JACKSONVILLE – Here's What We Learned during the Jaguars' 2015 offseason program …
1.This team appears improved.That's how it looked on paper entering the offseason – and that's how it appeared on the field in minicamps and organized team activities. While there is a limit to what can be gleaned from four weeks of non-padded practices, this roster just looks better. The free agents look sound. Young returning players such as Allen Robinson and Telvin Smith look improved. Rookie T.J. Yeldon looks the part. Time will tell what it means, but consider the early unpadded "eye test" passed.
2.Chris Clemons is lighter.We learned this in last week's minicamp, which the Leo/defensive end attended after missing the voluntary portion of the offseason. The 12-year veteran said he is 17 pounds lighter, and he believes it will mean better production than his eight sacks last season. If he's right, that's a huge plus considering the absence of first-round rookie pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., who will miss the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
3.Allen Robinson looks good ….Teams need promising rookies to turn into productive second-year players. If any young Jaguars player looked that part during the offseason, it was Robinson, a second-year wide receiver from Penn State who has the look of a maturing player and a big-play/red-zone threat. The Jaguars like Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, but Robinson stood out in the receiving corps in recent weeks.
4. … and so does Julius Thomas.How often do free agents join new teams and look distracted and unprepared during OTAs and minicamps? Well, it happens. A lot. Thomas, the team's most high-profile free-agent signing, appeared focused, ready and – perhaps most importantly – very, very talented throughout OTAs and minicamps.
5.The offensive line believes in Doug Marrone …If there was an offseason theme among offensive linemen, it was a strong belief and enthusiasm about the direction under Marrone, hired in January as assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach. Linemen praised his attention to detail, which should immediately help a young line in areas such as footwork and hand placement.
6. … and Marrone believes in the line.The additions of center Stefen Wisniewski and Jermey Parnell make this a deeper, more talented unit. Parnell could immediately upgrade right tackle, and the combination of depth and maturity elsewhere should help a line that struggled last season. Marrone during OTAs said the challenge is to help a young group that gained experience last season benefit from that experience. He also said he was optimistic about the offseason progress of guard Zane Beadles and left tackle Luke Joeckel, the latter of whom is most significant individual storyline on the offensive line entering next season.
7.It's hot in Jacksonville in June. I mean … oh, my goodness, right?
The Jaguars completed their final minicamp practice of 2015 in front of a large crowd at the Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields.
8.Sen'Derrick Marks is aiming for the opener.The return of Marks will be a storyline throughout training camp. The starting three-technique tackle and perhaps the team's best player the past two seasons, Marks sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the 2014 regular-season finale. His goal is to return for the September 13 opener against Carolina. It will be tight, and this one may not play out until September.
9.All in all, the Jaguars are pretty healthy.Aside from Fowler, Marks and rookie safety James Sample are only Jaguars players not expected to be ready for the opening of training camp. Sample, who sustained a broken arm in OTAs, could return midway through training camp.
10.Yeldon looks the part.We mentioned this already, but it bears repeating: Yeldon looks good – maybe really good. The running back group as a whole looks deeper with Toby Gerhart having a good offseason and with Denard Robinson continuing to improve as an all-around player. But Yeldon, the No. 36 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, showed everything that could be expected from a running back in his first offseason. He appears capable of making an immediate impact as a rookie.
Photos from the second of 2015 Jaguars Minicamp at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
11.Gerhart could have a significant role.This bears repeating, too. Gerhart struggled with a foot injury much of last season after signing as an unrestricted free agent in the 2014 offseason. This prompted many to wonder if he would be on the roster this season, particularly after the team drafted Yeldon. Look for Gerhart to have an extensive role at least as a backup.
12.Blake Bortles looks better.Wait? We waited this long to talk quarterback? Well, it wasn't as if the second-year veteran hasn't been discussed and dissected pretty much every day of the offseason. The offseason work on fundamentals and mechanics appeared to make a difference during OTAs and minicamp. That's like doing well on an early quiz. It matters and it shows good things, but the big tests and the final are still to come.
13.Bortles is the leader.It has been obvious since last season that even at a young age, Bortles is confident in a leadership role. That's even more evident now, and it's obvious as his first full offseason ends that he is very much the leader and quarterback of this franchise. His confidence is evident and his willingness to put in the time and work necessary are things teammates respect. Bortles has done all of the off-field stuff necessary. Bring on training camp and preseason.
The Jaguars completed the first day of 2015 mandatory minicamp on a scorching hot day in Jacksonville.
14.The offseason is over. On to training camp.