JACKSONVILLE -- Here's what we learned in Week One of Jaguars 2015 Organized Team Activities …
1.Blake Bortles is better.That's the storyline of 2015 OTAs. Shoot, that's the storyline of the offseason, training camp and the regular season. How improved is second-year quarterback Blake Bortles? How much has he gained from an offseason working on fundamentals? To hear Bortles, coaches and offensive players tell it, quite a bit.
2.He's better in specific areas.Bortles said on Jaguars.com LIVE this week he can feel and see the difference in his throwing motion. Specifically, he said his delivery and throwing motion are quicker and tighter than last season. He said his motion got particularly long late last season, and he likes the results of the work done the last several months in that area.
3.Offensive players can see the improvement …Talk to Jaguars offensive players this week and they tell you they can see a tighter spiral and faster arrival time on Bortles' passes. That's significant if it holds into the season.
4. … defensive players can, too …When defensive players spoke of Bortles this week, they talked of a more mature player with improved decision-making. Said middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, "He's more certain of his throws and more precise in his reads. There's definitely a difference there. From this time last year to now, absolutely."
Take a look at images from the Jaguars first day of OTAs held on Tuesday, May 26.
5.Bortles is working. Hard.Although the Jaguars are just a week into OTAs, they are deep into the process of installing new offensive coordinator Greg Olson's offense. Bortles said he is practicing or in meetings from early in the morning until late afternoon and when asked about the extensiveness of the work, he laughed and said, "I've studied this playbook more than possibly than I studied school my whole life."
6.And all that matters is what happens in September and beyond.We spent the first five topics of this What We Learned on Bortles' improvement, and though it goes without saying, we'll take time to say it anyway: None of those five things – and none of the offseason improvement – matters if Bortles doesn't show improvement when the regular season begins. All of the fundamental work is being done with the idea that it will hold and be accessible when playing and game-planning for real defenses. Stay tuned.
Check out some of the best gear Jacksonville Jaguars players were spotted wearing during the first week of OTAs.
7.T.J. Yeldon is very important to the offense.The media is limited in the detail it can report from Jaguars OTAs, but you don't need detail to see that Yeldon – the No. 36 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft – has the potential to be very, very good. His smoothness, quickness and agility were evident in 2015 rookie camp and he has all the signs of a rookie who can contribute immediately. If he's not the go-to back and a key part of the offense, it will be a surprise.
8.Zane Beadles has adapted.Signed as an unrestricted free agent last offseason, Beadles struggled at times last season, and though he improved late, the Jaguars drafted guard A.J. Cann in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Cann very well could push Beadles at left guard, but listening to Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, you get the idea the Jaguars like what Beadles has done in the offseason. He adapted his stance and footwork in the offseason, something Bradley said isn't easy to do – and you don't get the idea that Cann starting this season over Beadles is any sort of guarantee.
Take a look at images from the Jaguars second day of OTAs held on Wednesday, May 27.
9.Chris Clemons isn't an "OTA" guy.This wasn't exactly news. The 12-year veteran defensive end missed the opening of OTAs last season, and not unexpectedly didn't participate this week. Bradley wasn't thrilled with Clemons' absence, but said it wasn't unexpected and that he knew it was a possibility when the team signed Clemons as a free agent last offseason. Teammates said as long as Clemons shows up in shape and is productive, a 12-year veteran missing OTAs isn't a big deal.
10.OTAs are voluntary.We didn't learn this this week, either – though sometimes a reminder is necessary. Clemons' absence is permissible under NFL/NFLPA rules, and although coaches and teams prefer players attend, players are absolutely allowed to not participate. And teams may not pressure players to attend. Clemons' absence is big news because it's May; by August, it will be a lot less of a big deal.
Take a look at images from the Jaguars third day of OTAs held on Thursday, May 28.
11.Ace Sanders is doing the right things.Bradley already had mentioned it several times this offseason, and Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan reiterated the point this week: third-year veteran Ace Sanders is having a very good offseason. Many observers had come close to writing Sanders off for next season. That appears to have been premature.
12.Julius Thomas is good.If there has been an overriding theme the first week of OTAs outside Bortles, this is it: Thomas appears to be a very good addition. The tight end signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and while being a high-priced UFA is no guarantee of future success, Thomas has very much looked the part of a go-to guy, veteran leader and standout player. While specifics of OTAs may not be reported upon, Bradley and Bortles each discussed Thomas this week, with Bortles calling the fifth-year veteran "exciting" and Bradley praising his ability to turn into a leader in a short time with the team. Time will tell, but it's hard to imagine Thomas not being a player for which teams must game plan – and that's something this offense has lacked for a while.