JACKSONVILLE – The early signs up front are good.
“Everyone has been working extremely hard,” Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said. “They are practicing the way we want.”
This was Marrone during last week’s Week 3 of 2019 organized team activities discussing the Jaguars’ offensive line – a likely storyline through this week’s mandatory minicamp and into 2019 Training Camp in July and August.
And while Marrone said little will be certain about the line until training camp’s padded practices, he said the unit’s approach thus far in the offseason could be significant.
“That’s what I look for,” Marrone said, “because if you are practicing the way we want, and you listen to instruction and you are taking things from the classroom to the field or even more from a micro [level] from individual [drills] to team [drills], which is the most important … I’m seeing that with that group.
“Communication is outstanding. The players have responded well. At this time of the year, if that’s not happening, you’re going to have problems.”
The Jaguars are counting on newcomers and a return to health to improve the offensive line. Left tackle Cam Robinson (14 games missed, torn anterior cruciate ligament), guard Andrew Norwell (five, ankle) and center Brandon Linder (seven, knee) all missed significant time last season – and the team selected right tackle Jawaan Taylor in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
As has been the case throughout the offseason, Marrone also spoke of his confidence in new offensive line coach George Warhop.
Warhop is a 24-year veteran of NFL coaching. Marrone, who played for him while with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football in 1991-1992, called Warhop “one of the best [offensive] line coaches in the league.”
“What I have seen from the players, his communication skills … I think there are a lot of things,” Marrone said. “We are really fortunate to have him.”
Marrone last week also discussed several Jaguars offensive linemen, saying that Taylor earned first-team repetitions recently in OTAs with a good week of practice.
“He had a pretty decent week,” Marrone said. “He had a good week, had a good couple days and we just wanted to throw him up there and we’ll see. A lot of that stuff will probably be earned snaps to get up there. [It takes a] little bit longer for the rookies because we want to make sure they know what they’re doing first before they get out there with those groups.
“Once we feel comfortable with that, it’s a matter of where are they compared to the others in talent and have they done enough to earn a couple reps? Sometimes that might not be the case when you throw them in there, but with Jawaan, that was what that was about.”
Marrone also discussed second-year veteran Will Richardson Sr., a fourth-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft who was listed as a tackle last season. Richardson, who spent much of last season on injured reserve, worked at guard early in OTAs.
“I don’t know if I am ready to say where it is progressing as far as from the tackle position to the guard, but I have been encouraged by his play on the inside,” Marrone said. “He has done a nice job in there and he has done a better job on the outside.
“I think going into it where there wasn’t a lot of evidence last year of him playing and him really being able to progress to get better, you’re starting to see that now. Where is his ceiling? You don’t know, but you are excited because it’s going in the right direction.”
Keenan McCardell is optimistic about wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. “I’ve seen him grow as a football player,” the Jaguars’ wide receivers coach said last week of the 2018 second-round draft selection. “This year, I can tell he really understands what’s going on with our offenses and what we’re really trying to do.” Chark, who caught 14 passes for 174 yards as a rookie, has flashed at times during OTAs – and caught a long pass from quarterback Nick Foles in practice this past week. The Jaguars are counting on a Year 2 jump from Chark this season, something McCardell considers possible. “Things start to slow down for you in your second year,” McCardell said. “Being in your first year is like a tornado. Everything is all the same, it sounds the same. Now he can pick and choose how to run routes, how to decipher defenses and stuff like that, which will make his game improve just understanding defenses in his second year. In his first year, he says he knows defenses, he’ll tell you he knows it, but you can see it and understand in his route running. That’s when you know he knows it.”