The Jacksonville Jaguars and all 32 NFL teams have begun reporting to training camp with the rookies reporting for testing last week and the veterans, including quarterback Garnder Minshew II reporting this week for testing.
Following the mandatory COVID-19 testing for all 90 players, the team will begin conditioning as part of the league’s acclimation period. This will consist of weight training and other walkthroughs as players get accustomed to playing on the field for the first time since the end of last season.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic that has spread across the globe, there have been protocols set in place in major leagues, including the NFL, that will account for player safety and attempt to conduct the season as fully and as safely as possible, without the use of a bubble akin to the NBA, NHL and MLS.
On the gridiron, the Jaguars, along with the rest of the NFL, will be playing catch up as they try to offset the loss of an offseason and prepare for the start of the regular season with a significantly altered, indeterminate schedule.
Here are five storylines to follow as we get closer to cleats on the grass:
1. Jaguars young roster plays catch up
With the Jaguars bringing in 30 rookies, 12 draft picks and 18 undrafted free agents, their roster consists of plenty of young talent that will take a while to catch up to the regular, professional game speed that is the NFL.
While both cornerback CJ Henderson and defensive end/outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson will likely receive a lot of playing time, it will be interesting to see how the Jaguars adjust.
It will be important to watch how the Jaguars’ coaching staff uses the rookies, whether or not they are heavily a part of the team’s plans heading into this season, or whether the team may take a more calculated, and measured approach when inserting them into the lineup.
While, ultimately, a player who performs well enough to start, will start, the Jaguars and head coach Doug Marrone will need to be careful in how much trust they put into the young players without much time on the playing field this offseason. It should be noted, though, that Marrone felt good about the rookies and how they prepared during the virtual offseason.
2. How much has Gardner Minshew II progressed?
It is clear that Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II has a lot on his plate heading into year two. The former sixth-round draft selection in the 2019 NFL Draft started 12 games for the Jaguars last year, while playing in 14, including a week one matchup that saw then-starting quarterback Nick Foles lost due to a broken left clavicle.
Ultimately, Minshew responded in kind, able to perform above and beyond what anyone - including Marrone -, could have expected. On the year, Minshew completed 285 out of 470 (60.6%) of his passes for 3,271 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. While he was not without his struggles on the year (13 fumbles on the year), his season was nothing short of remarkable considering the expectations set out for him during the preseason.
Entering his second year, Minshew certainly looks the part as far as his strength and conditioning are concerned, however, how will he compete with new pass-catchers such as Laviska Shenault and Tyler Eifert?
3. Myles Jack’s switch to weak-side linebacker
One of the most-anticipated switches since the 2019 training camp when linebacker Telvin Smith unexpectedly announced his retirement has been Myles Jack moving over from middle linebacker to weak-side linebacker.
With the addition of middle linebacker Joe Schobert earlier this offseason, the Jaguars were able to make that move this offseason. Jack, in his new position, is expected to be able to take on less of a play-calling role, allowing him to roam more freely as he was able to do in UCLA’s defense. While this will not be the same defense he has been used to playing - at any level -, this should allow him to play more to his skill set.
4. Adapting to a brand-new offense under Gruden
One of the major changes to the Jaguars this offseason has been to their offense. After firing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in January, Marrone turned to former Washington head coach Jay Gruden to call the plays. The Jaguars also hired former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo as the team’s quarterbacks coach.
This will be a brand-new offense for the Jaguars and their young offense, keeping up and understanding an offense during the virtual portion of the offseason is one thing, actually performing the actions required, quickly, will be another. How the quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and offensive linemen react to the radical changes will be intriguing to follow.
5. Yannick Ngakoue saga marches on
The Jaguars and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue have not communicated much this offseason since the fifth-year defensive end announced his intentions to not sign a long-term deal with the Jaguars shortly after the Jaguars placed the franchise tag on him, which if signed would pay Ngakoue $17.8M for the season.
As the saga marches on, this ought to be the only “distraction” the team has throughout training camp, whether or not Ngakoue will report is to be determined, but do not be surprised if he does not sign the franchise tag anytime soon. Until then, there is very little the Jaguars can do as he is not currently under contract.