By Julie Dixon// @ABroncoNole
After seeing the Jacksonville Jaguars during practices, a scrimmage, and a pre-season game, there are a few observations that can be made.
I have no idea how they’ll do, but they won’t be beaten due to being out of shape. Head coach Doug Marrone is a taskmaster and until you’ve been under a Jacksonville sun at noon, you can’t imagine the heat these guys practice in. To his credit, Marrone and all the coaches wear black shirts.
Blake Bortles is, and most likely, will always be an inconsistent quarterback. Andy Dalton comes to mind. However, his lows were better than Dalton’s and he’s had more highs. It’s clear that he feels relaxed and loose. When he makes mistakes they appear more testing boundaries over making dumb mistakes. FYI, the guy is an athlete. After going two and half hours in the heat of the day, the team does wind sprints and he’s the first one every time. This guy will be a threat with RPO’s.
Cody Kessler saved his best for the game against the Saints. It could be that New Orleans’s second defense is worse than Jacksonville’s twos, or things clicked under the lights. Either way, after witnessing subpar practices it was a sigh of relief to see him do better in both the scrimmage and game. If Bortles were to go down, they may not be as in deep trouble as it looked before. Although, Kessler does lack Bortles’ wheels.
Tanner Lee is a sixth-round quarterback in his rookie camp. He’s not going to be playing anytime soon in a game, so the staff can take its time developing him. Something he is going to need a lot of.
Against the Saints, they didn’t look so hot, but it could be there wasn’t such a need to dominate. They’re playing at a lower speed because they already know they’re good. Plus, they were missing defensive end Calais Campbell, the disruptive force that helps across the entire defense.
Defensive tackle Taven Bryan was coming along nicely until he had an abdominal injury. He has his up and down days but is trending up. There are some battles going on at linebacker once you get past Telvin Smith. That guy to watch is rookie outside linebacker Leon Jacobs. He’s looked good in camp, which is needed because their group is dealing with injuries as Blair Brown and Brooks Ellis are in the concussion protocol.
OLB Dante Fowler, Jr returned to practice after being on PUP and looked good on Saturday and Sunday. Getting the defensive end back is a huge sigh of relief especially since Dawuane Smoot is dealing with an ankle injury.
Backup safeties Jalen Myrick and C.J. Reavis have been making progress in camp with interceptions and pass break-ups coming at a good clip.
Wide receiver D.J. Chark was my guy during Senior Bowl week in Mobile. He has shown up day after day in practice. He’s big, fast, can catch, and has a great personality. My prediction is he’ll be WR3. Newly signed WR Donte Moncrief has been streaky, so he has a tough road ahead.
Receivers Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, along with Marqise Lee are battling for the top three spots, but Chark brings a size factor they need at wideout. The first three have more chemistry with Bortles because of playing time but 6’4” Chark plays with a toughness you want on a contested throw. Guys like him can be the difference between an interception and redemption. They can save QB’s and that is more valuable than gold.
The offensive line looks improved. They looked good against the Saints in pass protection. The best news is the group is fairly young, so this line-up could grow into something special even with back-ups. Right now is the best players will feel physically, and whatever aches and pains they have, won’t get better.
After Leonard Fournette, there is a drop in running back talent, but it seems to be a small one. That’s good news for a run-first team.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been showing the promise of what could be. Sometimes players just need the right coaching staff (discipline) to bring out their best. Jenkins appears as if the iron fist of Jacksonville is that team. TEs Ben Koyack, James O’Shaughnessy, and Niles Paul are no joke.
There is a battle going on between WRs Jaydon Mickens and Rashad Greene. If the way to be the final WR spot is through ST, Mickens wins. Although it’s not allowed, and most likely Marrone had a fit, I saw Mickens catch a punt and body slam the gunner…with one arm. It was nasty and delicious if done in a game.
Against New Orleans, both returned kicks and looked equally good. Unless Greene can make some strides as a WR the rest of camp, his days may be numbered.
Logan Cooke is a good punter. Not sure people understand that a ball kicked at sea level goes about five yards less than one kicked a mile high accounting for air density and the humidity. In the games, he averaged 44. Kicker Josh Lambo is also looking solid.
The Jaguars will travel to Minneapolis for joint practice on Wednesday and Thursday, with their preseason game on Saturday, August 18.
Talk Jaguars with Julie on Twitter @ABroncoNole