Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars/Lions: Good and Bad

It’s pretty easy to focus on the good things in preseason. For the Jaguars, the good has been obvious and the not-so-good has been a little hidden. Quarterback Blake Bortles has be a big part of the good, again against the Lions producing points with the first team offense.

“I think it was a good outing for the offense,” Bortles said. “But definitely some things to look back at and learn from.”

Bortles completed 20 of 29 passes for 245 yards and a TD. He hit Rashad Greene for six points when he caught former Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis peeking into the backfield. Perhaps most important is that Bortles and the first team offense has scored eight times in 11 possessions during the preseason.

“I think everything is just slowing down,” Bortles said. “Getting more reps; feeling more comfortable. I think the new additions we’ve had through free agency and the draft have been huge. I think we’ve done some good stuff.”

For his first night as an NFL player, T.J. Yeldon was productive running and catching the ball. While he was a star at Alabama, Yeldon is the same player but is finding out the competition is bigger and faster. He scored in the second quarter on a reviewed carry up the middle and took a big hit at the line of scrimmage. Nonetheless, he looked like the guy the Jaguars are hoping he’ll be after spending a second round draft pick on him in April.

“It felt pretty good finally getting a chance to play after a couple of months having not been able to play since college,” Yeldon said after the game. It felt good. I got a little adjusted to the game speed. I have stuff to improve on, so I’m going to watch film and see what I can do to improve.”

“I thought that first offensive drive showcased some things,” Head Coach Gus Bradley said in his post-game press conference. “There was some adversity, but we fought back and different guys made plays. Marcedes, Hurns, Blake. It was very good by the offense.”

While they’re not playing with who they expect to be in the lineup through the season, the defense is still giving up what they call “explosive” plays too often. It wasn’t a good night for Aaron Colvin as he got beat deep on a Matt Stafford to Golden Tate 62-yard TD pass and then got caught inside instead of sealing the edge on third and short that lead to a 43 yard run.

“I think there was enough good things to build on defensively but we’ve just got to eliminate those. The defense knows that, they players feel it and we can get those things corrected, is my hope,” is how Gus talked about it after the game.

Bradley wants his team to play with one single-high safety, eight in the box and single coverage on the outside, stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. But if they get beat at the point of attack, or they don’t harass the quarterback, big plays are going to happen.

That’s what happened against the Lions and we’ve seen too often in the preseason. Some of that is incorporating Jared Odrick and Dan Skuta into the scheme or how Sen’Derrick Marks might fill the gap once he’s ready to play.

Next week’s final preseason game against the Washington Redskins will be a battle for roster spots with the starters resting and preparing for the opener against Carolina on September 13. That game will be live on Channel 4 at 7:30 with the pregame show at 7 pm.

Rosters must be cut to 75 players on Tuesday, September 1st, with the final cut to 53 coming Friday, September 4th.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars/Detroit Preview: Starters, Roster Spots

Of all the preseason games, the third one is the most critical for most teams. It’s the game where the starters play the most and given a chance, players who want to make the team throughout the rest of the roster have to show something in this game.

“From the players I think the first team to go out there and play at least a half and to go out there and put it together and be able to come out of the locker room and play another portion of the game is important,” Head Coach Gus Bradley said leading up to Friday’s contest with Detroit. For the Jaguars, it’ll be an amount of time they’re playing and not necessarily a set number of plays.

That’s why Bradley thought it was important to name a starter at Center before this game to give the winner of that competition some time to work with the other four guys along the line. Stefan Wisniewski has 4 years behind him in the league so getting him into a rhythm with his new teammates is a high priority. And even though he’s out of the starting lineup, Bradley says Luke Bowanko is athletic enough to play pretty much anywhere on the line, even left tackle. “You think right, but he’s athletic enough to play left so he’s been working there as well. He’s taking extra reps before practice, working hard.”

Eleven different players won’t see any action against the Lions, including Toby Gerhart who’s out with an abdominal strain. “He’ll be ready to go for the regular season, ” Bradley said. “We’re just glad it’s not a sports hernia or anything more serious that would keep him out.” Gerhart seems to have solidified his position on the roster by being an effective short-yardage back for third and 4th down situations. A lingering foot problem last season kept him in check.

The team did put Auerllous Benn on injured reserve with a broken collarbone. It’s the third time Benn has been on IR in his career; the other two seasons it was knee injuries. “I told the coaches I know how to deal with this. I’ll be back.”

In game one against the Steelers, the Jaguars had numerous two tight end sets ready and kept with them even though Julius Thomas left the game early. In week two, they went to an offensive plan with three wide outs, preferring to keep the two tight end sets under wraps for the regular season. That might have changed Blake Bortles stats but it didn’t change his effectiveness. Look for Bortles to take charge in this game, knowing he’ll be in the game for a while with the other first teamers. His comfort level with this offense is obvious, coming to the line of scrimmage with an idea of who’s going to be open and showing a willingness to check down when his first two reads are covered. “This year, no matter the situation, we have a play for that,” Bortles said summing up his third offense in three years. “I’m concentrating on owning this offense and making it work.”

