NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - INSIDE SLANT
Only 34 players who were members of the Jacksonville Jaguars' 90-man roster entering their 2013 training camp were still with the team as minicamp opened Tuesday.
And eight of those 34 players were draft picks selected by the team just months before in April 2013. That means just 26 players who had spent at least a year in the league and were with the Jaguars a year ago at this time, are still a part of the Jacksonville franchise today.
That in part explains why the Jaguars lost eight straight games to open last season before settling for a 4-12 overall record that netted them the No. 3 pick in this year's draft. It marked the seventh consecutive year that Jacksonville had a top-10 draft pick, a sure sign of futility.
It appears that could be a sign of the past. No longer are the Jaguars looking at keeping reserves at wide receivers, the defensive line and the secondary, players they were hesitant to insert into the lineup. Jacksonville has built more depth on the current roster by dissecting the previous roster and replacing players with solid draft selections and quality free-agent signings.
In general manager Dave Caldwell's two years with the team, he has drafted 17 players, all of whom are still with the team. By comparison, only eight drafted players remain on the roster as picks by the previous administration, and two of the eight are kicker Josh Scobee and punter Bryan Anger.
Second-year head coach Gus Bradley has made it clear how much better he likes this team talent-wise compared to the squad a year ago.
"I just feel like we continually have gotten better all through OTAs and when you do that, you have a chance overall as a team to be better," Bradley said. "We'll see what takes place but it just feels good, it feels like more of the guys are getting better at one time. And again, I think it goes back to understanding what their roles are and their responsibilities."
The Jaguars want to be in a position where the final cuts to the 53-man roster are tougher to make. Unlike a year ago when most of the 37 released players from the original 90-man roster were not claimed by other teams, that could be different this season. The franchise is going to part ways with some talented players when it begins making cuts in August. It will likely result in a number of players being signed by other clubs.
It's one reason why Bradley has made attempts to get a lot of players opportunities to perform with the No. 1 offensive or defensive units during OTAs and the team's mandatory minicamp going on this week. It's also a reason why he's more optimistic about what he has seen in the team's OTAs this year.
"I think we accomplished things in both OTAs, but I think what seems different this year is they have a better handle of the offense and defense and special teams scheme we're asking them," Bradley noted. "We have new players but when you have new players the guys that have gone through it once, already are helping them. It's been a more efficient OTA I would say."
But the biggest question that Jaguars fans continue to ask and don't get an answer to, is when will quarterback Blake Bortles be ready? The Jaguars invested big in selecting Bortles as the No. 3 overall pick in the draft after many analysts had the former Central Florida star rated lower.
Bradley has yet to have Bortles operate with the No. 1 offensive unit. He has indicated that the rookie may get a chance in the minicamp, but only two days of camp remain until the Jaguars disembark for five weeks and resume in late July with the start of training camp.
NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - NOTES, QUOTES
--Future franchise quarterback Blake Bortles is tied to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the next four seasons, which gives him time to iron out the many issues evident in Wednesday's minicamp workout.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Bortles inked his name to a four-year deal worth $20.6 million, including a signing bonus of $13.34 million. The contract for the third overall pick in May's NFL draft amounts to a $3.75 million salary-cap hit for the Jaguars in 2014, when head coach Gus Bradley envisions the rookie serving as veteran Chad Henne's backup.
How did the instant millionaire celebrate his new fortune?
He went out and had one of his worst days throwing the football in the short time he's been with the club. It wasn't disastrous, but it wasn't to the standards that either Bortles or Bradley are looking to establish.
"It wasn't a great day. I thought there were things that I didn't do very well, but that's part of it," Bortles said when asked about his performance on the field after signing his contract three hours earlier. "It's not a two- or three- or four-week process; it's a long process, a long journey. I need to keep learning and getting better. Asking Chad (Henne) questions. I definitely have a lot to improve and work on."
Bortles' practice was somewhat surprising. To date, he had thrown the ball well in the team's OTAs and minicamp. In 11-on-11 drills Tuesday, Bortles completed 12-of-18 passes, the same 66.7 percentage that Henne posted with 8-of-12 numbers.
But Henne remains firmly entrenched as the starter. He is taking all the snaps with the No. 1 offense with Bortles working exclusively with the second unit. Bradley had indicated that at some point Bortles would likely see some time with the first team, but with only one day of minicamp remaining before the team disbands for five weeks and awaits training camp in late July, Bortles might have to wait for his starter's-only session.
Bortles, the 2013 American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year, is his own biggest critic and says his performance in several weeks as a professional can only be called average.
