JACKSONVILLE – Here's What We Learned in Week 3 of Jaguars 2014 organized team activities at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields …
1. Marcedes Lewis is genuine.We'll get to the big-picture, what-the-Jaguars-did-on-the-field part of What We Learned in a moment. But let's not overlook what Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis did this week. The nine-year veteran flew to California mid-week for his sister's graduation, and then flew on a red-eye back to Jacksonville Wednesday night/Thursday morning for practice Thursday morning. He'll return to California Friday afternoon to host his football camp. Now, realistically Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley probably wouldn't have minded Lewis missing practice to attend the graduation even had OTAs been mandatory. This was a voluntary practice, and no one would have blamed/begrudged Lewis – a veteran who knows the offense – for missing a day. But Lewis said he had no intention of missing. "Regardless of whether this is mandatory or not, this is mandatory to me," Lewis said. Those were strong words. Lewis' actions this week were stronger.
2. Gus Bradley is pleased.Remember Week Two? When Bradley stopped the first practice of the week and talked to the team about tempo, about remembering how getting better looked? Well, something "took" there. Bradley liked the last five practices, and has praised them afterward. He thought this past week was particularly productive.
3. Gus Bradley is really pleased. How pleased? Enough to cancel the tenth OTA practice on Friday and take the team to Latitude 30 for team-building bowling. That's not something you do if you don't like what's happening on the field.
4. There are legitimate reasons he's pleased.Bradley said he likes the execution in practice the last few days, saying of Thursday, "With pads on we'll see what will happen, but it was good execution." Added Bradley, "It's really cool how it's coming together."
The Jaguars took part in a team building outing in lieu of the last day of OTAs practice.
5. The Jaguars are ahead of last year.Bradley made it clear that OTAs last year were productive, but said on Thursday, "What seems different this year is they have a better handle of the offense and defense and special teams scheme. We have new players but when you have new players the guys that have gone through it once already are helping them. So it's been a more efficient OTA, I would say."
6. Denard Robinson is getting better.There's a limit to what media can report from OTAs, but second-year running back Denard Robinson has looked better in the reportable portion of practice than he did this time last offseason. He worked on his hands as a receiver, and he has worked to get bigger. He also appeared to be running with more confidence.
7. EverBank Field is going to have pools!We learned this from the national media this week. Hmmm, interesting …
8. And cabanas, too!The national media reported this, too. Three-hundred and fifty five days after Jaguars Owner Shad Khan, President Mark Lamping and the organization announced the state-of-the-art video boards, pools and major renovations, the "breaking" story of these renovations went viral in the Twittersphere this week. Reaction to the "news" was varied, and there were those who had plenty of fun with the pools, but make no mistake: this idea of teams enhancing stadiums to enhance the game-day experience? More and more teams are exploring this, and there almost certainly will be plenty of teams following the Jaguars' and Jacksonville's lead on this in the coming years.
9. Bradley is all about victory."Victory" is a 2014 buzzword for Bradley. "We believe in getting better and we believe in victory," Bradley said. "Those two things we keep saying over and over to our team and they've done a nice job with it." But Bradley said he's not talking about "winning" with victory, necessarily, but a broader concept. "Victory is being the best that you can be," he said. "We trust if we are the best that we can be the results will come."
10. The receivers are getting healthier. Ace Sanders and Mike Brown returned to practice Thursday. That ended a week-long stretch in which seven receivers – Sanders, Brown, rookies Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Lamaar Thomas and veterans Tandon Doss and Cecil Shorts III – were all out. That left the Jaguars down to four healthy receivers, then six after they claimed Kevin Smith off waivers and signed Brandon Wimberly as a free agent. The Jaguars won't reach full health at the position in OTAs, but the position shouldn't be as strained next week at mandatory minicamp.
11. There will be no Hard Knocks in Jacksonville this summer.The Atlanta Falcons announced on Thursday they will be the team on HBO's Hard Knocks in training camp in July and August. Bradley didn't say much about the decision, but he was hardly disappointed that the Jaguars won't be the featured team. "That's great for Atlanta," Bradley said. "I'm excited for them."
12. Abry Jones has a significant role.The second-year defensive tackle missed two days with a sprained knee, and returned Thursday. And while Jones often gets overlooked, it's clear he's going to have a significant role this season. He's backing up veteran Roy Miller at nose guard, and the Jaguars value the versatility of Jones, who played all four Jaguars defensive line positions last season – including the Leo in short-yardage situations.
It was Kids Club Day at Jaguars OTAs.
13. Brandon Linder is working into the rotation.The third-round rookie right guard worked with the starting lineup on Thursday, with veteran Jacques McClendon taking reps with the first team at the start of practice. Linder appears likely to have a real shot at the starting position come training camp.
14. Dwayne Gratz could take a step.The second-year cornerback showed a knack last year for making plays when healthy. He's done nothing this offseason to make anyone think any different.
NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray and Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III joined the Jaguars at the team's OTAs on Tuesday.
15. Luke Joeckel likes his progress.The second-year left tackle missed 11 games with a fractured ankle as a rookie last season. He wasn't sure early this offseason how much he would participate in OTAs, but he started the sessions taking two reps a period, and expects to take four per period in minicamp next week. He expects to be full-go when training camp opens in late July.
16. Blake Bortles is improving.The rookie No. 3 overall selection had perhaps his best practice Thursday, completing 13 of 15 passes in team work. He's clearly still behind veteran quarterback Chad Henne and that probably won't change soon. But since a difficult Monday practice to start Week Two, Bortles has continually drawn praise from Bradley. Right now, Bradley's focused on Bortles' poise and his approach, and that's a start.
17. Chad Henne remains steady.The Jaguars made re-signing Henne the top priority this off-season, and the reason has been clear during OTAs. Henne has been consistent early, and has been a steadying force – even with the team's top receivers out. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was asked what this week what his anxiety level would be right now if the team hadn't re-signed Henne. He smiled. "High," he said.