JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from Jaguars 2018 Organized Team Activities/Mandatory Minicamp over the past month at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex …
1. This team is focused … We’ll hit some big themes in examining what we learned over the last month of the Jaguars’ 2018 offseason program, but perhaps the most overarching OTA/minicamp takeaway is that this team bought into Head Coach Doug Marrone’s message in a big way. Marrone immediately following the January loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game began emphasizing the need to forget last season and focus on the future – a seemingly simple message, but a critical one if the Jaguars are to avoid the hangover such a disappointing loss can bring. The Jaguars’ focus was clear for the last month. Consider Marrone’s message received.
2. ...and it’s ready. This is intertwined with No. 1, but just as clear as the Jaguars’ focus is their motivation. This team thrived on an us-against-them vibe last season, with the urgency to earn respect a very real feeling that fueled the team all season. It may be harder after last season’s success for this year’s players to thrive on an idea that people/observers don’t believe in them, but the sense here is that this team will be plenty driven from the start of training camp. The desire to match last season’s success – nay, to surpass it – is real.
3. The fan base absolutely is ready. Did you see Thursday morning’s news? The Jaguars announced that single-game tickets for two high-profile home games – the regular-season home opener against New England and the November Sunday Night Football game against Pittsburgh – are sold out. Tickets are available for those games through a dwindling number of available season-ticket packages. The Jaguars through late last week had sold more than 10,000 new season tickets, best in the NFL this offseason. This city/fan base has been criticized – often unfairly for years. Thursday’s news likely won’t change the narrative, but it’s more evidence of this fan base’s long-standing passion.
4. Blake Bortles looks vastly improved. This was mentioned enough during the past month that some may have gotten tired of hearing it. Sorry, but Bortles is a big enough story that it bears repeating that he has looked more confident, more in control and more consistent than in any previous Jaguars offseason. He looks the part. He looks ready. Next step: training camp.
5. Jalen Ramsey believes he will be better than ever … Quoting the All-Pro cornerback from this week: “If ya’ll thought I was good the last two years, stay tuned.” Vintage.
6. … and he believes health was the reason. While Ramsey made headlines by staying away from voluntary OTAs for three weeks, he said early in this week’s mandatory minicamp that the reason was he wants this to be a “no setback” offseason. Ramsey missed time with injuries in his previous two NFL offseason and wanted to ensure he enters next season healthy. “I’m ahead of schedule right now,” Ramsey said of his offseason health. “I’m very pleased where I’m at.”
7. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is adapting quickly … You couldn’t watch OTAs or minicamps and not notice the athleticism of the free-agent tight end. The Jaguars clearly believe his playmaking ability in the passing game will have an impact quickly, and he showed those traits often over the last month.
8. ...and so is Donte Moncrief. What is true of Seferian-Jenkins is true of Moncrief. The free agent-signee from Indianapolis looked in sync with Bortles throughout the offseason. If he avoids the injuries that limited him in his first four NFL seasons, look for Moncrief to be among the Jaguars’ most productive offensive players next season.
9. Taven Bryan is a big, strong man. That’s the consensus on the rookie first-round defensive tackle from Florida. It’s impossible to know how a defensive lineman will play until he works in pads, but Bryan reportedly is adapting well after moving to defensive end. The Jaguars love his athleticism, size and potential. They’ll start learning more in six weeks.
10. Corey Grant is going to have an increased role in the offense. Specifics are a no-no when reporting about OTAs and minicamp, but it’s no secret that Grant appears likely to be far more involved in the Jaguars’ offense than in his first three seasons.
11. Leonard Fournette is a lean, mean running machine. The second-year running back reported to minicamp down about 10 pounds from his 235-pound rookie playing weight. All reports and appearances were that the result was a quicker, faster version of the powerful back who helped redefine the offense as a rookie.
12.The receivers look deep and talented. The Jaguars have six receivers who look primed to make a serious contribution next season: Moncrief, Marqise Lee, second-round rookie D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and Rashad Greene Sr. The guess here is those six are on the roster out of preseason.