JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the week that was around Week 3 of Jaguars 2018 Organized Team Activities at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex …
THE BIG STORY
The irony of the Big Jaguars '18 OTA Story is it hasn't been mentioned all that much.
That's good news for the Jaguars and Blake Bortles, because while the fifth-year quarterback indeed is the most important story of '18 OTAs it has been a relatively quiet story.
Bortles' consistency is the reason.
With no drama or angst, Bortles has been remarkably consistent through the three weeks and 10 voluntary OTA practices at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex. The Jaguars' media policy limits details of what can be reported regarding offseason work, but we can report how Bortles has looked overall.
He has looked poised. He has looked confident.
He in short has looked like a quarterback in his fifth NFL season should look. Perhaps more pertinently, he has looked like a quarterback in his second season in an offensive system should look.
A major theme for Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett earlier in OTAs was his desire for Bortles "to just play football" – meaning he wanted Bortles thinking more about how to beat opposing defenses than the process of getting in and out of plays. Such instinctive "football" play should happen more often the more familiar he gets with Hackett's offense.
The thought here after three weeks of OTAs is Bortles looks in far better position to play that way than he did at this time last offseason. Or in training camp last August. Or even early in the '17 regular season.
How that translates into next regular season obviously is all that matters. But it's hard to imagine Bortles not having a far better grasp of the offense next season, and being able to play far more instinctively.
That remains the biggest story out of OTAs, even if it's a relatively quiet one.
It's safe to assume D.J. Chark's locker isn't where it is by accident. Chark, the Jaguars' rookie second-round receiver, said Friday he's learning the details of the NFL quickly partly thanks to the player in the locker next to his: cornerback A.J. Bouye. "He definitely has been helping me out a lot," Chark said of the 2017 Associated Press second-team All-Pro selection. "I'm trying to see what he thinks when I do a certain release, things like that. He's very smart. He reads route concepts and is one of the Top 50 players in the league for a reason. He showcased that. I love when I get an opportunity to go against him – to see what success I can have and what I can do better." Asked if perhaps his locker was placed near Bouye's by design, Chark smiled. "We definitely have some strategic coaches and some smart guys in the front office," he said. "I think it was pretty strategic, but I'm glad it's like that."
There is seemingly at least one overplayed story per NFL team per offseason. This year's candidate around the Jaguars surrounded veteran wide receiver Marqise Lee early this week. When Head Coach Doug Marrone wasn't effusive in his praise when asked about Lee this past Monday, observers connected dots to the point that wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell was asked the following day about the notion that the fifth-year veteran might be complacent. McCardell explained he is "kind of easing" Lee into the offseason program after offseason knee surgery, adding of Lee: "He is a catalyst of our group; our group goes as he goes. He is a tough guy that is a leader. This is the time where as a vet, you kind of tone him down a little bit and then get him going through minicamp and training camp. He is a guy that everybody knows when the whistle blows, he is ready to play football." McCardell's words reflect the organization's feelings about Lee, who was re-signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason in part because of his toughness, commitment to "team" and willingness to play through injuries last season and throughout his career. The team does not worry about him being "complacent."
"He never seems to not impress. I can't speak for the overall reasons of why he is such a great player; there are so many things that go into it. But one of the things that I see, which is amazing, is that every day he comes with a genuine purpose to really improve his game from the technical standpoint. I have been around a lot of offensive linemen and defensive linemen, and a lot of great ones, and he reminds me of some of those players that come in and really focus in on what he wants to work on. He goes out there and is very competitive. Now that I have been around him for some time, it is very easy to see why he is so successful and why he has had success in this league and why I think he will continue to have success in this league – because of the work that he puts in."
--Marrone on Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue