After getting through the first few days of training camp in what was more or less a continuance of OTA practices from the spring, the Jaguars took to the fields in full pads for the first time in 2019 under a mostly sunny Sunday morning sky and with almost fittingly hotter temperatures than had been experienced at the previous three camp practices.
The team did little in the way of tackling fully to the ground as they are being overly risk-averse following last season’s injury epidemic, but the first day of full contact did allow for a better feel of positions long both lines and among the running backs and linebackers alike.
I was able to take in the practice in full, and here’s the run down of some of the good and some of the not so good observed out at camp practice number four today.
- Josh Allen looks like what they thought they were getting in Dante Fowler Jr. To watch him in person is quite entertaining, and the 7th overall pick put on a show while getting reps with the first-team defense. During one series in which the team was mocking a no-huddle one minute drill scenario, Allen beat left tackle Leonard Wester cleanly on consecutive plays, forcing Foles to roll out of the pocket and throw the ball away on the latter of the two. Allen also showed exceptional hands, speed, and bend in 1 v 1s with the offensive linemen.
The way Allen aligns his speed and hands so early on in his time here is impressive, and a major issue that plagued Fowler during his time here. The front four of Allen, Campbell, Dareus, and Ngakoue in nickel fronts is something every Jags fan should be excited about seeing.
- Speaking of the defensive line and first round picks from the SEC, Taven Bryan had a very strong practice this morning. Often running with the first team at his more natural defensive tackle spot, Bryan showed quickness and power off the snap, something he sorely lacked last year as a rookie. During one team drill segment, he pushed AJ Cann directly into Foles’ lap for what would’ve been a sack then followed it up later on in another segment with a combo sack on Foles that included himself, Lerentee McCray, and Jalen Ramsey all meeting at the quarterback. Hopefully, today’s practice is a sign of things to come from him.
- The first-team offensive line did not have a strong showing with the pads on. Far too often, Foles was made to either roll out, check down, or simply take off and eat what would’ve been a sack in full game situations. The tackle spots in particular were atrocious, to be kind. The combination of Wester and Cedric Ogbuehi were simply overwhelmed far too often and frankly it’s time for second-round pick Jawaan Taylor, who looked very good in his time with the second-team offense, to be running with the starters. The interior fared slightly better overall, but this is a group that desperately needs it’s two would-be starting tackles, Cam Robinson and Taylor, practicing together sooner rather than later.
- Quincy Williams has the speed that was advertised when the Jaguars surprisingly drafted him in the third round this past April. On one play early in practice, he came across field from the weak side and exploded into Leonard Fournette at the line of scrimmage while Fournette tried to get the edge. Williams ran with the first team defense often, and the linebacker spot abandoned by Telvin Smith appears to be his to lose.
- Fournette looked very much like how he looked at this time last season in camp— quick, physical, and sharp on his cuts. He made a nice move early in practice on a toss from Foles and got around the end to break what would’ve been a long gain. He wasn’t featured in the passing game as much today as he has been in previous practices.
- Gardner Minshew left me very impressed and he’s clearly going to be the team’s back up quarterback, barring a catastrophic preseason. He made several nice throws during team drills and 7 on 7 work, and guided the offense efficiently during simulated one-minute and hurry-up offensive situations.
- If you’re looking for a couple of lesser-known names to keep an eye on during the course of the preseason, watch out for cornerback Breon Borders and receiver Tyre Brady. Borders continued an impressive opening weekend of camp with the practice’s lone interception of the day on a roll out pass from Minshew. He’s recorded an interception in all but one of the team’s four practices thus far. Brady, an undrafted free agent from Marshall, caught everything thrown his way today and appears to have garnished a pretty good rapport with the rookie quarterback. Both are names to be aware of as we move along through the preseason.
- If there was an offensive MVP today, and perhaps through the first weekend of camp, it’s been Dede Westbrook. The third-year receiver has separated himself as the top receiver among the crowded group thus far and carried the day with several nice catches on what was otherwise an uneventful passing day from the first-team offense, including a deep crossing route in which Foles found him in stride about 20 yards down field for what would’ve been a touchdown. Westbrook has potential in the offense for a huge year, and today was a strong showing of that promise.
- Finally, Nick Foles’ first opportunity to lead the team in live contact was slightly underwhelming. He did make some nice throws to Westbrook, as previously mentioned, and found Chris Conley on a couple of passes over the middle in team drills that would’ve been chain movers, but otherwise the first-team offense with Foles under center lacked a lot of sharpness today. For all the talk about the big play deep strikes that occurred with Foles in the spring practices, there wasn’t a throw attempted beyond 20 yards, and no attempts at throwing deep along the perimeter today. Foles was also hurried more often than you’d like to see, forcing him and the offense to falter during the hurry-up and one-minute drill simulations.
What was noticeably better, was the absence of any passes that looked misplaced or wildly inaccurate, unlike the prior starter here. The guidance and ownership of the offense that Foles has was also evident, and at several points in the practice, the quarterback could be seen talking up the entire offense and providing instruction following plays. That is something that we haven’t had in Jacksonville in a long time.
All in all it was good to finally see real football back on the field. Feel free to inquire about any players I might have left out down in the comments, and I’ll do my best to respond.