As I am sure we all know by now, the Jacksonville Jaguars start training camp today. This guide was originally used for the Underwear Practices back in May, but I believe it also applies for training camp, especially early on. So, what's important and what's not? Click to jump to find out more.
I tried to update it a bit for actual training camp and for when pads are on. If you see something glaring, leave it in the comments and I will update it. (except spelling and grammar pksiv!)
First and foremost, ignore what players are with what looks to be the "First Team". It doesn't matter initially, and it's likely the veterans will take less snaps than some of the newer players. The depth chart right now for all intents and purposes doesn't exist. It will get more and more important as we get closer to the end of next week.
What to ignore with the defensive lineman: The practices are non-padded to start. Due to the fact that the offensive and defensive line have no pads whatsoever in "no contact" practice, it makes what they're doing basically worthless. It's nice to see the pass rushers beat the tackles off the edge in drills, which they should with no pads or contact. There isn't much you can gain from watching them this early. Wait until Sunday night when the pads first go on.
What to watch with the defensive lineman: The only things you can really gain from watching the defensive lineman is their jump from the snap and hand fighting ability. Watch to see how quickly the defensive lineman get off the "snap" of the football. The other thing to watch for is how well the defensive lineman use their hands. Can they swim off the lineman? Can they quickly knock the lineman's hands away? When the pads go on Sunday, see if they can apply their non-padded rush moves while they have pads on.
What to ignore the offensive lineman: For the same reason you ignore the defensive lineman, you should ignore the offensive lineman for the most part. It's a physical position that is heavily involved with contact, and with their being no contact... not a whole lot to watch.
What to watch with the offensive lineman: When watching the offensive lineman watch their feet. Watch how the tackles kick slide. Is it clunky? Does it look smooth? After watching the kick slide, watch to see if the lineman can sink his hips when the kick slide is completed. If you don't know what I'm talking about, pay attention to Eugene Monroe. He's very good at sinking his hips, so use him as a comparison to the other tackles. For the interior lineman, there isn't much. They rely on being physical, so until Sunday you can't tell a lot. When they have the pads on, look how a lineman uses his hands. Are they grabbing or are they punching?
What to ignore with the linebackers: Don't pay much attention to 1-on-1 coverage with the linebackers. While it can look discouraging to see them routinely beat like a drum, without pads or contact it's difficult for them to actually cover tight ends and running backs. Plus, most often the linebackers will be in zone coverage, and not in man match ups.
What to watch with the linebackers: When they are in the passing skeleton drills (5x7, 7x7, and 11x11) watch how they cover their zone. Do they pick up receivers in it and how fast do they release them? When the tackling drills commence, do they wrap up or are they going for big hits?
What to ignore with defensive backs: How often a wide receiver beats them in man coverage in the 1-on-1 drills. While it's encouraging if a defensive back locks down the receiver, you also have to remember it's hard to cover without being able to really engage the receiver. Plus the receiver's have the ultimate advantage in these drills.
What to watch with the defensive backs: Are they a grabber? When Drayton Florence was signed a couple seasons ago, many fans were excited. He looked great in training camp and mini-camp by all accounts, but something was amiss. I noticed during the 1-on-1 drills Florence was constantly grabbing at jersey and arms. It developed into a big time problem during the season and he was ultimately benched. If the defensive back is a constant grabber, it's generally an issue.
What to ignore with the running backs: Pretty much everything. Without contact running backs have free reign to do whatever they wish. Even when the pads go on, it's still the same thing.
What to watch with the running backs: How quick are their cuts? Does the running back dance, or do they plant their foot and drive in a direction?
What to ignore with the wide receivers/tight ends: How often they score "touchdowns" in the drills. Without contact or tackling again, they can score when they want. They have a big-time advantage. Noting how fast a receiver is, is also a bit misleading without pads. We've all seen the "Boys of Summer" in years past who disappear when the pads go on. Even when the pads go on the actual touchdown count isn't a biggie.
What to watch with the wide receivers/tight ends: There are some key things to watch with the receivers. Watch how they catch the football, is it with their hands or with their body? Reggie Williams was a notorious body catcher. Mike Sims-Walker on the other hand, uses his hands and plucks the football out of the air. Jarret Dillard put on a show last off-season with his ability to pluck the football from the air. Do they have soft hands? Can you "hear" the football when it's caught? Another thing to look for is how the receiver runs his routes. Is it jerky, or are their cuts smooth? Does the receiver "sell" the route, or is it obvious what their cut will be? Do they sink their hips? For a reference, watch Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. Use those two receivers as the examples. When the pads finally go on, watch to see if some players disappear. A lot of the "Boys of Summer" were notorious for suddenly becoming invisible when the pads when on and contact at the line was allowed.
What to ignore with the quarterbacks: Deep passes. Mini-camp and training camp are notorious for putting on an aerial display of passes deep down the football field. While it's nice to see, it's completely unrealistic. As we know from watching the games, deep passes are not common place. Plus, without a real threat of a pass rush or hands in the throwing lane, it's pretty easy to complete passes down the football field.
What to watch with the quarterbacks: Watch the velocity that they put on the football on routes to the sideline 15 yards or deeper down the football field. If they can't put some mustard on those passes, they generally don't have a shot in the NFL. Also watch how often the quarterback checks down to a safe pass in the passing skeleton. I noticed this last year with David Garrard in training camp. Way too often, he checked the pass to the running back with receivers or tight ends open deeper down the football field. Also, when an interception is thrown, keep in mind how it was intercepted. Did the defender make a great play, or was the quarterback baited into the throw?
So, those are some key things to pay attention to in training camp and and to ignore.
I will have camp reports up after each practice I attend, as I am sure you all will in the FanPosts. Keep in mind, if you have a nice camp report it will get featured and put on the main page, so take good notes!