It was all defense for the Jaguars during team drills on Monday, getting after the football more often than last week, the team appears to have found more balance between the two units.
Head coach Urban Meyer took the field, giving the team yet another motivational speech in the huddle just prior to practice starting. For another day, the team’s head coach made sure to spend time with wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. prior to practice, working on the receiver’s get-off and physicality at the line of scrimmage.
Today was perhaps the team’s most competitive practice yet, even while featuring more relaxed vibes than during previous sessions. One thing was made clear by the end, however: this team is ready for full pads, and that’s exactly what they’ll get starting tomorrow.
We take a look at some of the key observations from today’s day, including some quotes from Jaguars inside linebackers coach/assistant head coach Charlie Strong, running back Travis Etienne Jr. and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris.
Trevor Lawrence has an up-and-down day
It was only a matter of time for Lawrence to not have a perfect day out at practice with the Jaguars. He’s a rookie, and that showed during the team’s 11-on-11 period of team drills. During the drills, Lawrence threw three interceptions. One each to cornerback Shaquill Griffin and safeties Rudy Ford and DJ Daniel, respectively.
Note: The interception to Griffin would have been called back due to an offsides penalty.
Lawrence’s day wasn’t all bad, however. During the team’s 7-on-7 period near the end of practice, the rookie quarterback connected on several throws with a variety of receivers including DJ Chark Jr. and Marvin Jones.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a rookie, or any quarterback for that matter, has an off day or two. A couple of the interceptions were due to clear miscommunication issues between the quarterback and receiver. It will be interesting to see how Lawrence bounces back tomorrow when the pads go on.
Jaguars defense has itself a day
It would be an injustice to lump all of the defense’s positives in an observation about Lawrence. The team’s secondary appeared to play at another level, getting more involved with receivers during today’s session. Over the past few days of camp, the defense would hold off on making any sort of contact or going for the football, today was different.
On several occasions, the defense made plays on the football, including breaking up a Jake Luton pass intended for tight end Tim Tebow. Along with the interceptions, it was clear that the defense has much more to show, and should bring something to the table over the next few days when pads go on.
Under new leadership, the defense should look much different this year in Jacksonville. Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen has brought a much more varied defense than in years past. The team continues to look like it will bring the house quite a few times, and line up in multiple alignments.
CJ Henderson’s absence continues to loom large
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows down at TIAA Bank Field as the team’s defense is missing one of its key components in cornerback CJ Henderson, the team’s No. 1 pick from last year’s draft. Henderson remains on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list and will remain there until he passes the protocols.
After practice, Strong was asked about Henderson, and what he might be missing after being absent for the first 10 days of camp.
“Well, it’s tough when you miss that many days,” said Strong. “And now you gotta get out here, and once we get him out here we just see ... he’s been in the meetings, and he’s in the meetings, it’s more now that he has missed the work on the field and that’s where he’s gotta get caught back up.”
Henderson was placed on the list on July 23 and remains the only player that has been on the list not to make it to camp in some capacity.
Cornerback Luq Barcoo and quarterback Jake Luton have already been activated, and Chris Claybrooks was seen working off to the side, conditioning but remains on the list.
The Jaguars will need to decide quickly what direction the team will take if Henderson cannot be counted on moving forward.
Battle to watch: Cam Robinson vs. K’Lavon Chaisson
Late during practice today, the Jaguars began what will become one of the more interesting battles to watch, OL vs. DL one-on-ones. While the team’s offensive line got the better of the defensive line throughout the day without pads, one matchup stood out among the rest.
Robinson, the team’s expected starting left tackle this year and 2020 first-round selection K’Lavon Chaisson were matched up with Robinson getting the better of Chaisson, tossing the outside linebacker/defensive end on the ground. The pair would have a bit of a jawing following the rep.
Rookie second-round pick, tackle Walker Little, would also get the better of Chaisson.
Jacksonville will be relying on Chaisson and its pass rushers throughout the season. How he responds during the rest of camp will be something to watch moving forward.
Etienne beginning to stand out
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but the team’s rookie running back has strung together a couple of impressive days of camp. Etienne brings a lot to the table and has an explosive ability that is unlike any other back on the roster.
Given his versatility and ability to line up all over the offensive formation, Etienne will bring plenty to the team’s offensive backfield. But, don’t get it twisted, he is still primarily a running back and will always be so.
“I mean, I worked on the totality of my whole game,” Etienne said shortly after practice when asked about what he honed in on between minicamp and throughout training camp.
The rookie running back has done a variety of drills throughout camp, working as a receiver as well as a running back.
“I didn’t let anything go to waste,” he explained. “So, I mean, everyone got this conception that I’m a receiver, but I’m actually a running back who’s able to just go out and spread wide and able to run routes like a receiver.
“So, I feel like just me working on the totality of my whole game is gonna help me be much better in the future and be able to go out there and make plays and really just ... adding value to the team, not hurting the team by just being a runner.”
Still, the Jaguars’ coaching staff has put a lot on the rookie’s shoulders, making sure he can provide them with as much as possible. Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spoke highly of the rookie running back last week during his media availability following the day’s practice.
“I mean yeah we’re trying to again put him in those hard situations and you know we’re trying to make it as difficult as we can on him,” said Bevell. “Give him a lot and then again we will kind of hone it down and get him exactly where we want him.”
Linebacker Damien Wilson is a player to watch moving forward
Lost in the scuffle of free agency, Wilson was brought late after the first few waves, signed at the beginning of April. While Joe Schobert and Myles Jack will continue their roles with the team, it appears Wilson will play a significant role, too, whether it means splitting time with Jack and Schobert or becoming the team’s SAM linebacker on base downs.
Note: While Jack and Schobert are both inside linebackers, Jack’s role in the team’s scheme this year is as a WILL linebacker, while Schobert’s role is at MIKE.
“Damien’s doing a really good job for us,” Strong said when asked about the veteran linebacker. “And the thing you like about Damien is he’s so versatile. So, I can play him at SAM backer, which is the outside backer, he can play inside at MIKE and WILL.
“So, what we’re doing is just moving him around because right now I have Joe who’s my MIKE backer and then I have Myles who’s the WILL, so he’s playing both of them and just rotating with them. Great attitude, and the great thing about him coming in from Kansas City, he’s won so he’s proven that he’s won, so the guys have a lot of respect for him.”
Wilson has started 51 games in his career, most recently with the Kansas City Chiefs, including all 16 games during the team’s Super Bowl run in 2019. While the linebackers haven’t been able to show all too much without pads on, Wilson’s physical presence in the middle of the team’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked.
- James O’Shaughnessy worked off to the side after missing the last few days of camp. The veteran tight end will need to battle back in order to keep his roster spot moving forward, but it appears he will be ready to go in due to time.
- While he wasn’t on the field today, Jaguars return specialist and receiver Jamal Agnew was activated off of the team’s Non-football injury list. He is expected to be back at camp shortly.
- Backup quarterback CJ Beathard was not seen at practice today, missing his first practice of camp thus far.