"Definitely, I think, average," he said to rate his passing performance. "I'm working on a lot of things. I'm working on a lot of footwork stuff. So there are things I'm not doing well right now but I'm not worrying about it because I'm trying to fix something else. It is a process. It's something that me and (quarterback coach) Frank (Scelfo) are working on that's going to take a while."
--The Jaguars had a new face fielding punts earlier last week, but don't look for the team to announce the signing of a new player. NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray was in a Jaguars jersey, shorts, helmet and cleats on Tuesday returning punts and participating in other team drills. It was part of the promotional tour that McMurray and Joie Chitwood, president of Daytona International Speedway were on to hype the July 5 Coke Zero 400 race at Daytona, about 85 miles south of downtown Jacksonville.
McMurray came away from the one-hour workout with a better appreciation of what the Jaguars players go through.
"It's so much different when you get out there as opposed to what you see on television," he said. "It's crazy how big all the guys are and then to see how small some of them are too. You see them go up against each other, going for the same piece of property."
While the workout at the Jaguars practice facility gained the wanted publicity for the upcoming race in Daytona, it may have helped secure additional talks between the Jaguars and Daytona Speedway officials in the future. The Jaguars are looking to increase the team's regional reach and Speedway personnel is looking to capitalize on the current $400 million renovation currently in progress at the track. There is little doubt that Speedway officials are contemplating hosting an NFL or college football game to its facility in the near future. With the Jaguars having drafted Orlando native Blake Bortles, the likely future franchise quarterback of the Jaguars, it could bring results in a natural relationship between the racing and football sides.
Chitwood said the speedway and the Jaguars have not had "a formal discussion" but the sides have a "great relationship."
In 2016, Bristol Motor Speedway will host a college football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech in Bristol, Tenn. With Tennessee already having sold its allotment of 40,000 tickets, attendance for the game could exceed 150,000.
--After Jacques McClendon had taken all of the snaps at right guard with the No. 1 unit through the first eight days of the Jaguars' OTAs, rookie Brandon Linder finally got his chance. Midway through Thursday's ninth and final day of OTAs, Linder was inserted into the lineup with the rest of the starters. Coach Gus Bradley said others will also be given an opportunity to work with the first unit next week at the mini-camp.
"We started off early moving him (Linder) to different positions, then we locked him into guard and now he's back getting reps with the ones," Bradley said. It's not just Linder though. I really challenge our coaches to get everybody reps with the ones so they get a feel for what it's like. How do you know until you get in that situation? So with our rookies, we really promote that."
--The four-man receiver group that carried the brunt of the workload for their position this week finally got some relief when two of the seven injured receivers on the team returned to practice on Thursday. For almost a week, the four healthy receivers - Kerry Taylor, Allen Hurns, Chad Bumphis and Damian Copeland - have carried the load for the Jaguars.
That's because injuries sent seven other receivers to the sidelines with various injuries. None were considered serious but it kept them from participating. Included in the group were Cecil Shorts (calf), Ace Sanders (thigh), Mike Brown (groin), Lamaar Thomas (knee), Tandon Doss (calf) and the team's two highly-touted second-round draft picks Marqise Lee (ankle) and Allen Robinson (hamstring). Sanders and Brown were able to make token appearances on Thursday to help out. Several others could return to action next week as well during the team's mini-camp.
Bradley said the injuries have allowed some of the newcomers to showcase their talents.
"I think it's good because Hurns and Bumphis have really stepped up," he said. "So those things came out to where we feel good about them and it still challenged our corners. You can still see on tape the principles, but they'll get challenged enough and they have."
NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Jaguars' pick:
Round 1/3 -- Blake Bortles, QB, 6-5, 232, Central Florida
--After sending out signals how much they liked WR Sammy Watkins and DE/LB Khalil Mack, the Jaguars got their quarterback of the future in Bortles. His leadership, competitiveness and maturity were just as important as the gaudy numbers he posted on the field. He may not start the first game, but it's just a matter of time until he takes over the offense on a permanent basis.
Round 2/39 -- Marqise Lee, WR, 6-0, 192, Southern Cal
--The Jaguars coveted this Biletnikoff Award winner in his sophomore season when he caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards. The numbers dropped off considerably a year ago to 57 catches and 791 yards, but he was slowed by a knee injury. The Jaguars think he's the playmaker they've been lacking the last couple of years. He could show it as both a receiver and kick returner.
Round 2/61 -- Allen Robinson, WR, 6-2, 220, Penn State
--Robinson posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as a sophomore and junior at Penn State. He caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns last season. What the Jaguars really like is his 39-inch vertical jump along with his 6-foot-2 height.
