For the first time since the end of the virtual offseason, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone addressed the media, focusing on how the team will proceed. The Jaguars and all 32 teams in the NFL have begun the testing and walkthrough phase of training camp as the season begins amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
This season is going to be much different than in years past, to say the least. Thus far the team has had all rookies reported and tested, and have begun - in phases -, for veterans to report, the only player who has yet to report or give and indication of reporting is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue who was tendered the franchise tag earlier this offseason.
For the Jaguars, they currently have seven players on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list, including rookies defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, cornerback Luq Barcoo and offensive lineman Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, along with veteran offensive linemen Jawaan Taylor and Ryan Pope, cornerback Parry Nickerson and tight end Charles Jones.
Here are three takeaways from today’s presser with Marrone:
1. Preseason may affect rookies roster-ability
This almost goes without saying, however due to a lack of an actual on-field offseason, to coincide with a shortened training camp and no preseason games, it will be much tougher for a Jaguars rookie (30 total) to make the team’s initial 53-man roster.
“I told this to the young guys, I said if you look at our league and the history of our league, this is probably going to be one of the more challenging times for a young player to make a football team,” said Marrone today.
“One is because of opportunities and the other is a young football player that may have some better players ahead of him, but not being able to play preseason games to get on film and maybe get picked up by another team. I think the challenges for these young guys are much greater than they have been in the past.”
The Jaguars will go with a split-roster, with the ability to retain 90 players on the roster until Aug. 16 when all teams are mandated to cut their roster down to 80 players. Until then, players will be split off into two groups for practices.
TIAA Bank Field has four different locker room, which allows the Jaguars to easily split up players in order to account for social distancing. They’ll also have two different times and locations for groups of players to practice. Rookies are currently ahead of schedule compared to the veterans, so it will come with a much simpler form of adjustments.
“I’m not saying I don’t know, there may be a time if the team was different, that 80 might’ve worked for me, but we’re able to stay at the 90 and get that done so we’re going to try to keep that going until we’re able to make a decision and we really can’t make a decision, probably, until we go into phase two with the young guys which will probably be a couple days as the veterans are walking through,” said Marrone.
2. Jaguars could opt to quarantine a quarterback
There have been a few teams, namely the Buffalo Bills and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that have discussed quarantining a quarterback in the event an emergency happens and one is needed, however, the Jaguars have not made a decision on that as of yet.
Marrone says that while he and the coaches have talked about the different scenarios, there have not been any final decisions made, and they won’t have to for a while.
“We talked about the pluses and minuses, the development, and who that player might be. There’s a lot of things that go into it. So as we get kind of closer to the part where we feel that player would need to be quarantined, I think that conversation will come up again and we’ll see where we are with the team then.”
This will be something to monitor as we get closer to the regular season. With the unpredictability of the coronavirus, there are scenarios in which an entire quarterback room is wiped out. In that event, it may make sense for a team to make sure there is one quarterback who is away from the others, making them an option to use down the road.
3. Young players know how to walk
This year’s training camp is much different. The rookies are back and have been on the practice field four times, according to Marrone, but they haven’t done much yet.
As is the case with the rest of the NFL, the players that are returning will only be able to go through walkthroughs until the latter portions of camp, when pads will be available. Until then, they’ll need to simply get acclimated to the heat, and be prepared as far as their overall fitness goes.
“I would say in my past, 99 percent of the rookies will come in here and you really do not have to worry about them being in shape,” said Marrone. He would later add that the rookies so far “look good, they can walk,” which is about all the team has seen from them at all.
“For me, the only anxiety I have right now is that if our next group of players come in and they’re like this group of players in here, I think that’s going to be pretty awesome. But, if the next group of players come in with a while different set of things then we’re going to have to communicate and solve those issues as we go forward. All the guys we brought in really came into play with the options that we had, whether we go from 90 to 80.”
The players are in an adjustment period, and it will take time for them to get used to being split, not being able to do the things they normally would. There will be no 90-man partying in the locker room post-practice, there will be a lot of areas a player has to avoid, it will be different.