JACKSONVILLE -- Here's What We Learned in Week One of Jaguars 2014 organized team activities at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields …
1. Gus Bradley liked the first week of OTAs.Well, of course he did. The Jaguars' Head Coach is nothing if not upbeat and positive. But what he liked in particular was the communication and teamwork. He emphasizes those areas, and it took a while last offseason – his first with the organization – to get them where he wanted. Bradley said the team is significantly ahead in the areas this offseason, and that may have been what he liked best about Week One. "We're not there yet, but I feel like significant communication is taking place," he said.
2. Blake Bortles is improving. Bradley on the quarterback the franchise selected No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, "I think with Blake you're seeing the ups and downs. We're seeing more good from where he was to where he is now. He's making progress."
3. Chad Henne is the starter.OK, we didn't learn this in Week One of OTAs. But people not following this team closely have a tough time grasping that it's reality. Henne is the starter. For now, Bortles is not. That's just how it be.
4. The Jaguars are bigger …The Jaguars made getting bigger up front on defense an offseason priority. A glance at OTAs made it clear mission had been accomplished. Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood? Big. Defensive end Red Bryant? As defensive tackle Roy Miller said, also a "big, big boy." The Jaguars wanted more size to defend against the run. They got it.
5…. and faster.You need to be fast in the NFL, and you need to play fast to play Bradley's defense effectively. Bradley says there's no question the Jaguars are faster than last season and the idea now is to be in shape to maintain that speed throughout entire games.
6. It's hot in Florida in late May.Well, we regulars knew that. Bryant, for his part, learned in a day. He wore long sleeves for Tuesday's practice, and after realizing the Florida heat was no joke, went shorter the rest of the week. Yes, he's a big guy, and he's no fool, either.
7. Bryant wants to earn his spot.Talking to Bryant early this week was intriguing. He didn't talk much about schemes or Xs and Os, but was pointed about the need to earn respect in the locker room – emphasis on "earn." "I've closed the chapter on my first years in the NFL," Bryant said. "I'm trying to earn my right to be here, and earn the respect of the players who are already here," he said. Bryant has a Super Bowl ring earned with Seattle last season, but said respect in any locker room "is a privilege and not a right. I don't ever want to lose sight of that."
8. There's no more strong-side linebacker.The Jaguars are using the term, "Otto," for the linebacker whose primary job is to hold the edge against the run. Second-year veteran LaRoy Reynolds worked there this week, and unrestricted free-agent signing Dakoda Watson likely will start there. That once was termed the strong-side linebacker position, but that's out of the vocabulary around EverBank Field for now.
9. The offensive line is progressing.Bradley said that's particularly true on the left side, which is as it should be with 2013 No. 2 overall draft selection Luke Joeckel at tackle and 2014 unrestricted free agent Zane Beadles at guard. That's a dramatically different look than last season, and with that much invested, it should be improved. Bradley said he also liked center Mike Brewster's performance at center and expressed confidence in Austin Pasztor at right tackle.
10. Specifically, Joeckel is really improving.Joeckel, like Brewster, spent the early offseason rehabilitating an ankle injury and aiming to return during the offseason program. There had been talk of bringing the players back slowly, but while the team will continue to be smart, the players worked extensively this week. "He feels like the game has really slowed down for him compared to last OTAs to where he is at now," Bradley said of Joeckel.
11. Right guard remains uncertain.One question area on the offensive line is right guard, which Bradley called "competitive" this week. Rookie third-round selection Brandon Linder has a chance, and veteran Jacques McClendon appears very much in the mix, too.
12. Henne is playing well …Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch likes how Henne is "owning the position" now that he is starting and Bradley mentioned multiple times this week that Henne is performing well.
13…. Ricky Stanzi is, too …No, this doesn't mean Stanzi is pushing Henne, but Bradley late in the week said that Stanzi – now in his first offseason with the team – has outperformed expectations. "He's surprised us on his performance thus far," Bradley said…
14… and they're not alone.… Bradley late in the week mentioned not only Stanzi and Henne, but wide receiver Cecil Shorts III and safety Johnathan Cyprien as performing well in Week One.
15. Chris Clemons and Bradley are communicating.Clemons, a defensive end who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from Seattle in March, was the lone player on the 90-man roster not attending OTAs this week. Bradley talked several times about having good conversations with Clemons this week, but while OTAs are absolutely voluntary, there's no question Bradley would have preferred the conversations be face-to-face.
16. Chris Clemons should be in Monday.Bradley after Thursday's practice said of Clemons, "I say with really, really strong confidence he'll be here Monday. The one thing I know about Chris Clemons is he'll be ready to go and he's in shape. I feel better now about his situation and he assured me he will be here Sunday and I say that with 98 percent confidence he'll be here."
17. Competition will be intense at the fifth wide receiver position …Shorts, rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson and second-year veteran Ace Sanders appear likely to be the Top 4 receivers. The battle for No. 5 and maybe 6 will include veterans Mike Brown and Tandon Doss as well as rookie free agents Damian Copeland and Allen Hurns, and could be close to the end.
18…. And a lot of other positions, too. Right guard. Fifth wide receiver. Both will be battles, and one of the most intense may be free safety. Third-year veteran Winston Guy is working with the starters while second-year veteran Josh Evans is likely out until training camp after recent foot surgery. 19. The Leo is really, really competitive.Did we say, "Really?" The team currently has six Leos with only three able to play at once. The Jaguars won't necessarily limit themselves to three Leos, but it won't be much more than that. Clemons, Jason Babin, Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and Chris Smith. It's a pretty good bet at least one doesn't make the final roster.