Round 3/93 -- Brandon Linder, RG, 6-6, 311, Miami
--Physical, dependable, consistent, it's what the Jaguars like in the Miami lineman whom the Jaguars coached in the Senior Bowl. Linder started 42 games, including the last 37 of his career. The Jaguars wanted him so bad that they were willing to trade away a draft pick before Linder was taken by someone else.
Round 4/114 -- Aaron Colvin, CB, 5-11, 186, Oklahoma
--This could be a risky pick after Colvin tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in practice at the Senior Bowl. Missing time in OTAs and training camp will set Colvin back, especially with the Jaguars not knowing whether he'll be a lock-down corner or a strong safety.
Round 5/144 -- Telvin Smith, LB, 6-3, 218, Florida State
--Solid linebacker for the Seminoles who the Jaguars are high on. Some concern however in that Smith had a diluted urine sample at the combine and will now be a part of NFL drug testing program. Was only a one-year starter at Florida State, but Jaguars coaches like what they saw in coaching him at Senior Bowl.
Round 5/159 -- Chris Smith, DE, 6-1, 266, Arkansas
--Versatile defender who can play either end and has played some outside linebacker for the Razorbacks. Jaguars like his quick burst from set position and his ability to wrap up on tackles. Height and length could be some concern, but Jaguars feel his exterior speed rush will overcome that.
Round 6/205 -- Luke Bowanko, C, 6-6, 302, Virginia
--Jaguars had to have a replacement for retired center Brad Meester and Bowanko will be a strong candidate to fill that spot. He isn't likely to get the starting nod in his rookie season, but could be the long-term answer in the future. Is a converted right guard who moved to center spot final two years of collegiate career.
Round 7/222 -- Storm Johnson, RB, 6-0, 209, Central Florida
--Jaguars wanted to add depth at running back position and liked what they saw in Johnson's productive senior season. He rushed for 1,139 yards on 213 carries, scoring 14 times. He started collegiate career at University of Miami before joining CFU program. He'll be reunited with former Knights teammate and Jaguars No. 1 draft pick, Blake Bortles, in Jacksonville.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--QB Blake Bortles (1/3): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Brandon Linder (3/93): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Aaron Colvin (4/114): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Telvin Smith (5/144): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Chris Smith (5/159): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Luke Bowanko (6/205): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Storm Johnson (7/222): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Will Blackmon: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Jason Babin: UFA; terms unknown.
--T Cameron Bradfield: Potential RFA; $3M/2 yrs, $1.225M guaranteed.
--WR Mike Brown: ERFA; terms unknown.
--TE Clay Harbor: Potential UFA; $3M/2 yrs, $1.35M SB.
--QB Chad Henne: Potential UFA; $8M/2 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--DT Sen'Derrick Marks: Potential UFA; $18M/4 yrs, $800,000 SB/$4.8M guaranteed.
--T Austin Pasztor: ERFA; terms unknown.
--FB Will Ta'ufo'ou: ERFA; terms unknown.
--RB Jordan Todman: ERFA; terms unknown.
--T Sam Young: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Zane Beadles: UFA Broncos; $30M/5 yrs, $12.5M guaranteed.
--LB Allen Bradford (waivers Giants).
--DE Red Bryant: FA Seahawks; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Chris Clemons: FA Seahawks; terms unknown.
--WR Tandon Doss: Not tendered as RFA by Ravens; terms unknown.
--FB Bradie Ewing (waivers Falcons).
--RB Toby Gerhart: UFA Vikings; $10.5M/3 yrs, $4.5M guaranteed.
--DE Ziggy Hood: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--S Sherrod Martin: FA; $780,000/1 yr.
--C/G Eric Olsen: Not tendered as ERFA by Steelers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Dekoda Watson: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--LB Russell Allen (released/failed physical).
--WR Stephen Burton (retired).
--RB Delone Carter (released).
--DT Brandon Deaderick: Not tendered as UFA/Saints; terms unknown.
--WR Jeremy Ebert (released).
--RB Justin Forsett (released).
--QB Blaine Gabbert (traded 49ers).
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew: UFA Raiders; $7.5M/3 yrs, $1.2M guaranteed RB.
--DT Kyle Love: Not tendered as RFA/Chiefs; terms unknown.
--C Brad Meester (retired).
--DT Drake Nevis (released).
--G Uche Nwaneri (released).
--WR Taylor Price: UFA Seahawks; terms unknown.
--G Will Rackley (released).
--DE D'Aundre Reed (released).
--TE Allen Reisner: Not tendered as RFA/Vikings; terms unknown.
--WR Stephen Williams (released).