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Week in focus: Impressive beginnings

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the events of the past week around the Jaguars …

Impressive beginnings

The news is hardly shocking, but it was encouraging to the Jaguars.

Myles Jack? Jalen Ramsey? They looked good over the last weekend. Really good.

Now, it's true that Jack and Ramsey – the Nos. 5 and 36 overall selections in the 2016 NFL Draft, respectively – were supposed to look good during rookie orientation. And it's equally true that if they hadn't looked good it would have been a bit alarming.

But you do want your rookies to look the part, particularly two players who are considered the jewels of what many analysts rated as the league's No. 1 class in the '16 draft. And when players are considered as gifted and rare athletically as Jack and Ramsey, you hope to see easy athleticism that just sort of looks different from "normal" NFL players.

That was very definitely the case, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley spoke of Ramsey's athleticism Saturday.

"He's a guy who has really good length and really good speed, and as you can imagine: those things showed up in some of the drills we did," Bradley said.

Jack's athleticism, did, too and Bradley said he was pleased with Jack's conditioning and physical status over the weekend. He said Jack appeared to have improved since he and General Manager David Caldwell worked him out in California before the draft.

"I would say he's in really good shape right now," Bradley said. "I know he feels good about where his weight is."

Jack participated fully over the weekend, and – as expected – the knee that concerned many teams enough to drop him into the second round was not an issue. Jack's knee issue is considered more long-term than short-term and is not expected to affect his availability in the immediate future.

What will affect that availability – at least for the next few weeks – is an NFL rule stating that Jack can't participate in the Jaguars' offseason program until UCLA's exams end in mid-June. That rule applies to rookies whether or not they are enrolled in school.

That meant the rookie orientation will be Jack's last work with the team until shortly before a mandatory minicamp in mid-June, a situation that clearly frustrated Jack when he spoke to the media Saturday.

"It kind of sucks I have to leave for so long," Jack said "They're definitely making the most of my time when I'm here and showing me how I do things so when I go back I'll be able to look at things and figure out.

"I'm definitely going to be as involved as I possibly can, but I think I'm missing a month and some change. You can't get that time back. I'm just going to make the most of it and hopefully when I come in I'll have the best idea of the playbook I possibly can. That way, they can kind of clean me up and get me ready."

Jack worked mainly at middle linebacker during orientation, with the idea being to put him at the position where he can best learn the entire defense.

"It's a cool fit," Jack said. "I'm just glad to be learning the defense and finding my niche."

 

Images from the second day of Jaguars rookie orientation.

Center stage

What has been evident at the center position for a while became more so Saturday.

That's when Bradley told media that Brandon Linder has been taking most of his repetitions thus far in the team's offseason program at the center position.

"It appears to be a very natural position for him," Bradley said.

All indications are that Linder – a third-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft – will play center next season after playing right guard as a rookie – and for the first three games of last season before a season-ending labrum injury. With second-year veteran A.J. Cann working thus far at right guard, the right side of the line appears likely to be right tackle Jermey Parnell and Cann next to Linder.

Fourth-year veteran Luke Joeckel and unrestricted free-agent signee Kelvin Beachum will compete at the left tackle position where Joeckel has started the past two seasons. Joeckel or Beachum could move inside to guard, with unrestricted free agent Mackenzy Bernadeau and third-year veteran Tyler Shatley also options.

 

Around the Jaguars …

*Bradley said Joeckel has shown no negative effects from the signing of Beachum or the team declining to pick up a fifth-year option for his contract for 2017. Because Joeckel was a 2013 Round 1 selection, the Jaguars by NFL rule had until May 1 to execute an option for a fifth season. Joeckel now is eligible to become a free agent following the 2016 season, though the sides could agree to a long-term extension before the 2017 league year. "I can't speak for him, but what I can tell you is he's very focused," Bradley said of Joeckel. "He's always been like that, but right now he's just a very focused individual.  Whether we picked it up or not, I don't see much of a change in him other than he's just extremely focused." …

*While this past weekend's rookie orientation emphasized learning with a relatively slow pace, that will quickly change. All drafted players except for Jack will begin working in the team's offseason program Monday. "It's going to speed up for them on Monday," Bradley said, adding that the rookies will be officially introduced to the team Monday. …

Images from the first day of Jaguars orientation.

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