After burning up in the late-July Florida sun for two days, the Jacksonville Jaguars opened up a special evening practice session in which they finally got to put on the pads and, for as much as the league allows, practice under live contact conditions.
I was able to attend the practice session and, in between live tweeting and keeping a 5 year old satisfied with water and free smoothies, come away with the following observations from the first padded practice of the 2018 season.
Blake Bortles looks the part
Blake Bortles has the look and feel now of a veteran quarterback who has complete control of his offense. While he wasn’t airing the ball out all around the field, that’s not how the offense is built and No. 5 showed his mastering of Nathaniel Hackett’s playbook has come a long way. Bortles looked calm, decisive and, other than what looked like a mistimed throw to Keelan Cole in one 11 on 11 segment, very accurate with his throws. I have never been a, “Blake guy”, but I came away impressed tonight.
The backup receivers look great
While the first-team receivers didn’t do much of note during this session, aside from Marqise Lee injuring himself, the second and third-tier receivers stole the show. Rashad Greene was a consistent target for both Bortles and Cody Kessler, coming away with multiple receptions. Shane Wynn continues to do nothing but make plays in the summer, as he made a nice stop and go move on Tashaun Gipson, ending in a deep completion from Bortles that Wynn would walk in for six, had they kept score. While Jaydon Mickens didn’t shine so much in receiving drills, he was clearly the smoothest looking of the punt return guys being worked out.
T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant shine
I watched Leonard Fournette make some nice moves in spots, but the night really belonged to his backups. Particularly, TJ Yeldon, who on at least three separate occasions that I counted, showed great vision and quickness cutting back against the flow of the play for what would have been big gains.
Offensive and defensive lines excel
The linemen did all their 1 v. 1 drills on the far end of the field from my vantage point, but from what I saw in team and 9 on 7 drills, the first-team offensive and defensive lines essentially dueled to a draw for the evening. What was noticeable to me, was a lack of multiple penalties, batted balls at the line, and Blake running into quickly collapsing pockets, which had been a staple of previous seasons’ padded practices. The Jaguars second and third team lines were another story, as the defensive line was slightly more overwhelming, as one would expect. This team has unbelievable depth all along the defensive line, folks.
Taven Bryan — confirmed good
Speaking of defensive linemen, Taven Bryan looked as you would expect a rookie in his first NFL padded practice to look. He had one would-be penalty for jumping offsides, but did get some decent push in his non one on one drills. Otherwise, nothing to really come away impressed or unimpressed with.
Tyler Patmon is a name to watch
Meanwhile, Tyler Patmon is having another outstanding start to his summer, and is clearly the third best corner on this team right now. He was everywhere in drills this evening, including a pass break up on a fly route from Bortles to Lee, in which Patmon made a fantastic play to leap and knock away what was a well thrown pass from Blake that would’ve resulted in big yardage if not for the corner. The play resulted in Lee landing awkwardly because of Patmon’s contact, and injuring what appeared to be his right arm/hand area. Patmon also had nice coverage in 7 on 7s, on a crossing route to DJ Chark from Bortles, in which the coverage appeared to distract Chark enough to drop the pass.
Tanner Lee is so bad, folks
Tanner Lee may be the most wasted draft pick of the Caldwell/Coughlin era. Don’t waste your time or ours asking about him in Q&As or in the comments, folks, he’s not going to make it here. Cody Kessler is this team’s back up quarterback unless a really good option comes available after cut downs.
Watch out for Ronnie Harrison
Ronnie Harrison is going to be a nice replacement for Barry Church when Church’s time is up. Harrison’s size is noticeable out on the field, and I consistently saw him moving around well for a rookie in only his third NFL official practice. You get the sense that he wanted to do a little more than “thump” the receivers and backs out there.
The uniforms look beautiful
If the new practice jerseys are any indication, the Jaguars uniforms and helmet look phenomenal in person, especially under the lights.
Do better with fan experiences, Jaguars
Finally, the Jaguars do a lot of things right for the fan experience. Cramming your biggest non-stadium practice audience onto two high school bleachers, after a 45 minute wait in line to get in, while red-shirted “security” harassed anyone trying to find a place to view the practice outside of a very small area, wasn’t one of them.
If you made it out to the practice, feel free to share your thoughts below.