The day everyone from fans to players and coaches anticipated finally came and went after the Jaguars broke out the pads for the team’s first fully-padded practice of training camp.
On Saturday, the program went with just shoulder pads, a step up from shells, but still not enough to get a good grasp on what each player - especially the team’s offensive and defensive lines - had.
On Sunday, that changed, with the players, coaches, media and observers able to get their first glimpse at what the players had in them.
Prior to practice, head coach Doug Pederson expressed to the media what he’d like to see out of his players as they go through their first padded practice of camp.
“You’re kind of getting used to wearing the extra gear now,” Pederson said when asked about his team putting on pads Sunday. “We’re kind of getting into that part of training camp and things get ramped up.”
That ramping up, so to speak, comes in the form of more physicality from the players themselves. The offensive and defensive lines, naturally, practice a bit harder when they get an opportunity to do what they do best - beat the men in front of them.
Pederson, of course, emphasized player safety but was pleased with what he saw out of his team on Saturday.
“That’s encouraging. It kind of happens throughout training camp, there’s gonna be those warm, hot days where tension sort of builds and you start seeing it back and forth offensively and defensively and it was good to see and, and but at the same time, we got to make sure that we play smart play headsy [sic] up and control that.”
Here are some observations from Sunday’s practice:
Defensive line wins the day
To preface this, it should be said that the Jaguars’ starting offensive, consisting of (from left to right) Cam Robinson, Tyler Shatley, Luke Fortner, Brandon Scherff and Walker Little had plenty of good battles, winning multiple reps.
Scherff, in particular, was one of the more fired-up players on the field, getting the better of DL Adam Gotsis, among others.
Still, the victory needs to go to the team’s defensive line which earned multiple victories over the opposing offensive line.
Some of the more marquee matchups included rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker beating right tackle Walker Little and then right guard Ben Bartch on two separate reps.
Little was about to bounce back later, stopping veteran OLB Josh Allen before he could gain more momentum.
Second-year defensive tackle Jay Tufele continued his impressive camp with a victory over third-year OL Ben Bartch. Veteran defensive lineman Dawaune Smoot also had an impressive outing with a victory over OL Coy Cronk.
Walker’s showcase didn’t have many reps during the team’s one-on-one period, but he was able to bounce back from an early loss to veteran OL Will Richardson.
One player that has been the subject of plenty of criticism since being selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, K’Lavon Chaisson, was able to come away with one of the more impressive reps, beating Little with ease, knocking his hands down.
Veteran outside linebacker Josh Allen was able to come away with multiple victories, including one that drew some chatter from the coaches after beating both Richardson and Bartch on a stunt drill. He beat them with ease.
The team’s backup offensive line continues to be an issue for Jacksonville. Early in camp, the team had issues snapping the football with OL KC McDermott. Though he improved on his past performance, there is quite a dropoff from starters to backups in Duval.
Travon Walker continues to impress
Though he was the subject of a lot of the chatter involving the team’s one-on-one battle Sunday, Walker showcased plenty during team drills, too. On multiple occasions the first-overall pick was able to beat the man in front of him, getting into the offensive backfield.
The pads going on for Walker appear to have only increased his stock, enabling him to use some of the natural tools at his disposal. Though it’s still incredibly early, Walker has had a good first camp thus far and looks to be a solid co-captain to the team’s pass rush.
Walker also made a nice play in team drills, beating his man and knocking down a Trevor Lawrence toss, his first PBU of camp that went noticed by the media.
Prior to practice, Pederson was asked about Walker, and what he’s seen thus far from the rookie OLB.
“I think just as he gets more comfortable with the defense,” Pederson said what he would like to continue to see from Walker. “I know [defensive coordinator] coach [Mike] Caldwell has really thrown a lot at the defensive guys with information and volume. Again, that’s what we need to see as we as we keep progressing here in camp, is just how these young guys handle the volume, Travon being one of those guys.
