JACKSONVILLE -- The Jacksonville Jaguars took to the field again in full pads on Tuesday morning for training camp, just two days out from their first real live action for the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a nice day outside, hot but with a breeze intermittently throughout practice. There were a few veterans sitting out with off days and some minor injuries, as well as some rookies getting a precautionary day off.
The Jaguars have been hit hard as of late with some injuries, namely at the wide receiver position. Cecil Shorts III remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, as does rookie receiver Allen Robinson. Tandon Doss is still out with his ankle injury and rookie Allen Hurns was given a day off with a minor hip flexor. Late in practice Nathan Slaughter went down with an injury, but was back in after a few snaps.
Some other players who were out today include Chris Clemons (day off), Austin Pasztor (day off), Toby Gerhart (hip flexor) and Dekoda Watson (hernia) and Johnathan Cyprien (hip flexor). Cyprien insists he will play on Friday against the Buccaneers, however.
The Jaguars defense has been stifling for most of training camp, which isn't a big surprise. The Jaguars offense has been bogged down with injuries. In particular on the defensive line, it was a good day for Ryan Davis, rookie Chris Smith, veteran Tyson Alualu and rookie linebacker Telvin Smith.
In pass rush drills Davis and Luke Joeckel had a nice one-on-one battle, splitting the reps. Chris Smith also made quick work out of one of the Jaguars backup offensive lineman with an outside move, ripping back inside after the lineman overcommitted to the outside.
"Ryan isn’t a big surprise, but a real good surprise," Jaguars defensive line coach Todd Wash told reporters prior to practice on Tuesday. "He shows he can rush inside, and he also has given our tackles some problems on the edge. He’s a technician, and he knows he has to be technician. We’re very, very pleased with Ryan right now."
Alualu showed a lot of push in drills and even got into a scuffle with newly signed veteran Zane Beadles in drills, with Alualu getting the better of him in both the drill and the scuffle.
"Tyson has definitely benefited [from Red Bryant]. There’s a good competition between the two. He can also look and see the transition from where he was a year ago to now," Wash told reporters Tuesday. "He’s played extremely well. We really feel like we got two starting 4Bs, six technique type guys and we’re excited about both of them, but he’s definitely stepped up his performance in camp."
Rookie linebacker Telvin Smith has also been consistently showing up and making some plays. He's forced his way into the first team defense in some nickel situations and has made the most of it. He broke up a few passes, would have lit up a few players who caught passes over the middle and nearly had an impressive interception of a Stephen Morris pass over the middle, which saw Smith leap high in the air fully stretched, only to drop the ball when he came back down.
On the offensive side of the football it was a good day for rookie Blake Bortles, who made the most of a poor day from Chad Henne. Bortles made quick work in some 11x11 drills, with three quick completions for three quick first downs and then was replaced by Morris. Later on in some more team work Bortles had some nice passes down the field dropped and hit a few more nice deep passes in individual receiver/corner drills. He seems to be progressing at a good rate so far and it will be very interesting to watch him on Friday in live action, where he's sure to get plenty of playing time.
It was a rough day for the Jaguars offense overall and for veteran quarterback Chad Henne. It couldn't have been more hilariously timed with my "Will the Jaguars sit Blake Bortles the whole season" post. In the first play of team drills Henne was nearly picked off on the sideline by Winston Guy on a late throw. The next set of team drills saw the first team offense with Henne going against the second team defense and Henne hit two nice passes to move the offense, as he should against backups.
After a quick three play drive by Bortles, which included a nice touch pass to the sideline for a big gain, Henne came out and missed Mike Brown on the sideline, was nearly picked off for a touchdown on his next throw and then two throws later was late over the middle of the field and missed Brown again. He misfired again to a tight end on the next play and then was sacked on a roll out in his next set of team drills.
I always feel like I'm picking on Andre Branch, but after hearing about how good he looked in OTA practices and mini-camp, I've been completely underwhelmed in training camp. The only times I've seen him flash is in combo-rush drills against the offensive line where he twists inside over the pass rushing defensive tackle... which sounds familiar. In other rush situations he's been pushed wide by most of the offensive lineman he's faced and I joked with some on the sideline today that had it not been for his highlighter yellow shoes and socks, I wouldn't have noticed him on the field at all.
With that being said, Branch has still been taking second team reps at the LEO position and is very likely making the final roster since Jason Babin is released. You can tell he has physical assets for the position and the team is trying to bring it out, but I just don't quite see it coming together. Maybe it will.
The interior offensive line also seems to be a concern, notably with Michael Brewster. In a pass rushing drill today he was engulfed by Roy Miller and the coaches didn't even bother with a second rep on the matchup. Brewster will be someone to focus on in the preseason, as he seems to do better (albeit still not great) in full team drills with a full offensive line.
I didn't chart the quarterbacks in team drills today, nor do I know if anyone else did, but as mentioned Bortles looked the better of the two on Tuesday. He was decisive throwing the football, didn't really make many bad decisions, and if not for a few drops would have had some nice competitions against the first team defense. Henne decided to go full Chad Henne today though and struggled moving the offense against the first team. He was nearly picked off a few times and outside of short stuff, didn't really do much of note.