JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone doesn't consider organized team activities (OTAs) to be practices.
The workouts are about preparing the roster for the eventual practices during training camp.
Marrone has downplayed the noteworthiness of the 10-pack of sessions, arguing that non-padded play leaves little to be evaluated.
Sure, players aren't smacking into each other. Yes, the workouts' level of contact is similar to your middle school physical education class.
However, the lack of physicality has allowed the team to focus on the fundamentals, increasing mental reps and honing timing among each unit.
Technique has been the key to OTAs for the Jaguars.
“From a technique and fundamental standpoint, you need to be perfect right up until contact and up until that point, being in the perfect position," linebacker Paul Posluszny said.
"You can still see and teach all of that right up until the point that we hit each other. Being in the right position, having correct hand placement, alignments and assignments is huge right now because we want to be able to be so locked in with that stuff at this point, so when training camp does come, it’s no longer thinking about where we line up, what’s our responsibility, all of that stuff is rock solid so that we can focus on the physical aspect of it.”
OTAs are a stepping stone in building a productive system. The workouts are more about the teaching side of coaching, allowing the staff to implement the right away to practice and perform on the field.
“It just makes you more aware of your technique," defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said.
"You have to use your hands better. I think it’s a pretty good thing not having pads right now because when you’re getting tired and stuff like that, you definitely just have to work your technique. You can’t just run into somebody and let the play develop and be over with. I definitely feel like with no shoulder pads and no contact, it makes you rely more on your technique and just being more precise.”
For the groups that rely heavily on cohesion - such as the offensive line and secondary - OTAs allow units to build chemistry. Players can learn more about their responsibilities and the goals of each position around them.
"From chemistry standpoint, because it's not much of physical things, but we've got to be on the same page, everybody has got to know where we're going and I think that's a big deal when it comes to OTAs," guard A.J. Cann said.
"Everybody's mind has to be on the same page and that way when camp ends and the preseason rolls around, we can be able to bring that mindset and chemistry over to the physical game."
The mental reps are important to the overall product on the field. Still, the Jaguars are looking forward to the contact aspect of training camp.
“To truly execute your blocks, there has to be some contact," guard Brandon Linder said. "Right now, you’re honing in on your technique.”
When it comes to contact, Marrone is probably the most eager member of the organization. The head coach consistently begins press conferences by acknowledging the lack of pads and contact during workouts.
Despite his desire for padded practices, Marrone hasn't lost sight of how his team is taking to the mental side of the game early on his tenure.
"It is very difficult because we are not playing with pads," Marrone said.
"What I do like what we are doing is we are progressing naturally just like every team. So now we have a little more red zone in. We had tight red zone in. We had two minute install. We are doing what everyone is pretty much doing. Putting those things in and implementing those situations or situational offense. Doing the same thing on the defensive side. Doing things from that nature. For me, as long as we are progressing – you are just kind of keeping track of errors."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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