JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- The hottest practice of organized team activities (thus far) marked the return of the Jaguars' brightest star on Tuesday.
The sunny day featured the first practice of team drills for wide receiver Allen Robinson. The team's top receiver joined his unit, as the entire squad worked to "hone in on situational football."
Robinson was thrilled to join his comrades after spending the first three practices doing limited individual work.
"It's always rough when you're not out there," Robinson said. "It's always more fun being out there."
Head coach Gus Bradley said the team is bringing Robinson and Allen Hurns along slowly. The Jaguars coaching staff wants to make sure they are doing right by the players and the team as they prepare for the regular season.
“I think [Robinson and Hurns] took like two reps a period so we will just see how they handle today and then go on from there," Bradley said. "But we would like to keep them more incorporated in some plays.”
Robinson returned on a day that showed a lot of promise for the defense. He acknowledged that the presence of free safety Tashaun Gipson has made a huge difference in the defensive backfield.
"He's a ballhawk," Robinson said. "Just having him out there with [Johnathan Cyprien] leading those guy, having [Davon] House, [Aaron Colvin] and Prince [Amukamara], those guys can move around out there."
The battles between the wide receivers and defensive backs will be a "must see" come training camp.
Thomas dishes on relationship, chemistry with Bortles
Tight end Julius Thomas is now in his second season with the Jaguars. After an up-and-down first year, marred by injuries and adjustments, Thomas has come to OTAs with a clean bill of health and added knowledge of the playbook.
The veteran quickly reunited with quarterback Blake Bortles after last season to get a jump on Year 2 of their partnership. Thomas acknowledged the move to study was a must.
“It starts immediately," Thomas said, regarding his preparation with Bortles. "It’s a constant, never-ending process. Defenses are changing every day. Offenses are changing constantly. We’re just trying to make sure we stay ahead of some of the things that come up and then really drill some of the things that we’re doing. We think we have a good chance of executing at a high level.”
With a year of experience under his belt in Greg Olson's offense, Thomas says he feels comfortable and it has shown in his chemistry with Bortles during practice.
“The timing has definitely improved," Thomas said. "I think that me and Blake have a much better relationship, a much better understanding of each other and most importantly getting more reps. I think that most good quarterback-receiving position duos have played together for awhile so it’s kind of important.”
Both Thomas and Bortles have complimented each other on and off the field during the first days of practice. The pair will now have to carry that momentum over to training camp and the regular season.
Marshall growing as a cornerback
Changing positions in any sport at any level is typically a tough endeavor. Switching spots from college to the NFL can been even more daunting, especially when you move to another side of the ball.
However, cornerback Nick Marshall has been able to quickly overcome those obstacles. Marshall played just over 130 snaps on defense last season and most of that came at the end of his rookie year, as he progressed in the system.
Marshall has fostered what he learned last season, combining it with his natural ability and competitiveness to get off to a solid start during OTAs.
"He’s good," Bradley said. "[Marshall is] steady when you watch him and I think this is really a challenging OTAs for him because we’re really looking for him to make big strides. He just has that mindset that we loved about him when he came in as a corner, that’s what you need. He had a good day today.”
Marshall's improvement has been noticed by his teammates. His production during practice has not come as a surprise to them.
"Now coming into his second year, he's maturing a little bit, he's starting to get the details of the position," fellow defensive back Peyton Thompson said on Tuesday. "He's starting to mature into something we're all excited to see."
Marshall will be competing with several new faces for playing time and a roster spot during training camp. So far, he has put his right foot forward, outshining the majority of his competition.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.