“So far [he] has been good. He studies well, student of the game, he’s hard on himself. If he makes a mistake, he usually doesn’t make the same mistake again. And that’s good to see from young guys.”
Those sentiments were echoed on Saturday when BigCatCountry caught up with defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi. Walker has been seen as a student of the game, a sponge and a player that takes his craft very seriously. It’s a start.
Travis Etienne’s impressive camp shouldn’t be overlooked
It would be a shame to not mention the type of camp Etienne has had thus far. Though he’s been a continued subject of our observations, his practice for yet another day in a row deserves some credit. Etienne has looked like the most explosive player on offense and it may not even be close.
Coming out of college the second-year running back looked to be one of the top players in all of college football. During his sophomore and junior seasons at Clemson, Etienne ran for a combined 3,272 yards, 43 rushing touchdowns, 49 receptions and six receiving touchdowns. That was in just two out of the four impressive years he toted the rock for the Tigers.
Now, Etienne looks to keep up appearances in the NFL, utilizing his speed and savvy ability to break off a long run on any given handoff. Coming off of a Lisfranc injury from a year ago there weren’t very high expectations for him. But, from what he’s shown in camp, there should be.
On one occasion during Sunday’s session, Etienne took a handoff from Lawrence and was able to wiggle his way through the right side of the line for a big gain. Though there is no heavy tackling, there wouldn’t have been a player to make a play on Etienne until about eight yards downfield - and that’s if they could hold onto him.
His speed, strength and agility have been on display throughout camp and are something to watch moving forward. For now, he looks like a legitimate weapon, something the team will rely heavily upon during the year.
On Saturday, Lawrence was asked how Etienne looks now compared to how he did when the two were at Clemson together.
“Honestly, I think he looks like he’s in better shape than I thought he was of our last year at Clemson,” Lawrence said. “I mean, obviously he was great, played great, all that. He was fine. But I think right now like he looks, his body looks great. I think he’s running really well.”
Trevor Lawrence update
As always, we kept up with how Lawrence looked throughout the day. Though, we weren’t able to get a full throw count due to the OL/DL one-on-ones taking place at the same dime on a different part of the team’s practice field.
On the day, Lawrence threw one of the best deep shots to free agent WR Christian Kirk, who had a half-step on cornerback Shaq Griffin. Kirk nearly was able to haul in the pass, but he wasn’t able to secure it, allowing Griffin to get his own mitt on the ball, knocking it away.
That wouldn’t be the only pass that got away from Jaguars receivers, either. Multiple players, including Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr. and Evan Engram had drops. There was also some miscommunication between Lawrence and Laviska Shenault that fell incomplete.
Still, there were a couple of nice plays made on Sunday, including a bounce-back from Shenault and Lawrence, able to complete a pass they earlier couldn’t. Lawrence also made a nice throw to Kirk over the middle of the field, something that you will likely see a lot of moving forward.
Overall, the second-year QB has looked sharp, when given the space needed from receivers to make accurate passes. The team’s OL has held up well, but the receivers haven’t helped out as much as they should be able to this early into camp. It’ll be something to continue monitoring.
The Jaguars signed kicker Eliott Fry on Friday, just a day after undrafted free agent rookie kicker Andrew Mevis missed a kick that would hit former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo in the shoulder. Mevis would be waived in favor of Fry.
On Sunday, we were able to see Fry in action for the first time. After looking solid during warmups, Fry had a so-so performance in team drills, nailing 2 out of 4 of his kicks, including a long attempt of 50+ yards. Veteran Ryan Santoso would also connect on just 2 out of 4 of his attempts.
The competition will continue throughout camp, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a new kicker brought in at some point just before or during the regular season.
- Though he wasn’t thrown the football on this particular play, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell gave one of the best routes of the day, beating Griffin. Treadwell has always had a good connection with Lawrence and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get more looks deeper into camp.
- Pederson provided an update on a couple of the team’s injured players, including tackle Jawaan Taylor, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, and DT Foley Fatukasi, who is dealing with a calf injury.