Bortles, like any quarterback, has plays he likes better than others, but overall, the offense new Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen have brought to the Jaguars has put the quarterback in the best position to succeed.

“We like his toughness, his smarts, his arm, his willingness to get better, all of it,” Bradley said about Bortles.

On defense, look for the Jaguars to concentrate on keeping the big “explosive” plays to a minimum. With Calvin Johnson providing the best test to the defensive backfield, it’ll be a good measure of where they’re at on the learning curve of playing together.

With the first cut from 90 to 75 players looking on Tuesday of next week, the end of the third and all of the fourth quarter will be very competitive as guys are trying to make the team. Special teams is where players can lock up one of the 53 spots and the more they can do, the more valuable they are. Players like Thurston Armbrister and Tandon Doss have made enough of an impact as position players to add to their special team prowess as well.

The final cut to 53 will come on September 4th the day after the final preseason game against Washington. That game can be seen live on Channel 4 starting at 7:30. This week’s pregame show is also at 7:30 Friday night.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Wrap “Public” Training Camp

It didn’t take long for Gus Bradley to start lauding his team after practice today. He was barely in front of the microphone when he said, “I really like what’s going on with this team.” Look over there, Linder is working after practice, Parnell is working after practice. Cyp is working on open field tackling,” he said as he pointed to players who were getting some extra work in after today’s “helmets only” session.

“What I like about it is it’s starting to feel more real,” Bradley continued. “It’s not just talking about it or us telling guys to do it. They’re doing it on their own, and that’s good.”

Although they weren’t in pads today, the tempo was still up for practice, with some red zone work and some situations in the middle of the field. The team did work against some Pittsburgh formations preparing for Friday night but only one period.

It would be hard to overstate how much work Doug Marrone is doing with the offensive line when it comes to technique. Marrone is stressing footwork and hand position as well as hand speed and small head movements. “A good technical coach can really make a big difference,” one former Jaguar said after practice. “He can make the whole group better right away.”

T.J. Yeldon was again in a red jersey but Bradley said it was “just precautionary.” Yeldon said in the locker room that he’s ready to go on Friday and has gotten a lot of help and advice from his teammates. “It’s faster but the guys have really helped. They just say do what you’re doing and it’ll be fine.”

Jared Odrick worked on the side, still dealing with knee soreness. He’s consistently doing the drill where he puts over 200 lbs. on a low sled, puts a strap around his back and hooks it to the sled and walks backwards. That’s hard work and it shows.

Dwayne Gratz was back at practice today on a limited basis. Paul Poszluzny, Clay Harbor, Andre Branch and Tyson Alualu were all given the day off.

Tony Washington and Allen Robinson both made great catches in the red zone “install” toward the end of practice. Denard Robinson also, listed as the co-starter at tailback, got some serious work done near the goal line.

Former Jaguars Kyle Brady and Mark Brunell were at practice today. Brunell will be doing the color commentary on Channel 4 for the preseason games starting Friday against the Steelers at 7:30.

Today was the final day of camp open to the public but the Jaguars will be back on the field tomorrow morning at 11:20 for their final walk through before the game Friday night. Pregame starts on News4Jax at 7 o’clock.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Prepping For Pittsburgh At Training Camp

In the second week of the Jaguars training camp, the team has engaged in some of the “traditional” football drills more than we’ve seen in the past. One-on-one offensive lineman vs. defensive lineman skirmishes, the tip drill for linebackers and defensive backs, and kickoff and punt returns that give the receiver a “look” at the blocking scheme. Some of this is the time of year, but some is head coach Gus Bradley ramping up expectations.

“We need to be able to run the ball when the other team knows we’re going to run it,” Bradley said this week. So the emphasis on blocking technique is pretty strong. Adding Doug Marrone to the staff as the offensive line coach was a step Bradley took in the offseason trying to get that group in sync. Marrone has been meticulous with footwork and hand position instruction as well as the toughness factor and it’s paying dividends.

“That group is developing a closeness that they need,” Bradley said of his offensive linemen. On the unofficial depth chart, Luke Joeckel and Zane Beadles are listed on the left side, Brandon Linder and Eddie Parnell on the right. Both Luke Bowanko and Stefan Wisniewski are listed as first team centers. Bowanko worked with the first team today.

Jared Odrick, Allen Robinson, Marcedes Lewis, Roy Miller and WR Neal Sterling didn’t participate in drills today but were on the field. Odrick hasn’t practiced since last Wednesday and the Jaguars say its “knee soreness” that’s keeping him out. The others could be just a day off.

As the first preseason game against Pittsburgh gets closer, the second and third team players are getting more reps in practice. They’ll see a lot of action on Friday night, giving the coaches a chance to see whether they can be part of the final 53-man roster. That’s probably why Jeff Tuel and Stephen Morris were getting a lot of reps at QB today in practice. Blake Bortles and Chad Henne will play some on Friday but Tuel and Morris are vying for the 3rd QB job, (if the Jaguars even keep three quarterbacks) so they’ll both see action on Friday night.

