursday; Marrone said while that's normal, players must acclimate quickly.
We'll have more from Bortles on jaguars.com later in the day, but he said Thursday this past offseason was the most productive of his four-year career. Marrone said he liked what he saw from Bortles Thursday in terms of footwork, progression, etc.
Marrone added that he thought Bortles picked up where he left off late in the offseason program.
Notes and observations from Day 1 of Jaguars 2017 Training Camp practice:
*Albert, a 10-year veteran and a two-time Pro Bowl selection acquired in a trade from Miami in March, on Thursday said he's still losing some rust as 2017 training camp begins.
That rust came from opting to not participate in the voluntary portion of the offseason program.
But Albert said he's confident he will lose the rust quickly – and said he considers himself a player with much to prove as '17 camp begins.
"All the preliminary stuff, all the talk, is over with," Albert said. "Now it's time to start playing football. I've got a little rust; that's going to take a while. But I've got a chip on my shoulder. I'm ready to go."
Albert worked with the first team offensive line Thursday. He is expected to compete during camp with rookie Cam Robinson for the starting position.
Robinson worked with the first team throughout the offseason program.
"My concern right now is trying to find out 'Who is the best left tackle? Who are the best players?''' Marrone said. "That's what we're trying to do here, create a competitive environment. Hopefully, it will show itself. Next week is a very difficult week. It's five straight days and we should have a good feel of how the players are doing."
Albert was asked the reason for the "chip."
"There was a lot of chatter last season about me and my career; a lot of people said my skills were on the decline," Albert said. "I don't make excuses. I take full ownership of my game. That's where I'm starting – to be the best left tackle in the National Football League this football season."
Albert, who missed the voluntary portion of the offseason because he wanted to renegotiate his contract, said during the team's three-day mandatory mid-June minicamp he would be present and in shape for training camp.
"I'm good health-wise and shape-wise," Albert said. "Now, I've got to get into my routine and stay healthy. I'm back to basics and making sure I do everything possible to be the player I am." …
*Marrone after practice Thursday said he likes what he has seen from rookie running back Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. "He did a nice job out there," Marrone said. "He looked good. He caught the ball well. He finished his runs. He's showing good effort; I think that's what you're looking for. That's what you see in him, and then it will be interesting to see when the pads go on." The Jaguars' first padded practice of '17 camp is scheduled for Saturday evening. …
*Third-year veteran A.J. Cann worked with the starters at right guard Thursday. "We told him to be prepared to flip back and forth [between right and left guard], and do it so it's in the best interest of putting the best five guys there,'' Marrone said. The starting offensive line through most of Thursday's work was Albert, guard Tyler Shatley, center Brandon Linder, Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell. …
*Safety Barry Church, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March from the Dallas Cowboys, practiced Thursday after missing the on-field portion of the offseason program. "Barry's a very good communicator; I think that's important when you're in the secondary," Marrone said. "I'm happy to see him out there on the field. He's in the front of the line. He provides a lot to that secondary, and I look forward to him going out there and making plays." …
*How important are special teams to the 2017 Jaguars? Enough that there's a good chance many starters will be doing a lot of double duty. "Everyone's up for special teams," Marrone said. "That's my philosophy. A lot of times people get concerned with, 'Hey, he's a starter.' I told [special teams coordinator] Joe [DeCamillis] 'Any of our coverage units, everyone can be out there.' It's a critical snap. We spend a lot of time on special teams and we have a lot of players involved. We're going to put the best 11 out there. If they're starters and that's their role, that's what they have to do. That's important to me.'' …