The Jaguars’ 2023 training camp is officially underway, and the excitement for a season of success is palpable. Fresh off the back of Doug Pederson’s assertion that ‘getting better one day at a time’ was the focus, things seemed to kick up a notch on Thursday - with the passing game in particular looking sharp.
Entering year two as the offensive coordinator, it was the turn of Press Taylor to face the media. Noting how further along the curve the offense is compared to this time last season, Taylor was excited about the marginal gains stability and continuity brings:
“I think the biggest thing is the comfort level. We’re able to go so much faster on our installs. We cram a lot of plays in now up to an hour and a half meeting. We’re going really fast. We don’t show as much video because we know the guys have seen it, they’re accessing it. But we can get a little bit more in and a little quicker as we go. You go into a training camp situation where we’re just running plays. We’re not scheming our defense, they’re not scheming us, we’re just putting in plays and running them. You see guys, maybe the quarterbacks get through progressions a little bit quicker. Guys adjust to things a little quicker just because they know. They’ve been through it. We’ve been through this install, essentially this is the sixth time through most of this. Then, obviously, we have our additions off that we build on and continue to add to.”
Great news for the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, no doubt. This trio outperformed expectations in year one of the new regime. To think they’re primed for even more in 2023 bodes well for growing expectations from the Duval fanbase.
That said, not all these receivers were on the team last year. Calvin Ridley has been in the spotlight since the Falcons traded him to the Jags last November and is expected to be the de facto WR1 when the team heads to Indianapolis in Week 1. Taylor spoke about getting to know Ridley and his skillset, and how he was adapting to his new surroundings, teammates, and playbook:
“When it all happened, I didn’t think anything of it honestly. We were in the middle of the season, it was ‘great, that’ll be something to look forward to as we start in the offseason’. When you sit down and watch everything he’s done, I obviously knew who he was… We played against Atlanta a couple of times, so I had seen him play and had my perception of what I thought he was. Then, you start to watch it, and you really try to hone in on ‘this is what he’s done really well’.”
“What I didn’t know was him as a person. He’s very serious about his craft. In walkthrough, he’s grabbing (WR Coach) Chad Hall the whole time. They’re sitting over there, going through the install. Obviously, he’s at a different point in his learning of our system than say Zay (Jones) or Christian (Kirk) are. So, he is hungry and it’s just a lot of fun. It kind of adds a little spice to the room; just this guy that wants to prove to everybody what he’s gone through, where he is, and what type of a player he is in this league. It’s another element we’ve added.”
“I think for a guy like him, he just wants to prove that he belongs at the top of this group of receivers across the league. I think that’s important to him. For us, we welcome him with open arms. We want to do whatever it takes to make him feel comfortable to understand that he’s another key piece of this offense that we intend to utilize.”
Ridley’s determination to get back to the top of the game is evident as he works through the install with his new teammates. If there was any doubt he was out to impress, then just take a look at this catch from Wednesday’s practice:
Asked whether Ridley playing with a chip on his shoulder helps the team, Taylor admitted it was unchartered territory:
“Certainly, it’s a different situation. I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy coming off such a hiatus, if you will, from playing. It’s certainly a unique situation but there’s a lot of guys in our room that are motivated by different things. Motivated about different levels. All I can say is I’m very happy with the group that we have, the maturity they have, the focus that this group has, it’s a fun group for us to work with every single day.”
The main benefactor of adding a motivated Ridley’s skillset to this offense is of course Trevor Lawrence. The third-year quarterback showed plenty of growth down the stretch last year - and it’s no secret that the coaching staff expect him to pick up where he left off. Putting a complete season together is the aim, and according to Taylor, the signs are good:
“I think it’s his offense. The empowerment he feels. Yesterday, day one, we have a play on, they play a different coverage, he checks it to a different play. He would not have done that at this point last year. Part of it is just knowing what we like for certain looks, what he likes, what he can get to, what the guys outside can handle as he does certain things. Just that next step where that was kind of how the offense took off in the second half of the year last year. We didn’t have a perfect play on, he got us to a better play. We had a bad play on, he got us to the right play or got out of a bad play, whatever that may be. Just understanding what we’re trying to do and trusting the guys around him that they can handle that as well. As we have more of, not necessarily a veteran offense but a veteran in this scheme, we can continue to evolve and try to continue to maximize Trevor’s ability.”
It’s early days in training camp. But Press Taylor’s offense is well on track.