The Jacksonville Jaguars wrapped up their first full week of training camp on Friday, with the team’s annual in-stadium “Family Night” scrimmage inside TIAA Bank Field.
I took in the practice from the comforts of the south end zone seats among 15,000+ fellow Jaguars fans, and while it was a frankly uneventful scrimmage, there were some definite takeaways to note.
Blake Bortles continued his “Efficiency Summer Tour”
We always start with the quarterback, because that’s really what everyone wants to know first and foremost anyway, right? Bortles’ Friday night was the full synopsis of how his first week of camp has gone. If you just read his stat line you would shrug your shoulders, but he actually was sharp and productive when watching the offense run live. He made a couple of what I felt were truly bad throws.
On the opening series he tried to force a ball to a double-covered Keelan Cole down the middle on a simulated third down, that was easily knocked away by the defense, and during the “two minute drill” he put way too much air on what looked to be a predetermined throw to take a deep shot to Marqise Lee on a post route. Lee was covered step for step by A.J. Bouye and then met in the middle of the field by safety Barry Church, who did a great job of coming over from the deep safety spot to track the ball and make a relatively easy pick.
Those two throws aside, Bortles looked as most have noted throughout the week, sharp, poised, and most importantly accurate. I’ll have more about Bortles’ first week tomorrow. He made a good decision to run it in for a 20 yard touchdown as the offensive line opened up the middle with a hole you or I could’ve ran through, during one 11 v 11 session, and capped the practice with a gorgeous pass to Dede Westbrook over Bouye for a would-be touchdown.
A good night for the defense... did you expect otherwise?
Other than a few throws from Bortles that made substantial gains, and a couple of nice cutback runs from TJ Yeldon, the first-team defense showed up as advertised. The night truly belonged to them as players from each line of the defense made plays throughout the night. The defensive line, missing Calais Campbell for the evening who was replaced at first with rookie first-round pick Taven Bryan, consistently gave up little to nothing as Leonard Fournette could not get any momentum going when trying to run the ball.
I noted a couple of especially good stops by Marcell Dareus vs. the run, who is having a great start to camp. Telvin Smith was all over the field, and made the fan favorite play of the night by decleating Yeldon on an attempted screen pass, by merely laying his shoulder into him. Finally, the secondary got it’s love, with Jalen Ramsey and Bouye making several break ups, Church’s aforementioned interception, and DJ Hayden who to be honest I haven’t heard or seen do much all week made multiple plays on this evening, a good sign for the guy the Jaguars want to win the starting nickel role.
Please play DJ Chark with the starters
A lot has been written and talked about by local media this week about the rookie wide receiver from LSU, but if you got a chance to see Chark last night you likely came away realizing what all the hype is about. Chark continued to impress during the scrimmage, making multiple receptions against the second and third-team defense, and clearly is back up quarterback Cody Kessler’s favorite player of all-time.
One play I noticed that really took me aback, was a play that ended up in an incomplete pass. I happened to make it a point to watch Chark specifically on this play, and watched as he literally threw cornerback Jalen Myrick aside as he attempted to press Chark at the line, and blew past the corner on a deep sideline route. To his credit, Myrick made good use of his own speed to catch up to a poorly thrown ball from Kessler and knock away the pass at the last second, but the physicality and speed of Chark for a rookie in just his first week of NFL practices in pads, is something special right now. The team needs to see what this guy can do versus the front-end competition this preseason, in my opinion, as they might have found a true steal on offense.
The best rookies not named Chark, were the two seventh-round guys
Everyone came to see the Chark show and how first-round pick Taven Bryan looked, but it was the two guys picked at the end of the Draft that looked as good if not better than the two guys picked in the top.
Linebacker Leon Jacobs has appeared to cemented himself as the starting SAM backer, and he was very active on Friday night, appearing to be in the right spots and making a couple of notable plays including a one on one stop of Fournette where he met the running back directly in the gap for what would’ve been a short gain at best or a loss of yardage for Leonard.
Meanwhile, punter Logan Cooke was simply booming the ball last night. While the Jaguars other seventh-round pick clearly has a strong leg, he looked fantastic in his directional punting ability, consistently pinning the ball inside the 10 yard line.
One fer’ the best name on the team
Cornerback Sammy Seamster, a longshot to make the 53 man roster, has come up with play after play this week and did so again last night, with an interception off of future XFL quarterback Tanner Lee, that he returned deep into the opposing side’s territory.
Other notable notes
As mentioned previously, Bryan started with the first-team in place of Calais Campbell who is nursing a reported calf injury. Bryan was just OK and did not do much of note in his time with the ones, as he is still clearly adjusting to the strength and quickness of NFL caliber offensive linemen... Two defensive linemen who need to have real impressive preseasons played well last night, as defensive end Dawuane Smoot and defensive tackle Michael Bennett both made a handful of notable plays... While Fournette looks poised for a big season if healthy, Yeldon and Corey Grant continue to make impressive plays every practice. Yeldon made some nice cut and runs early, and Grant capped one second-team possession with a 68 yard “touchdown” run... Outside of Chark, it was a good night for Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook, but an uneventful night for most of the remaining wide receiver group, though Allen Lazard and Shane Wynn each had a nice catch for short gains... Donte Moncrief was supposed to practice full, but did not. It’s obviously early, but his reputation is starting to precede him... The Jaguars starting interior offensive line was tremendous on Friday, Bortles never had much in the way of pressure in front of him and the trio of Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, and AJ Cann opened several holes for Fournette and Yeldon... Josh Lambo was perfect in his attempts. The Jaguars should never sign a kicker not named “Josh” ever again.