It was more eventful out at the Jaguars’ training camp practice No. 5 on Saturday morning. The team donned shoulder pads for the first time since camp opened up on Monday and the players appeared to give a bit more juice.
Still, it felt more like the calm before the storm with full pads set to be donned on Sunday, a chance for players, coaches, media and other onlookers to glimpse what the team really has as they continue their path toward the regular season.
Prior to practice, Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson welcomed the Episcopal School of Jacksonville football team, who was in attendance for the day’s viewing.
The Jaguars, of course, have been using one of the team’s practice fields to get their own work on throughout training camp.
Shortly after, Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell met with the media for the second time during camp, giving an update on what he’s seen out of his players, and the anticipation for pads to go on, on Sunday. He indicated that he’s “pleased so far,” with what the defense has been able to do, getting good work in with the team’s offense.
On Thursday, Jacksonville’s defense stood out, particularly during red zone drills. They held quarterback Trevor Lawrence to few completions while getting an interception and a couple of pass breakups.
“It was good work. We’re out here with the offense and the offense is giving us different looks and we’re giving them different looks. All it does is, the competition makes us better as a team,” Caldwell said about the team’s red zone defensive performance on Thursday.
“That’s what we’re here to do. Here to get better as a team, so we’re out here, we’ll ask for a certain look from the offense. They’ll ask for a certain coverage or a certain look from us and we’ll give it to them. So, just trying to make each other better.”
Here are the observations from today’s practice:
Defense continues to shine
During Saturday’s session, the Jaguars played it a bit differently. Instead of the starters going up against starters, the starters on offense went up against the second-team defense, and vice versa. That led to some interesting matchups but still ended with the defense looking like the better of the two groups for much of the day.
On multiple occasions, the Jaguars’ starting defense stifled the second-team offense, giving them no room to run and barely anytime to throw the football.
Though the second-team defense was out-shone by the first-team offense (as they ought to be), there were still some standouts from the group. On one particular occasion, third-year linebacker Rashod Berry was able to make a huge play in the offensive backfield, stopping momentum before it could even begin.
A couple of key standouts from the first few days of camp include defensive tackle Jay Tufele and cornerback Benji Franklin. Franklin has made several plays on the ball and was able to secure the second interception of camp, a pick-six thrown by backup QB Jake Luton.
Tufele, entering his second season, has been one of the more consistent players on the team’s DL, able to cause penetration and stop a run in its tracks.
Starting safety Rayshawn Jenkins ended practice on a high note, laying the boom to backup RB Mekhi Sargent - a preview of what’s to come when full pads get on, on Sunday.
Jawaan Taylor, Foley Fatukasi among those held out
The Jaguars have had a couple of bumps and bruises during their first few days of camp, and that included today with several players missing time. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor was held out of practice for the second-straight day, missing Thursday’s practice as well, working with trainers on the sideline.
Other players who missed time today include defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, offensive lineman Jared Hocker, linebacker Devin Lloyd and running back James Robinson. Robinson, of course, is still working his way back to full speed, while Lloyd has no timetable for a return from his hamstring injury.
Fatuksai is one of the team’s major assets in the middle of the defense. In his place has bene a mixture of third-year DT DaVon Hamilton and Malcom Brown. All defensive linemen will rotate throughout camp and the season.
With Taylor out, second-year tackle Walker Little has taken all of the snaps at right tackle, much-needed work for a player that has yet to play on the right side in live, game action.
Lawrence posts solid outing
This was a bounce-back day of sorts for Lawrence after struggling to get anything going in the red zone on Thursday.
Saturday, Lawrence looked calm and poised, able to fire multiple shots under pressure, including a deep shot to Marvin Jones Jr., who was able to get behind the defense for what would have likely been a long touchdown. Lawrence put the ball exactly where it needed to be.
Lawrence would complete 13 out of 19 of his passes with multiple drops on the day. The most glaring drop came from free-agent signee tight end Evan Engram, who dropped what would have been a wide-open touchdown in the team’s two-minute situation.
Receiver Christian Kirk made a couple of nice plays over the middle, making a solid catch with a ball thrown a bit behind him.
Travon Walker looks ready for pads
For days, the Jaguars’ defensive line hasn’t really been able to do much, having to hold back a bit until the pads get on. Today, they were a bit more active in shoulder pads, something that seems to have unlocked something in rookie OLB Travon Walker, the team’s first-overall pick from this year’s draft.
Walker stood out in a big way on Saturday, able to make what would have been several plays in the offensive backfield. At one point, Walker completely collapsed his side of the line of scrimmage, giving the team’s offensive line and running back no room to work with.
Walker will be the player to watch on Sunday as the team gets in full pads and the defensive/offensive line one-on-ones begin.
Following practice, Fatukasi gave BigCatCountry his first impressions of the rookie OLB, describing him as a “sponge.”
“Sponge. He’s soaking everything up. He’s working his tail off. He’s, asking the questions [of] the older guys,” he said. “And as long as he keeps that mindset, he’s going to be around for a while. As long as he continues to apply himself, which I feel he’s going to do. But he’s a sponge. He’s learning as much as he [can], and he’s applying it.”
Jaguars OLB Travon Walker was out after practice today working. I spoke with DT Foley Fatukasi after practice. He described Walker as a “sponge,” soaks up info: pic.twitter.com/dQuDYWf5mW— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) July 30, 2022
On Wednesday, Walker spoke about the prospect of putting the pads back on again.
“I’m really ready to get into pads now because I’ve been out of pads so long, since the national championship, and to just finally really strike somebody and be as physical as I can. I’m ready to get back to that,” he said.
Well, if the past couple of days is any indication, Sunday ought to be a treat.
It looks as if the Jaguars have set its starting interior offensive line, at least at center. Rookie center Luke Fortner has taken 100 percent of the team’s first-team reps, while Tyler Shatley has taken the large majority of the first-team reps at left guard. Though third-year OL Ben Bartch has gotten a couple of reps at the position, it doesn’t look like Shatley will lose much of a grip.