Training Camp Tour: Jaguars' defensive line loaded with potential
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars took the practice field Monday morning in the shadow of EverBank Field with 100 or so invited guests. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in town for a joint practice, which meant a much more competitive atmosphere than normal drills. The pads were on, and we saw a good deal of full-team snaps. 11-on-11s are obviously more difficult to tell who is standing out, but at the same time, provide a better idea of what teams are trying to do. The Jaguars have new starters spread up and down the roster; let’s dive into the biggest takeaways of the day.
[More: Miss a moment of training camp? Catch up on the entire tour here.]
No scarcity of talent along the defensive line
Standing behind the defensive line on the sidelines Wednesday and seeing all the names on the backs of the jerseys, one thought trumped all others: How are they all going to get snaps? Jared Odrick, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler, Jr., Ryan Davis (who is also working at LB), Mike Bennett, Sheldon Day, Yannick Ngakoue, and Tyrone Holmes all have reason to see some snaps this season. There are two big issues with that list of names, though: 1.) None of them are really nose tackles, and 2.) outside of Odrick, Jackson, and Davis (as a pass-rusher), they really don’t know what they are going to get out of the other guys. It’s a preferable position to be in, though, compared to previous years, as it’s unlikely that all those unknowns flop.
Jalen Ramsey out of the starting lineup—for now
It’s a popular coaching tactic to not hand a high draft pick a starting position right away, but come Week 1 of the regular season, I don’t see anyway that Jacksonville’s fifth-overall pick is relegated to nickel and dime duty only. Prince Amukamara and Davon House are accomplished cornerbacks in their own right, and Jacksonville should feel much better about them starting than any duo in a long time. Neither, though, have the upside that Jalen Ramsey has, and a promotion for the rookie feels inevitable. It will be interesting to see how often the Jaguars end up going into nickel and dime, though, this year, as the addition of Myles Jack—who many consider talented enough in coverage to play safety—alongside Telvin Smith gives them a freakishly-athletic linebacking duo that can match up with tight ends and slot receivers alike.
Blake Bortles needs to make another jump
I’m definitely guilty of judging Blake Bortles a tad too soon after a dreadful rookie season. What I overlooked was just how big of a leap it was for him to go from UCF to the NFL in less than a year. In year two, though, Bortles finally got acclimated to the speed of the game and made as drastic of an improvement over year one as we’ve seen in our 10 years of quarterback grading. Now he’ll need to continue that trajectory if the Jags’ offense is to become a Super Bowl-worthy unit. And from what I saw in my admittedly small sample size Wednesday, the results were encouraging. Bortles was on target every rep of the receiver vs. DB one-on-one drills, even burning extremely tight coverage on more than one occasion. The even better news is that Bortles doesn’t have to be perfect, given the loaded receiving corps the Jaguars have assembled.
Luke Joeckel still taking reps at LT
Watching Luke Joeckel up close, I can see why he keeps getting chances from the Jaguars staff. He looks the part. Of all the lineman taking pass sets in the one-on-ones, Joeckel’s pass set looked easily the smoothest, and his feet the most nimble. In that drill, he won three of his four reps, and there is still is a chance this is the year Joeckel puts it all together. In fact, against the Jets in the team’s first preseason outing, Joeckel earned the highest grade of any Jaguars lineman.