Tempo, tempo, tempo.
That’s what Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer preached following the team’s second day of rookie minicamp on Saturday. While there wasn’t a lot of high-flying action, Meyer felt as though the approach was needed, especially after a more intense Day 1 on Friday.
Typically, rookies are ready to get after it, showcasing why they belong in the NFL, regardless of draft slotting. As a result, the Meyer felt it was necessary to slow the tempo down a bit for Day 2, not ready to get into a full “Jaguar practice” just yet, simply a rookie practice, Meyer said.
“The Jaguar practice starts next week. That’s much higher tempo, much more energy,” Meyer said shortly following today’s practice. “I remember when I was in college, I would sometimes bring the freshman early just to acclimate them. That’s the biggest difference. Other than that, it’s all the same.”
The main attraction of the day was of course first-overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who will work his way into becoming the team’s franchise quarterback for years to come.
Lawrence is now three months removed from offseason left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. As a result, the team has limited his workload to around “30 to 40” repetitions throwing the football, and will not be able to hand the football off, nor take reps under center for the time being.
Meyer would later indicate that the expectations are for Lawrence to be “close to full go” by the end of Phase 3: OTA’s and mandatory minicamps. Throwing isn’t the issue, though, it’s taking snaps from under center and handing the football off. Meyer and the team’s doctors do not want Lawrence falling on the ground — that’s the key.
That, however, didn’t prevent Lawrence from showcasing his arm during today’s camp, and Meyer has been impressed with his young quarterback.
“He’s looked great, been great in meetings. No-huddle quarterbacks have a tendency to struggle a little bit with verbiage, calling plays and getting used to a coordinator calling it in your helmet — he’s really adapted well to that. “
The rookie quarterback still has plenty to learn. He has to get used to the plays given to him in his helmet (college quarterbacks, including Lawrence, typically get plays signaled to them from the sideline), the tempo of a brand-new offense, and the NFL game as a whole. That’s coming, though, and he’s getting more comfortable with it day by day.
“I think I’m making good progress and I’m getting more used to hearing the calls, and repeating them, and breaking them up to where everyone is understanding it,” Lawrence said shortly following today’s practice. “And really being able to direct guys, because some of the guys are just trying to learn everything still.
“So, I think that’s helping a lot—me being able to take charge and lead a little bit there. And it’s just getting more and more comfortable with that, which I am, but that just takes a bunch of reps. To get good at something, you’ve got to practice it a lot.”
Of course, Lawrence is ready to go full speed ahead as far as his throwing is concerned. He feels no issues in regards to his shoulder, and his only limitations at the moment are in the weight-lifting department.
With just 18 players total participating in this weekend’s minicamp, it allowed the Jaguar to get plenty of time with the younger end of its roster. It also allows them to put players in a position to learn more, especially ones that are making positional switches.
That applies to Jacksonville’s other first-round pick, running back Travis Etienne, who is focusing full-time, or at least the large majority, at the receiver position over this weekend’s minicamp. Etienne was also the only “running back” in attendance this weekend.
Without an ability to hand the football off by its quarterback, there isn’t much reason to practice that.
The Jaguars selected Etienne at pick No. 25 with the idea of a “slash” player role in mind, and that’s exactly what the team has intended for him to be.
“That’s the reason we drafted him is the opportunity to be a dual threat guy and our history as long as we’ve had a guy like that and we saw him as a guy like that in the draft this year,” Meyer indicated.
During his head coaching career in college, Meyer has often had a player with the “slash” role. Over the year’s Meyer has had Percy Harvin (Florida), Paris Warren (Utah), Curtis Samuel and Paris Campbell (Ohio State) as players who fit that mold. Now, he sees Etienne in a similar vein.
“Right now we’re focusing on the fundamentals of wide receiver play, learning the offense from wide receiver.”
During his career at Clemson, Etienne caught the football 102 times for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 48 receptions for 588 yards and two touchdowns during his senior season with the Tigers. While he did add receiving to his repertoire, he wasn’t used outside very much over his collegiate career. But, it appears he’s getting comfortable.
“When I came out here, he brought me into a room, asked me how I felt about it, and I feel great about it,” Etienne said shortly after practice today. “I feel like it’s going to help me maximize my opportunity, maximize my skillset, so I feel like Coach knows what he’s doing. He’s doing what’s best for the team and I feel like it’s going to work out really well.”
It will be a work in progress, but Etienne says his confidence and building repetitions are the keys to his transition.
“Once I get that down, I feel like I can be as good of a route runner as anyone.”
“Football is a game of matchups. I feel like I create a problem outside for a linebacker"— Mia O'Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) May 15, 2021
Y'all can save your #Jaguars hot takes. Travis Etienne looks pretty, damn smooth if ya ask me pic.twitter.com/k7hyVH0Pxl
Don’t get it twisted, though, the running back will still be playing his natural position, running back. The receiver addition will only add to the weapon he can be within the Jaguars’ offense. That’s what Meyer wants.
“Like I said, worst case scenario is you have a running back that’s elite with receiver skills and best case scenario he’s a legitimate dual threat guy.”
- Two Jaguars draft picks were unable to participate today
Both Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbel (round 2) and defensive tackle Jay Tufele (round 4) were held out of practice today. According to reports from media who were in attendance, Campbell was simply on the side, dealing with a hamstring issue.
Tufele, according to Meyer, had inconclusive results on his COVID-19 test (one positive, one negative), forcing him to miss today. Meyer added that he believes he will be good to go tomorrow.
Walker Little is large
Jaguars second-round pick, offensive tackle Walker Litte, is a massive human at 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, according to Meyer. He boasts a body fat percentage of just 20%.
“We just believe he would’ve been a first rounder had he never had that knee injury. At one point he was one of the top tackles in the country, and that was really hard because you never saw them until they got there.”
Don’t be surprised if Little is used as legitimate competition at either tackle position this summer during training camp.
- Tim Tebow decision to be made soon
While the Jaguars are reportedly expected to sign former minor league baseball player, Tim Tebow, as a tight end, they’ve yet to formally make that decision. That, according to Meyer will be made tomorrow after he meets with his staff.
“I’ve leaned on my staff for that, and I imagine a decision is going to be soon,” said Meyer. “We wanted to have them, because I have a new tight end coach as well, watch a guy like Luke [Farrell] and just get a feel for it because they’re the ones who put him through a tryout a couple times and see if he can help us win.