The Jaguars want to avoid setbacks in momentum this season.
The coaching staff forced the offense and defense to play faster during organized team activities. The units were pushed to line up quickly to prevent potential hurdles.
“I think what we’ve done is we try to – again, OTAs are not meant for a high level of intensity, but we want a high level of tempo," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said on Friday.
The offense needs to process plays quickly, allowing quarterback Blake Bortles to switch things up if he sees a defensive front he is uncomfortable with. The defense has to be able to read and react to certain matchups and adjust if the unit is at a disadvantage.
Failure to follow through fast enough can swing the momentum of a strong drive, stalling progress during a comeback effort or derailing an attempt to create more separation for a stronger lead.
"They may put you in check, hey check, and you have the ability to make a move, but we’re just trying to give ourselves a chance to make a move if we’re on offense and we’re giving us a chance to do it late enough to where they can’t counter it," Marrone said.
The strategy for curbing potential pitfalls was simple during OTAs.
"For me, when we started out, we had a 30-second clock and then we brought it down to 25 [seconds] and then we brought it down to 20," Marrone said. "Then we went to 16 and then 14 with the thought process of speeding up our thought process as we address the football, or speeding up our process on defense with our disguises of what we want to get done."
Speeding up the tempo protects the Jaguars on offense and defense. Instead of playing at the same speed as the opponent, the Jaguars can dictate the rhythm.
"It’s basically a progression of tempo of trying to get up, trying to get set, so, this way, you get yourself immune to doing those type of things and then what happens is during the course of a game, the other team is not going to put you in check-mate, where you can’t get out of it," Marrone said.
Jaguars are in a good place with their specialists
Marrone hasn't been quick to compliment many aspects of his team, choosing to wait for padded practices before handing out superlatives.
However, he has publicly endorsed one aspect of his roster: the specialists.
Kicker Jason Myers, punter Brad Nortman and long snapper Carson Tinker have avoided competition this offseason. Marrone's comments at the end of OTAs seem to offer hints as to why the team has failed to test the trio.
"Outside of the day where it rained a couple of days ago, I think they’ve really done a very nice job," Marrone said. "Brad has done an outstanding job kicking at times where it’s been very impressive. Jason has done an excellent job. I think he’s improved his technique. I think his stroke is shorter. It’s more compact. He has good power. Tinker has been consistent throughout. I think from that standpoint, I can feel comfortable saying that those guys have gotten better in an OTA period.”
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has seemingly improved his specialists. He has also cultivated a strong group of special teams aces.
"We feel that we have people that have the ability to be core players for us," Marrone said. "From that standpoint, I feel very good about it. I feel we have people that potentially can be very good returners, which I think is important for what we’re doing."
The Jaguars haven't been able to keep a consistent presence at kick returner over the last few seasons. Wide receiver Marqise Lee handled kick return duties for a large portion of last season, but he is likely to receive a bigger role on offense this year.
Freeing up Lee with another potential returner or two could help the overall production for both the offense and special teams. Finding a reliable punt returner, who can secure the football and pick up yardage, would also be advantageous.
More From OTAs
- Marrone on the offensive tackles: “I think from an assignment standpoint, which you can really evaluate during this time, I think they’ve done a nice job. I think from a movement standpoint, they’ve done a nice job. Have they progressed to play football in full equipment? I can’t answer that. They’ve gotten better in the things they should be get better during OTAs. Are they good enough for us to go out there to play and win with? I can’t answer that question until we put the pads on.”
- Marrone on new tight end Mychal Rivera: “When he was in Oakland, not last year but the year before, I thought he had a lot of catches. I thought he played well. He’s a player that he makes the plays he should make and does a nice job. He’s durable. My thing is, and I’ve told you guys this from the beginning, I’m big on coachability and availability. I think if you have those two things, you have a chance to win. You have a chance. If you don’t have those things, I think you’re hurting yourself in this league to win. He’s been a guy that’s been available. I think there are situations on every team: he’s on a team, they draft someone high, he doesn’t get as much playing time, and next thing you know he has an opportunity here and we’ll see what he makes of it.”
- Marrone on third-string quarterback Brandon Allen: “Where we are right now, we’re pushing him to get better. There are some things that he needs to improve on. It’s a very difficult time to tell because the quarterbacks don’t have to worry about getting hit. I think that’s a big thing this time of year. From the same standpoint I think it’s a very important year for him because we have to see something. You want to see something to say maybe this guy has a chance. Obviously we drafted him. We thought he could have a chance, but now you have to show something too. It’s a two-way street. We draft thinking that you can do something for us, but then when you get here you have to show us something to say, ‘Hey, yes I can.’ I think he is in that stage. He is no different than a lot of those players that we draft.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.