Even coaches can suffer from offseason fatigue.
Doug Pederson jokingly confessed to getting “not much” out of recent offseason training activities. Speaking on the Rich Eisen show on Friday, the Jaguars head coach gave some insight into how OTA’s can and can’t help a team prepare for the season ahead:
“By league rule, there’s not a lot of contact or physicality. So we do a lot of individual work… a lot of one on one coaching with the players, and really detail their skill that way. We do some team stuff, but I slow the pace down so we don’t have any collisions on the practice field. But really I wanna see them develop the mental side of the game; guys going in the right direction - offensive line in the right spot, defense fitting the right gap, and we can do that.”
Heading into their final week of OTA’s this Summer, Pederson acknowledged that it was those who are new to the franchise that can benefit from the program most:
“For the young guys, the new players to our team, how well do they take the information from our classroom and out onto the practice field? We’re not out there more than an hour and thirty minutes each day, but we can still get some good work in overall with both the vets and the young guys.”
Every day is an opportunity to improve. And despite being limited in what they can do at this stage of the offseason, the Jaguars are taking what they can get.
‘The next step’ for Trevor Lawrence
Speaking of improvement.
The development of Trevor Lawrence has been a hot topic ever since he was drafted by Jacksonville two years ago. And after the strides made under this coaching staff in 2022, Eisen was keen to hear what Pederson would consider ‘the next step’ in his quarterback’s progression. Unsurprisingly, consistency and eradicating errors were top of the agenda:
“I think going into his year three, year two with this staff, the way he played the back half of last season is the way he needs to start this year. There was a lot of offense with him at the end, and that’s the next phase - putting it all together. We feel he’s that guy, someone who can put the team on his back. We don’t want him to throw four picks and then four touchdowns, we’d rather him just throw the four touchdowns!”
The last quip was lighthearted, but there was no doubt Pederson meant it. He did point to a definitive growth in Lawrence’s confidence and leadership as the season progressed, including obvious moments he put the team on his back. Games against the Ravens and Cowboys, as well as the playoff game versus the Chargers spring to mind, three victories that helped define the Jaguars’ season.
Even in defeat against the Chiefs, watching Lawrence shake each teammate’s hand as they walked up the tunnel in Arrowhead Stadium, gives hope that this is now their QB’s team.
When it comes to the standard for quarterbacks, the AFC sets it and then some. Eisen asked Pederson about where Lawrence sits amongst Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen -- the three other signal callers who’ve made it to the conference’s ‘final four’:
“He’s chasing that. He’s close to putting himself with that group. Those guys have a couple of year’s experience on him but he’s heading in that direction. The AFC is in good hands overall with that youth in quarterback, and we’re really confident in Trevor working with the skill and talent we’ve put around him to get himself into that conversation. That growth, that leadership, we just need to continue to see it as we head into training camp in July and August.”
Calvin Ridley - flying under the radar?
When Pederson speaks of ‘the talent we’ve put around’ Trevor Lawrence, he is undoubtedly referring to their marquee acquisition. The trade for Calvin Ridley was met with excitement in Jacksonville, but perhaps little more than raised eyebrows elsewhere around the league. Eisen contended that the Jaguars’ star receiver was maybe flying ‘under the radar’.
Pederson was just happy to have him in the group, and has been impressed with what he has seen thus far:
“He looks extremely healthy. He looks fast, quick, in a good headspace. We know he sat out a bit and missed some football, there was some injury there too in Atlanta. But for us as a staff, he’s just one of those guys you just want to bring along. He’s chomping so bad - he just wants to get to the regular season. So we’re pumping the brakes a little, just working through this offseason. But he’s been a great addition to the receiver room… he’s just hungry to play football again.”
Even as we remain firmly in the dog days of the offseason, there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about the Jaguars in 2023. We’ve just got to wait another 97 days to see Lawrence, Ridley, and the rest of them in action.