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Jaguars training camp Day 3 observations: Defense stands out

The Jaguars took the field for the third day of training camp on Wednesday.

Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell at training camp 2022.
Kevin Nguyen

Another day is in the books with the Jaguars walking off the field after participating in the team’s rev-up to the new season, training camp.

Prior to practice, Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor took to the podium, discussing everything about the team’s offense, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence. To Taylor, Lawrence’s progression thus far has been sound, able to take coaching and apply what he knows to the playing field.

The team, including Lawrence, wants to see progress every day, getting better. Though it won’t always show up on the stat sheet, Taylor said prior to practice on Wednesday, they do want to see the decision-making ability.

“I think back to day one, there was a movement play we had,” Taylor began.

“I think it was actually the one he made the throw to Christian on the sideline. We talked about, hey, when you get out the edge, you can progress it like this. Then day two, it was a different play, similar situation. He did exactly what we talked about in the meeting room. That’s just good to see.”

The plays in question included about a 20-yard completion to receiver Christian Kirk, while the following day, Lawrence completed about a nine-yard completion to tight end Dan Arnold. Sure, the difference in yardage is there, but the latter decision was likely the better one in that situation. Certainly, it was an easier toss.

The Jaguars' offense is continuing forward with a complete re-install taking place during camp after “about 90 percent” was put in during the spring. It takes some time, but the progress is there and it will only get quicker from here on out.

Here are some observations from today’s practice:

Defense, Tyson Campbell’s growth continues

Though the Jaguars’ first-team offense stood out through the first couple of days of camp - particularly on Tuesday - it was the team’s defense that made a couple of standout plays on Wednesday.

There were multiple pass breakups, including at least two from second-year cornerback Tyson Campbell, who had potentially his best practice day as a Jag. Campbell’s up-and-down rookie season was one of the talking points last year, particularly during the first half of the season as he dealt with injuries.

Still, the young CB was able to rebound during the latter portion of the year, giving a glimpse at what made him an early second-round selection in 2021.

During Wednesday’s session, Campbell showed patience and the ability to track the football, something he appeared to struggle with last year. On one breakup, Campbell tracked Zay Jones deep downfield in what would have been a tough snag for either player. Campbell utilized his leverage on Jones, breaking up the ball at the last moment.

That drew a lot of ‘oohs and ahhs’ from the crowd of players watching on the sideline, with Campbell yelling out “That’s Chick-fil-A on Sunday,” referring to the fast-food chain’s closure on Sundays.

Other defenders got in on the fun, too, with safety Rayshawn Jenkins posting a PBU of his own, while rookie corner Buster Brown was able to earn a PBU on one of the backup QBs. Brown’s PBU could have been a pick-six had he held onto it.

Though the pads have yet to be put on, outside linebacker Josh Allen had a couple of would-be sacks Wednesday.

A couple of other players that stood out on the defensive side of the football Wednesday were free-agent signee Arden Key and second-year defensive tackle Jay Tufele. Both provided rush from the inside, able to get free a couple of times.

It should be noted, though, that without pads, it’s nearly impossible to tell how a given pass-rush play would have fared. Offensive linemen are much more limited in what they can do than defensive linemen.

Travis Etienne’s speed is noticeable

One of the players that entered training camp with some question marks was Etienne, and his ability to recover from a preseason Lisfranc injury suffered in August last year. Through three days of camp, however, no one can tell Etienne was ever hurt.

In fact, if anything, his speed and quickness look more pronounced through this year’s camp than they did last year during his rookie campaign.

On one play, in particular, Etienne took a handoff from Lawrence, bouncing outside and untouched down the sideline. Even with pads on, he would not have been taken down with his speed earning a “See you later!” from Jaguars offensive line coach Phil Rauscher.

Etienne will be a focal point of this year’s offense, especially with bell-cow-back James Robinson still recovering from his Achilles injury.

Jaguars running back Travis Etienne at training camp.
Kevin Nguyen

Prior to practice starting, offensive coordinator Press Taylor was asked about Etienne and how he might compare to former Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Though, that was before Taylor’s time, he did say he could see the comparison between the two backs in terms of their ability to be weapons out of the backfield.

“[Head coach] Doug [Pederson] having his background under Coach Reid, the screen game is a big part of it. We hope to have the success throwing the football to Travis like the Eagles did for a long time with Brian Westbrook.”

Thus far, the Jaguars have made good on that with Etienne, utilizing him in a variety of ways in the backfield and coming out of the backfield in the passing game.

Trevor Lawrence continues to progress

We’ve already touched on some of what Taylor said regarding Lawrence’s progress, but as always we have another update on what Lawrence did at practice.

On the day, Lawrence completed 13 out of 18 of his throws to various receivers, tight ends and running backs in team drills (7 on 7 or 11 on 11). Though it’s not the perfect day that Lawrence had on Tuesday, his Wednesday performance isn’t anything to get down about.

Lawrence still took command of the huddle quite well and was able to make the throws that were there on time and efficiently. If anything, it was the defense that forced incompletions rather than Lawrence making inaccurate tosses - that’s what you want to see out of a second-year QB.

In all, Lawrence continues to impress spectators and having three good outings to start camp is exactly the type of progress that’s needed if he is to live up to his potential after being selected as the No. 1 player in last year’s draft.

Backup QB situation will be intriguing

Though much has been said about the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, Lawrence, there really hasn’t been much buzz about what’s going on behind him.

The Jaguars currently roster four quarterbacks, including Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton and newly-signed QB Kyle Sloter. Thus far during camp, Beathard has yet to take a snap during team drills, standing to the side during those portions of practice.

In his place, Luton has assumed the immediate backup role to Lawrence and has had a couple of up-and-down days with the past two looking far better than his practice on Monday.

Sloter hasn’t had quite the turnaround, with several of his passes off-target throughout the three-day stretch. Sloter was signed just one day prior to camp opening up, so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Luton has been on the team’s roster throughout the year.

Though Beathard hasn’t had an opportunity to showcase his skills, Luton’s play throughout the first week or so could have an impact on him moving forward on the roster.

Offensive line remains in flux

Through the first two days of camp, the Jaguars’ offensive line didn’t appear to be that complicated. The team has utilized rookie center Luke Fortner with the first-team offense, while veteran Tyler Shatley took reps with the ones at left guard and Jawaan Taylor at right tackle.

There wasn’t too much change in that lineup over the first couple of days aside from Walker Little getting a few reps here and there, but that changed on Wednesday with multiple players, including Ben Bartch receiving reps at various spots. Little also received more repetitions with the ones than he had through the first couple of days.

OL Ben Bartch and Tyler Shatley at Jaguars training camp.
Kevin Nguyen

“It’s going to be an ongoing process finding the best five (at offensive line). We’re going to continue to work with guys,” Taylor said when asked about the OL prior to practice.

“You may see them starting one day, you may see them someone else starting a period that day, whatever it may be. It’s going to be a fluid process. We’re fortunate we don’t have to release a depth chart right now and figure that out. We’re still in the process of figuring out who our best five is.”

It’s worth repeating that the growing competition on the OL will continue as camp progresses. With the team set to put on pads on Sunday, July 31, that will only intensify.