Friday’s night’s game at the stadium can be seen live on News4Jax, Channel 4 beginning at 7:30. We’ll have a full pregame show at 7 and live coverage from the stadium beginning at 5pm on News4Jax. We’ll update today’s practice report with Gus Bradley’s comments this afternoon here on News4Jax.com as well as on News4Jax at 6pm.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Full Pad Practice, Lee hurt?

Plenty hot for the 5th Jaguars practice of training camp, the first one in full pads. Working out on the far field, fans in attendance didn’t have much of a view of what was going on with the offense and defense.

The team did do some one-on-one offensive line vs. defensive line drills. A straight-ahead, bull rush from the defensive line was effectively held off by most of the offensive linemen, especially rookie AJ Cann. He’s in a position battle with Zane Beadles at left guard as the Jaguars coaches try to assess whether Beadles was below expectations last year because of the guys around him (Joeckel/Bowanko) l or if he took a step back from his days in Denver.

Aurelious Benn was working with the first team offense at wide receiver. At 6’2″ and 220 lbs, he’s the kind of physical receiver the Jaguars would like to have compliment the rest of the pass catchers.

Marqise Lee took a mis-step running the long crossing routes about midway through practice and stepped out of the drill. He walked over to the sideline and eventually wandered into the cool zone. He didn’t grab anything but it appeared he tweaked either his knee, ankle or hamstring. He’s just working his was back from knee problems in the off-season so Gus Bradley will update his status at the end of practice.

Jonathan Cyprien, Davon House, Aaron Colvin, Sergio Brown and Demetrius McCray were working with the first team defensive backfield in the nickel package. Brown and McCray are easy to spot because of their size. Colvin is quick to react to the break coming off his injury last year. House will start at one corner.

Bryan Walters, a free-agent receiver brought in from Seattle this year made a couple of nice catches during the 2 minute drill. Walters is listed at 6′ and 190 lbs but looks a little smaller than that. Good hands and quick feet though, Welker-esque.

While the team was working the second team 11-on-11 drill, Blake Bortles went to a separate field to throw routes to Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis, exclusively. Haven’t seen that before.

We’ll update the practice report this afternoon after hearing from Bradley, Bortles and the rest of the players in the locker room.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Cancel “Road” Practice: Admit they need the work

Bad weather forced the Jaguars to cancel tonight’s planned “road” practice at Mandarin High School. With the parking lots filling starting at 3pm and the gates about to open at 5, it continued to rain and some of the most dramatic lightning strikes forced everybody to seek shelter. Shortly thereafter, on-site Jaguars officials inspected the field and called practice off.

Lots of fans might have been disappointed but it was the right call at the right time. No injuries on a field that’s always wet regardless of the weather. Fan safety was also part of the equation.

Right around 7pm the Jaguars players took the field on their “home” turf right next to the Stadium. They needed to practice.

“We have to work on ourselves,” Luke Joeckel said earlier in the weekend when asked about taking practice on the road. “It doesn’t matter where we practice, we need to continue to work and get better.” Joeckel is noticeably bigger and stronger and more confident when he takes the field. “He’s a really competitive person,” Gus Bradley said about the team’s 1st round pick three years ago. “His progress is no surprise to the coaching staff.”

“It’s fun to get in front of the fans but we need the work,” Toby Gerhart also said this weekend.

After about 40 minutes of very pleasant conditions, temperatures in the 70’s, the skies opened up downtown and Bradley sent everybody for cover. More lightning and rain hovered over downtown so Bradley called it a day.

Marqise Lee didn’t practice but according to Gus, just precautionary. “That’s on me. His GPS numbers the last two days were really high, so we wanted him to back off for the day.”

The 10-game suspension of Ace Sanders was “confidential” according to Bradley so when he cut him, Gus said he made the decision, “more with my head than my heart.”

Gus Bradley has said that he wants to put his players under some stress by taking them on the road for practice, taking them out of their comfort zone. “We need to be able to play anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Bradley said before taking the team to Bartram Trail High School last year. He later credited the team’s ability to adapt in different situations to how they reacted when the regular season started. After tonight’s problems, Bradley was still upbeat. “We might have to do this in a game sometime so we learned a bit about a routine. You come in the locker room, what do you do? Now we have an idea.”

Tomorrow is their first off day of training camp, followed by the fully padded practice on Wednesday at 9:55 AM. Because they had a walk through earlier in the day, the Jaguars couldn’t change the schedule. They had to stick to a players day off.” The team will also practice at 9:55 on Thursday and Friday, leading up to the scrimmage in the stadium at 6:15 Saturday evening. They’re off this coming Sunday. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week are the last practices open to the public. You must register at Jaguars.com.

“You never come back (from a break) to the same place you were but I’m really pleased with our progress. We have a lot of work to do in all three phases,” Bradley said when asked to assess the first four days of camp. “It’s good that the things we worked on in OTA’s and mini-camp stuck with them to training camp. Especially on the offensive side.”

Whether or not they’ll have another open “road” practice is still up in the air but doubtful.