Veterans for the Jacksonville Jaguars report to training camp today, after rookies and quarterbacks have already done so. The first full-team practice starts tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., and it is open to the public.
There are several storylines to take note of during training camp and the preseason. We’ll soon find out how the roster will shake out, who the starters are and what the 2017 Jaguars look like.
Below are five storylines to watch out for during training camp:
1. Who will be the starting five on the offensive line?
Several players in the offensive trenches are vying for a starting spot. One thing is certain on the offensive line — Brandon Linder will be starting somewhere in the interior. The Jaguars recently made Linder a very wealthy man, as he signed a five-year, $51.7 million contract. By the way, shout out to Zach Goodall for absolutely nailing that projection.
But even Linder’s position is up for debate at either center or right guard. If I had to project the starting lineup for Week 1 right now, I would think it might go like this.:
LT: Branden Albert
LG: A.J. Cann
C: Brandon Linder
RG: Tyler Shatley
RT: Jermey Parnell
Update: We know know that Linder will at least open camp at center.
This is a wild card lineup, moving Cann to the left side and having Shatley start, but by all accounts the coaching staff has given Shatley plenty of opportunities this offseason, and he can play all three interior positions. Additionally, rookie Cam Robinson could move to guard and start if he loses out at left tackle, but that seems more speculation than reality. Patrick Omameh also has plenty of starting experience.
2. Will Blake Bortles be better than he was in 2016?
The organization, fans and likely his teammates sure hope so. I recently wrote an article about five reasons why we can be cautiously optimistic about Bortles in 2017. I think he will progress this season. But that doesn’t necessarily mean any of those ideas are going to come to fruition. In addition to shoring up his flawed throwing motion, Bortles has to work on his accuracy, decision-making and just becoming a more efficient player overall by not turning the ball over so frequently.
But Bortles worked at 3DQB with throwing motion gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux this offseason. He has a talented roster around him, including a new bell cow running back in Leonard Fourtnette, who will (hopefully) alleviate pressure off of Bortles. Add in a new head coach and quarterback coach this season, and perhaps things will go differently for Bortles.
The success of this team in 2017 heavily relies on Bortles’ performance, but of course everybody needs to do their job to win. Bortles’ progression and play will be under a microscope this year.
3. Who wins the fullback job, and how important will the position be in the offense?
This is a two-man race between Marquez Williams, the rookie and Tommy Bohanon, the veteran. Bohanon already has the leg up in experience, but he will also get to start training camp as the only active fullback with Williams starting camp on the physically unable to perform list. Williams can be activated from said list any time before the regular season, if he passes a physical. But missing time does not help his chances.
With Fournette in the fold, and an offensive scheme likely to put emphasis on the running game, I would expect the fullback position to play a relatively significant role as a lead blocker. How often the fullback will be on the field is hard to predict, however. The Jaguars have three dynamic wide receivers, and ran a lot of 11 personnel last season. The team also has a decent tight end duo with Marcedes Lewis and Mychal Rivera. It will be interesting to see how often the Jaguars play in three-receiver or two-tight end sets compared to having a fullback on the field. Head coach Doug Marrone did use fullbacks frequently with both Syracuse and the Buffalo Bills.
4. Should there be concern about the injuries in the secondary?
Both Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Colvin are starting training camp on the PUP list. These players are two of the team’s top-three cornerbacks, and two very good ones at that. Colvin, who is dealing with a foot injury, has been hindered by injuries often in his career. He was placed on injured reserve toward the end of the 2016 season. Ramsey had surgery on a core muscle in June. The cornerback depth behind those two and A.J. Bouye is not great. Safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson were banged up this offseason as well, and both missed all of OTAs and mini camp.
Ramsey missed time last offseason, before having a breakout rookie year. It is better for the Jaguars to be cautious with their young star. I’m not worried about him. Colvin, however, concerns me a little bit more because he has an injury history. While still in college, he tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl in early 2014. Hopefully Gipson and Church are able to participate in camp early. I do expect all four players to be ready for Week 1 — even if they’re limited throughout the preseason.
Update: Gipson and Church to practice on opening day of camp.
5. Which undrafted free agent will stand out the most?
The Jaguars put together a talented class of undrafted free agents this year. Still, though, the chips are stacked against these guys. It’s highly likely that none of them will make the roster. I expect several of them to end up on the practice squad. However, there are two guys who stand out to me and have a chance of making the 53-man squad: wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo and defensive end Hunter Dimick.
Etta-Tawo is a tall receiver with pretty good speed as well (4.49 40 yard-dash). He has a slight chance to beat out Rashad Greene for the sixth receiver spot, if the Jaguars choose to carry six wide outs. Greene’s punt return ability gives him a slight edge, though. Etta-Tawo has a lot to prove to earn a spot. Dimick has a lot of upside, and can get to quarterbacks — 13.5 sacks as a senior, and 28.5 in his career at Utah. He also had 42.5 tackles for loss in college. Defensive end Carroll Phillips and running back I’Tavius Mathers are wild cards to land a roster spot, but odds are not high.
Of course, the various positional battles are always a fun thing to watch as well, but I will be paying close to attention to the five narratives listed above.
What are you most looking forward to during training camp and the preseason?