Mark Week 1 of training camp down as a success.
That’s the opinion of wide receiver Christian Kirk, who met with the media on Monday. And it had nothing to do with the ice cream truck that head coach Doug Pederson surprised the team with on Saturday either. Instead, Kirk was impressed with the early signs on offense - whilst acknowledging things were about to get a whole lot tougher this week:
“It’s been great. I thought, especially at the beginning of last week and the first four practices were really good for us. I think the point to where we’re at right now, it’s pretty encouraging with the way we were able to come out and execute. Even guys that are new to the system and whatnot, just being able to pick it up and play fast. So I like the starting point, but it gets a little harder tomorrow, throwing the pads and whatnot. It’s going to get a little hotter and days are going to start adding up. I’m excited to see how we’re able to face some of that, the dog days of camp, and be able to perform at a high level.”
The Jaguars’ preparation for the 2023 season started long before the veterans arrived at the new Miller Electric Center last week. Earlier this offseason, Kirk hosted some of his teammates for a week of workouts in Arizona. A second-round pick of the Cardinals back in 2018, Kirk was glad for the opportunity to build chemistry with his fellow receivers:
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I’m glad everybody was able to make it out there. I told them all year, you get ready, you bring all the sunscreen and come bear the heat. I had them out there on the turf so they got a good dose of the Arizona heat. I think they all had fun. We had a great week and a great week of work. It’s just another opportunity for all of us to just keep bonding and make that relationship closer off the field. It’s much easier to come everyday into work and into training camp and just have fun with one another.”
“I was happy that I was able to host this year and get everybody out to the AZ heat. It was over 111 degrees for 20 days straight. I brought Calvin [Ridley] out with me, Seth [Williams] out and we were able to train together. It was a lot of fun, we were able to push one another with that heat, it’ll definitely get you in shape now.”
The Jaguars’ receiving corps has been a big focus of attention this offseason. The strides made in 2022, plus the addition of Calvin Ridley, have raised expectations from the fanbase as well as the players and coaching staff. When asked about the ambitions of this offense, Kirk didn’t shy away - suggesting that his unit could potentially lead the NFL in scoring:
“Most definitely. I think that’s the goal. We step on this field to be the best offense in the league and that’s our mindset. I think it starts with our redzone attack, being more efficient in the redzone and making the most of our opportunities. I know that’s a big emphasis for us, is being better in the red zone and putting the ball in the end zone. When we get down there and we have our days during camp where we’re competing in redzone, guys are extra locked in because we need to do that at a higher level this year.”
In order to hit those sorts of heights, the Jaguars will need to start this season like they finished the last. Kirk acknowledged it was a point of emphasis for the team this offseason:
“One hundred percent. We can’t come out slow like we did. It’s fun having some comebacks, but it gets exhausting after a while. We want to make sure we come out, start fast, and when we get up, we keep our foot on the pedal. Just making sure we’re applying the pressure for all four quarters.”
Setting high standards is a testament to how far this franchise has come in just 18 months under Pederson and his coaching staff. But it does raise a different kind of problem - instead of exceeding expectations in 2023, could they potentially not meet them? It’s something that Kirk feels the team is aware of, but have the characters in the locker room to hold each other accountable:
“I think it’s challenging, but when you have the right guys in the locker room, as part of your team that are able to come out on a day-to-day basis and push one another to hold each other to our standard, I think it’s a little easier. It’s easy to get laxed and you know the system and what you’re trying to do, but we know how good we can be, and we know how good we are. When you come out here and don’t show it, it can get really frustrating for guys that are trying to play at a high level. We all just hold each other to our standard and make sure we’re bringing guys with us if they’re having a lackluster day.”
Turning a roster into a cohesive team is one objective in training camp, and something that can transform the fortunes of a franchise throughout the season. And yet ultimately, everyone in Duval County knows that the Jaguars go how Trevor Lawrence goes. Kirk was effusive in his praise of his star quarterback, who seems to have taken things to a higher level in his third professional offseason:
“It’s just the light switch is on. Everything is so quick, the way he’s able to go through his reads and developing that. I think that’s a big thing, last year maybe not being able to get to his third progression, now he’s able to get to that. That’s a big thing of what we do, is if the first and second reads aren’t there and he’s able to back to that third one. Maybe we’re able to look at some things on film that we haven’t taken advantage of, he’s really working that. He’s working through a lot of the things the defense is showing him. The defense has done a great job of mixing up coverages and making sure that he’s staying on his toes. I think he’s doing a great job leading as a vocal leader, but most importantly, his progression and how he’s able to get through each read.”
Positive stuff from last year’s leading receiver - as you would expect. With the pads going on this week, we can expect to get a true barometer of where this offense is at.