Lawrence’s Progress, Roles for Newcomers: 5 Things To Watch at Jaguars’ OTAs
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in full swing of their offseason workout schedule, with organized team activities for Phase 3 of the offseason program commencing throughout the week.
Jacksonville is already one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL this season, so seeing Urban Meyer's squad continue to take shape even in voluntary offseason practices is certainly noteworthy.
With this in mind, what are the most interesting thing to watch this week at Jaguars' OTAs? We break it down below.
How has Trevor Lawrence progressed in the offense?
If you ask anyone who has ever been around Trevor Lawrence, they will tell you that his ability to process new information and learn systems is one of his true strengths. As Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott told Jaguar Report, Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne were "sponges" in college. This is a big reason he has been so successful at each stop, so the expectation has been that he will pick up the Jaguars' offensive scheme relatively quickly. As a result, these practices will give us a good look at the command he shows running the offense as the team takes the practice field together after he has had a few more practices under his belt to get comfortable.
"You’d have to ask [Passing Game Coordinator] Brian [Schottenheimer] that. I don’t know that, I don’t get too involved. He’s been working at it for, I’ll give those guys credit, Brian Schottenheimer and him have been, I want to say four to five days a week, couple hours a day," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said on May 15 when asked about how much of the offense Lawrence had absorbed thus far.
"I check with Coach Schottenheimer every day and say, ‘How is he?’ and he says, ‘Coach, he’s really, really smart and he works his tail off.’ There’s a good chunk of it, but I can’t give you a percentage though.”
That was over a week ago and while that isn't much time, it does mean Lawrence has gotten plenty of physical and mental reps since then. He shouldn't be expected to look like an NFL veteran playing in his sixth year in an offense, but it will be interesting to see the progress he has undoubtedly made as he continues to work toward a Week 1 start.
Examining the Jaguars' roles for newcomers such as Travis Etienne, Tyson Campbell, Tim Tebow, and Rayshawn Jenkins
The Jaguars have overturned a lot of the roster since Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke stepped into their roles at the top of the team's hierarchy. The bottom and middle of the roster have been churned, with the Jaguars keeping most of their young holdovers but bringing in their own veterans, depth pieces, and role players. As a result, the Jaguars have a number of new players stepping into roles that have yet to fully unfold in front of our eyes. Here are the roles were are most intrigued in seeing on Thursday.
- Travis Etienne: There was plenty of overreaction nationally to the Jaguars' plan to have No. 25 overall pick Travis Etienne take rookie minicamp reps at wide receiver. That doesn't mean the Jaguars' plans for Etienne aren't still a fascinating storyline to follow, even if their idea to use him as a dual-threat isn't exactly a foreign one at the NFL level. Still, we are interested to see exactly how the Jaguars are incorporating him into the offensive formations and balancing his presence with James Robinson. One would have to imagine he gives the Jaguars more room for two-back formations, while he could also take handoffs after motioning from the slot.
- Tim Tebow: Let's be honest. No matter what you think of Tim Tebow's chances to make the Jaguars' 53-man roster, his presence is still one of the top storylines for the team's entire offseason. He will have about a week of official practice time as an NFL tight end under his belt by the time the Jaguars finish practice this week, so seeing where he is at in his development and how the Jaguars have implemented him into the tight end room are things to watch.
- Tyson Campbell: I am fully expecting for Tyson Campbell to be a big factor on special teams, but it is what he will do in the Jaguars' defensive secondary that made him the No. 33 overall pick and the Jaguars' only defensive investment within their first four selections. Urban Meyer has talked up Campbell's potential as a nickel defender, but there are also a ton of reasons to think he could thrive on the outside. Where the Jaguars deploy him as a rookie will be one of the more interesting aspects of the defense to watch unfold.
- Rayshawn Jenkins: One of the most intriguing free agents the Jaguars have signed is safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who wore multiple hats in the Los Angeles Chargers' defense in recent seasons. Jenkins has the profile of a player who can line up all over Joe Cullen's defensive scheme, so seeing exactly where he spends his time lining up will be refreshing.
Who is playing in the slot?
The Jaguars are not short of receiving talent. While they may not have any true established "No. 1", they have three talented players who have been productive starters in DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Marvin Jones. Marvin Jones is the team's largest free agent addition on offense and steps into the room following the departures of Keelan Cole (signed with the New York Jets) and Chris Conley (signed with the Houston Texans). Add in Etienne's presence, and the Jaguars have a new-look skill unit for the passing game.
The Jaguars' have upgraded their weaponry on offense, but the question is how the Jaguars will deploy those weapons. Cole was the Jaguars' primary slot receiver last year, with Shenault spending 168 snaps inside and Chark playing just 131 in the slot, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Jones, meanwhile, spent about 25% of his snaps in the slot in Darrell Bevell's offense last season. These are three talented and high-ceiling receivers, but none was exclusively a slot in 2020. The best bet is likely to see Shenault inside more often than not, but it will be one of the biggest questions facing the offense until we see them on the field in Week 1.
Offensive and defensive schemes continuing to develop together
This stage of the offseason is a key point in the NFL calendar because it is when teams who are implementing new schemes can truly start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Teams are on the field instead of in meetings, so they will be able to communicate with each other and teach visually and actually see development take place.
On offense, the Jaguars will be meshing offensive philosophies from Meyer, Bevell, and Schottenheimer. The offense will continue to take shape until Week 1 -- and much further beyond that -- but this is the Jaguars' chance to officially put a new stamp on their offensive unit. As for the defense, Joe Cullen will not only be implementing a new scheme, but he will be having plenty of new faces to work with when it comes to players he inherited and defenders the Jaguars have added in the last few months.
Backup quarterback logjam
The Jaguars have four quarterbacks on their roster currently in Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Gardner Minshew, and Jake Luton. Lawrence's place at the top of the depth chart is obvious, but the Jaguars still have to figure out what exactly the plan is behind him. The Jaguars have quite a few months until they have to actually make that decision of course, but the work toward determining their No. 2 quarterback has already begun.
Considering Meyer wanted the Jaguars to explore signing veteran quarterback Alex Smith before he retired, it is clear the Jaguars haven't been unwilling to bring competition to the quarterback room. They ended up signing Beathard to be their fourth offseason quarterback, giving the flexibility in the event Minshew was ever traded. So far Minshew hasn't been moved and the remaining spots on other NFL depth charts are dwindling quickly. This is a question the Jaguars will face for months, so seeing how the two passers are progressing in Bevell and Meyer's offense thus far will tell us a lot.