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Jaguars begin virtual rookie minicamp, evaluations will be ‘difficult’

The Jaguars have begun their virtual minicamp, just a couple of weeks after their offseason program began.

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

With the Jaguars starting their offseason program only two short weeks ago, it is now time for the team to bring their rookies into the fold.

Yesterday, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone addressed the local media via Zoom video conference call, outlining his expectations for the incoming rookie class. That began with three important understandings: Be on time, be prepared, and communicate.

All 30 rookies (12 draft picks and 18 undrafted free agents) reported on time yesterday, checking off day one of the event as a success, at least with one standard in consideration. However, with the team, and all other 31 NFL franchises forced to hold their meetings and teachings “virtually”, the evaluations of each individual rookie will be difficult.

This is one of the challenges, Marrone said on Friday, not able to see any of them perform on the field, and only able to use what they say and how they act during the meetings as a barometer, it may change the way teams view the camps and perhaps the emphasis they put on the latter portions of the offseason.

Marrone says a lot of the evaluation will need to be based on what the players say, how they act. For example, how a player conducts himself in a session, how they communicate, how they ask question, a multitude of ways in which Marrone and his staff will perform evaluations.

“A lot of times you look at when guys walk into a building, guys walk into meetings, you watch them prep and you’re able to see what they do in those situations. See how the interact in the locker room, interact with other people in the building,” Marrone said. “I talked to those guys today, you’re being evaluated the whole time, how you treat people, how you talk to people. There’s not a lot of that now. You’re a little bit behind I guess in what you want to do there”

During a typical rookie minicamp, teams are able to see the player perform on the field, and watch how each individual player progresses, “taking things out from the claassroom to the field, and performing.”

“I think that does create a challenge for you, and it’s something that everyone’s dealing with, and I think it’s gonna put a larger focus when you go to training camp now,” said Marrone on how the evaluations may take place now without any physical viewings of the players on the field.

Without proper on-field testing, players will likely be evaluated heavier during training camp, Marrone said, although the team will need to caution not to judge a player too early, making sure to state that it is a “fluid-type process”.

“I think a lot of times, when we used to come out of the minicamp at the end of June, I can remember that, in my experience, I’d be high on a couple guys that I think are really gonna help us or really be big, and I’d be down on some other guys, ‘maybe, I don’t know if he can do it’, ‘I’m not sure’, I have a lot of questions in my mind, and then all of a sudden you get to training camp and you get to the pre-season games and that stuff starts to change and switch once you start playing.”

These types of evaluations are important, the players will not be able to make impressions on the field, but being able to show the coaches how they study, how they prepare, will present a different view, and perhaps new form of evaluation. Teams will have an opportunity to judge a player purely on how they perform in the classroom, something unique, that could change the landscape of player evaluations from this point forward.

Until the NFL provides the teams around the league with an update on how to move forward with practice sessions, next week, this is how the Jaguars will be conducting themselves. In the future, however, the team could use something in the form of a “virtual simulator” for football practices, giving the team yet another way to train their players.

The Jaguars inquired about the product earlier this year at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and now, the team is slated to have one in their facility later this offseason.

“So what they did is you’re able to project like a full, it’s really impressive if you have the room, basically a whole picture of lets just say an offensive team breaking the huddle and there’s their formation and it’s on a wall like a drive-in movie and then you’re a defense and you’re sitting there and they make the call and you can actually line up on those players there as they go and as they motion and move you can make your calls,” Marrone explained.

Expect the evaluations, and ways in which players are participating to continue in one of the most complicated, and confusing NFL offseasons ever.