Football is back, sort of. It may not be the same, but that’s okay... football is back.
The Jacksonville Jaguars began the next phase (“Phase 2”) of training camp today with an 80-man roster. Players are in helmets, practice jerseys and shorts for the first time since last season, a sense of normalcy is occurring, although there is plenty of change to go along with it.
Players practice within their respective position and unit groups, team activities - meaning offense versus defense - will be held off until they get out of the collectively-bargained acclimation period with padded practices beginning next week.
Simply more ways in which the players can get back to their normal playing shape after one of the most bizarre and complicated offseasons to date.
Front and center of it all for the Jaguars is starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Minshew is entering a training camp year as a starting quarterback for the first time since he was a senior in high school. It’s different, it’s his new normal, “it’s awesome,” he told reporters today via a video conference call.
“You know, just being with the guys and trying to figure out what we want to be as a team because we get to define that right now,” he said.
“There’s a group of guys on this team, a group of leaders, that have a very real opportunity to change the culture here, to develop a winning culture and I think it’s already started. The guys are very excited to get on the field, whether it’s even just for practice right now. So, I’m glad to be here, super grateful for the opportunity and hoping to make the most of it.”
Entering his second year, Minshew has spent the entire offseason working and training to get bigger, stronger and faster, able to endure the rigors of the NFL.
He worked out this offseason primarily with Sports Fitness Coach Anthony Tumbarello in Naples. But, now back with Jaguars Strength and Conditioning Coach Tom Myslinski, he’s ready to continue his progress.
As the starting quarterback now, Minshew has been able to work closely with the first-team players during training camp and in the offseason individually, specifically with DJ Chark Jr. who was the team’s leading receiver in 2019.
Minshew brings in Chark to start his press conference, but makes them both put masks on first—— Kassidy Hill (@KassidyGHill) August 12, 2020
“Can’t let D.J. Chark get sick. Not on my watch.” pic.twitter.com/kdyUJhMI7j
When Minshew came into the first game for an injured Nick Foles he never really got a chance to gel with the young receiver right away, something that is integral for a quarterback to form with his receivers, particularly during the offseason when any issues can be addressed over a long period of time.
“This offseason, we got a lot of good work with DJ [Chark]. Like I was talking about in the beginning, just communication,” Minshew said when asked about his relationship with the Pro Bowl receiver. “You know, really understanding what he’s thinking in certain things and me explaining to him what the goal of the play is, what I’m thinking. I think that’s going to allow us just to understand each other a lot better and hopefully be on the same page more this year.”
A quarterback and his receivers being in sync makes all the difference on the world. It’s how an offense can go from third-and-20 to first-and-10 in an instant. Without the cohesion between players, the game can get away from offenses as the Jaguars have seen first-hand in the past.
“When he can kind of expect what’s coming and I can know what’s coming from him, I think it allows us to be a lot better and play a lot faster.”
High expectations come with the territory and Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has them for Minshew, although it may be warranted.
Starting 12 games last season, Minshew took the Jaguars to a 6-6 record while posting solid numbers, especially for a rookie. He completed 285 out of 470 of his passes for 3,271 yards, 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions, while carrying the football 67 times for 344 yards.
“He’s got a skillset that’s really unlike a lot of players at that quarterback position,” Gruden said via video conference today. “He’s not real tall. He doesn’t have a cannon, but he’s just a highly competitive guy. He’s got great anticipation and accuracy. He can make plays happen when the plays break down.
“It’s going to be fun to work with him.”
- Left tackle Cam Robinson looks healthy. Meeting with the media yesterday, Robinson explained how his health is like “night and day”, today out at practice appeared to be a great start for the offensive lineman who looked like his former self.
- James O’Shaughnessy is back. After tearing his ACL early in the season in 2019, O’Shaguhnessy was back at practice after spending only a couple of weeks on the team’s active/PUP list.
- Athletes look like athletes. There wasn’t too much to take away from day one of helmets, the players are simply getting re-acclimated to the work ahead, but they looked good out there, and it will be intriguing to continue monitor the progress.
Minshew on PAC-12’s season cancellation and his message to his alma mater team, WSU:
“Yeah, I reached out to a couple guys and I’m probably going to reach out to a couple more to see how they’re doing. I know the amount of work that they put in. I know how bad this sucks, especially for those older guys that don’t know what the future holds right now, don’t know if they’re going to have their senior year at all, don’t know if they get the year back or what. So really, just feeling for those guys. Hope they come to resolution sooner rather than later. I just told them to keep their head up and if there’s anything I can help them with, I’d love to help.”
Asked #Jaguars' Gardner Minshew II his thoughts on the Pac-12 postponement, specifically from a player's perspective and if he's reached out players at #WSU yet:— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) August 12, 2020
"I know how bad this sucks, especially for those older guys that don’t know what the future holds right now..." pic.twitter.com/HC50mpzqIm
On the importance of having his final year at Washington State University
“It was huge for me. Without that year at Washington State, I wouldn’t have been drafted, I probably would’ve gone undrafted. So, it’s truly a blessing. I couldn’t have imagined having– if I wouldn’t have had that, don’t know, my life would’ve been way different. So, [I’m] definitely fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it. But I’m extremely grateful for where I am and I hate it, it makes me hate it that much more for those guys that are in that situation this year.”
On his relationship with RB Leonard Fournette
“Yeah you know, being from the south, Leonard’s a legend, dude. He’s been like the five-star No. 1 player in the country since he was in eighth or ninth grade, so everybody knew Leonard, basically forever. Being on his team is really cool. He comes in, he handles his business well, does his job and he’s been great this camp. [He’s] been a great teammate and [I’m] looking forward to have him doing the same this year.”