While this may not have many affects on the majority of clubs in the NFL, for the Jacksonville Jaguars, this could have a much more negative impact on their roster.
Although, the NFLPA has apparently not yet personally approved of the plan, the NFL may — according to the 2020 NFL-NFLPA CBA — decrease the number of preseason games at will, effectively making any NFLPA approval pointless. The NFLPA reportedly has continued to remain in talks with the NFL regarding all action plans in dealing with the on-going pandemic and how the NFL will ultimately decide to conduct its season.
While the Jaguars will be losing two preseason games, including weeks one and four in which Jacksonville was set to face off against Carolina and Atlanta, respectively. Instead they will now only face off against the Buccaneers and the Washington franchise in weeks two and three of the preseason, respectively.
During the offseason, the Jaguars have made concerted efforts to revamp their roster, while not a full rebuild, enough changes have been incorporated to amount to a reconstruction of sorts. Using 12 draft picks in April, along with the slew of changes along the team’s coaching staff and veteran portion of the roster has left the Jaguars with an incredibly young team, needing as much training and coaching as possible.
The Jaguars are already effectively behind the eight ball. Without any on-field training thus far this year, the coaches have not been able to see the 30 rookies - 12 drafted, 18 undrafted - that have made their way to the team earlier this year.
“We have about 30 rookies and first year players, I would say probably that’s the one where, if I looked at I’d say ‘wow, you know, these guys really will have been impressive of the amount of work they put outside of the meetings and the watching tape and trying to make sure they have a good understanding,” said Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone shortly prior to the close of the team’s offseason program in June.
While the rookies and younger players on the team have done a great job at adapting to the changes made during this year’s unique offseason, Marrone did indicate that there is nothing better than finding out what a player is truly like on the field.
“I’ve learned a long time ago that you can you can feel like you’ve communicated well, the players have communicated well, but I really think the result of everything is going to be transforming to what we do on the field.”
What the team does on the field will be hugely important, especially for the rookies who look to make their name known now only on the practice field, but also during the preseason games. Last season, the Jaguars played their starters for just one quarter throughout all four games, giving the team’s rookies plenty of room to shine.
Players such as rookies safety Andrew Wingard and linebacker Joe Giles-Harris used the preseason to boost their chances, making the team’s initial 53-man roster. For Wingard, he remained on the team throughout the season, becoming a premium player on special teams. Giles-Harris meanwhile bounced on and off of the team’s 53-man roster, but was never completely off of the team as a whole, making the practice squad.
Due to how many drafted players are on the Jaguars, this preseason, more than any, will be vital for undrafted players.
Wingard and Giles-Harris were not the only two players the team has found in undrafted free agency. Players such as wide receiver Keelan Cole (2017) , cornerback Tre Herndon (2018) , defensive tackle Abry Jones (2013), safety Jarrod Wilson (2016), wide receiver CJ Board (2019) and offensive lineman Tyler Shatley (2014) were all discovered in undrafted free agency by the Jaguars and all look to either play a key role on the team as a backup or even potentially as a starter in Herndon’s case.
Although poor performances in the preseason can be thrown out at times as we have seen with the performance of second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II compared to his play during the regular season, some players will need the valuable repetitions in both the games and practice.
The Jaguars will need to put more emphasis on practice than ever before due to the amount of young players slated to play a major role on the team. Undrafted or not, the team will once again behind the eight ball, looking for find a way to field a cohesive unit with limited actual playing.