Perhaps the most intense and competitive practice to date, the Jaguars held their second day of full pads on “winner, loser” day, something coined in part by head coach Urban Meyer, and gave the team their first opportunity to compete when it counts to earn spots on the 53-man roster.
“A big roster is going to go to a smaller roster and I just think to be fair to players, you know we all have so much respect for them,” Meyer explained shortly after practice on Wednesday. “This is the way guys make a living and I don’t believe in subjectivity. I believe in what’s your record? Every man has a record, what is it? You are what your record is.
“If you lose a lot but you have a lot of potential that’s not real good. Just over the course of my career, the Ahmad Black’s, I can give you example after example. Maybe they area little slow but they just never lose so I try to create those [and do it safe].”
Offense winning the blocking drill thus far, 6-2 at the time here with Johnson winning: pic.twitter.com/WgIcwcMJPH— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) August 4, 2021
The Jaguars competed in several one-on-one drills, which were scored and announced via the team’s PA announcer on the field. If DJ Chark Jr. and a Shaquill Griffin were competing against each other, for example, the winner would be called following the repetition.
It’s just another way, without scrimmaging, Meyer says, to score everyone and figure out their overall record.
The Jaguars will have some tough decisions to make, but training camp practices such as these will ultimately decide who will be on the opening-day roster following the preseason.
With that said, here are some of the observations we made on Day 7 of Jaguars training camp:
Competition at safety is intriguing
Over the offseason, the Jaguars made it a point of emphasis to address the defensive backs room, and particularly its safety position group. The team would sign safety Rayshawn Jenkins in free agency while selecting Andre Cisco in the third round of this year’s draft.
With the additions of both Jenkins and Cisco, the Jaguars’ safety position suddenly became a point of interest. The competition has already begun to heat up as last year’s Week 1 starters, Jarrod Wilson and Josh Jones, suddenly find themselves in an intense battle for the starting gig next to Jenkins.
Thus far in training camp, the Jaguars have rotated its second safety position, primarily playing Jones as the starter, but Cisco has had plenty of reps at the position as well. Another free-agent acquisition, Rudy Ford, has also seen some reps with the first unit.
WR DJ Chark’s strength gain is apparent
Entering his fourth season with the team, Chark hasn’t been the most talked-about receiver in camp, but he has consistently shown an ability to get open and make catches downfield, showing off the chemistry he already has between himself and quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Prior to training camp, Meyer tasked the veteran receiver with gaining strength, noting that he didn’t play well in 2020.
Now, it appears that Chark has certainly answered the call, showing up to camp noticeably bigger and stronger, seemingly able to take on defenders with much more force than in previous years. During one of the “winner, loser” sessions of the day, Chark went up against cornerback Chris Claybrooks, ultimately winning the blocking rep.
DJ Chark was HYPE after this run blocking rep. pic.twitter.com/cq8H2zG7tr— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) August 4, 2021
A day after making one of the more impressive catches of camp, Chark answered the call again with a two-touchdown performance during team drills, one during a redzone period and another as the team worked on a situation drill from three yards out. Both came from Lawrence.
Following practice, second-year receiver Laviska Shenault was asked about Chark the changes the receiver has made during the offseason and how he looks after making strides in the weight room.
“DJ is a whole different human being,” said Shenault. “I love seeing it, and it brings even more energy. He already had the energy, now he’s got even more. So, I love it, he’s just doing those little things the right way and he’s taking advantage of being stronger and faster—he was already fast, but being stronger and faster and things like that.”
Rookies beginning to stand out
The Jaguars will be relying on plenty of young pieces this year as it works to rebuild its roster after a complete rebuild from top to bottom. Some of those young pieces will be a few of the rookies from this year’s class.
While Lawrence has been the focal point for many - with good reason -, thus far this training camp, a few others are starting to prove their worth just fine.
The trio of cornerback Tyson Campbell, defensive tackle Jay Tufele and running back Travis Etienne continues to impress during camp.
Campbell has shown off his speed and quickness during team drills, and impressed on Wednesday, able to stick with receiver Laquan Treadwell in the red zone, forcing an incompletion. Throughout camp, Campbell has played primarily with the first-team defense, playing both on the boundary and inside.
This was was the first opportunity for coaches and media to get a closer look at Tufele, selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft. The rookie defensive tackle has impressed in team drills, showing off his strength and quickness. During the one-on-one session, Tufele was able to get the best of veteran offensive lineman Tyler Shatley.
The Jaguars will also get plenty of help offensively this year, and while Lawrence will bring the majority of the help, Etienne will be one of the more impressive players of the bunch. He’s shown plenty of quickness throughout camp, and his speed can’t be matched as he routinely beats linebackers in one-on-one matchups.
On third-and-three, Etienne would play the role of safety net for quarterback Gardner Minshew II, catching a pass in the backfield and quickly turning on the burners, running away from defenders up the sideline.
Walker Little continues stellar camp
Little would have been added with the trio listed above, but he deserves his own spot on the observations list. The rookie left tackle already looked impressive at the start of training camp but has looked even better with the pads on this week.
Going up against second-year pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, Little easily blanketed the young defender twice, while the third rep was a stalemate. Chaisson has shown plenty of speed to run around tackles in both one-on-one sessions and in team drills, but Little’s quick feet and technique were no match.
While starting left tackle Cam Robinson isn’t in jeopardy to lose his job just yet - he impressed on Wednesday after a down first day of pads -, he has earned plenty of praise from his coaches, including Meyer when asked about the rookie on Wednesday.
“I don’t think we are there yet but he certainly is right up there,” Meyer said when asked if the team has considered moving other players to get Little on the field
“Every off day we have a two-hour personnel meeting, so tomorrow we will have another one. We had one on Sunday and I have all the coaches rank one through … Well first of all it is a starting five so there is that cut limit and who is behind the cut line.
“We also do a mindset grade on each player — and mindset is competitive spirit, toughness, intelligence, leadership and adaptability. Everybody does that so we will spend over two hours on that tomorrow.”
Meyer noted that Little has just 20% body fat at 320 pounds, and that much is evident by how he plays on the practice field.
Starting defensive line taking shape
The Jaguars spent a chunk of cash on its defensive line this offseason, bringing in two defensive linemen in Roy Robertson-Harris and Malcom Brown. The team also invested in the defensive line via the draft.
Well, over the past week we have gotten a clearer picture of what the starting unit may look like as Brown and Robertson-Harris have taken reps at either defensive end position during team drills as the starters.
At nose tackle, Jacksonville has used second-year defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton. The run defense has already begun to improve, with plenty of strength inside. For now, it appears the team’s starting defensive line is set.