Fifth-year player Mychal Rivera was the lone veteran addition to the team's tight end group this offseason.
The former sixth-round pick of the Oakland Raiders was brought in with little fanfare or even a press conference, but he is a player to watch very closely this summer.
The team traded veteran Julius Thomas to the Miami Dolphins for a seventh-round pick, just two years after handing him a massive multi-year deal.
Rivera may be his heir as the "F" or move tight end on offense.
The veteran is known for his receiving ability, making him an ideal fit opposite someone like Marcedes Lewis or Ben Koyack, who serve as the inline or "Y" tight end in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight end) sets.
Rivera is really enjoying working with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
"I feel like I'm definitely progressing [in the offense] and Coach Hackett has a very good style of installing," Rivera said. "The way he installs it, very good teaching style in meetings and it helps a lot."
Rivera compares the offense to Greg Olson's style of play-calling. Olson served as the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville for a year and a half before being replaced by Hackett in the middle of last season.
Prior to working for the Jaguars, Olson was Rivera's offensive coordinator in Oakland from 2013-2014. Rivera had his most successful NFL seasons under Olson's guidance.
Once Jack Del Rio took over as Raiders head coach, Rivera saw his production slip rapidly.
In his two seasons with Olson, Rivera produced 96 receptions for 941 yards and eight touchdowns. During his two seasons under Del Rio's offensive coordinators, Rivera caught just 50 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns.
"In my opinion - I'm still in the league - so I feel like I'm still a successful person, I'm still a successful football player," Rivera said. "As far as stat-wise in Oakland, that's another story. I can't throw myself the ball, but as a team we did really good there and I'm looking forward to the next opportunities and that's here."
Rivera is working to improve his game this offseason; blocking has been his focus.
"That's one thing I've started to improve here," Rivera said. "[Tight ends coach Ron Middleton] has really helped me out with the techniques, steps and also watching Marcedes [Lewis]. He's a really good blocker, he stays low - with a 6-foot-6 frame - he still stays really low. To see him do that has really motivated me and I've talked to him about getting the steps right."
Rivera made some uniform news on Thursday. The tight end was sporting a new number.
He had initially worn No. 80. When wide receiver Bryan Walters was released earlier this month, he switched to No. 81.
Rivera has a long-time connection to the number.
"It means a lot to me, I've had that number since high school," Rivera said. "I was able to wear it at the University of Tennessee and was able to wear it for four years in Oakland, so I love that number and I'm glad I got it back."
Sterling makes his OTAs debut
It was a good day to be a Jaguars tight end.
Third-year tight end Neal Sterling took part in organized team activities for the first time. Marcedes Lewis, who had missed a few workouts, was also on the field. The two tenured players practiced with Rivera, Ben Koyack, Alex Ellis and Caleb Bluiett.
Cornerback Aaron Colvin, running backs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church and wide receiver Dede Westbrook all worked on the sidelines.
Colvin, Yeldon, Gipson and Church have been sidelined for every workout during this phase of the program.
Rookie running back Tim Cook and wide receiver Kenneth Walker continued to miss OTAs due to the NFL graduation rule.
Veteran offensive tackle Branden Albert continued to skip out on the voluntary workouts.
More News and Notes
- Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell paid some serious compliments to a trio of young Jaguars defensive linemen after workouts.
On Dante Fowler: “I tell you, he’s the best athlete on the field. That guy’s just special. His technique might not be perfect but just the things he can do is amazing. He’s getting his technique better every day. This team is stacked with talent – I’ll tell you that – especially in D-line. We have a lot of guys who are just flashing, making plays, just being able to turn the corner. I’m excited to see how camp’s going to be when we put pads on.”
On Dawuane Smoot: “A lot of potential. We’re just in shorts, so, you can never get too excited but he’s flashed a little bit. I told him, ‘Don’t disappear on me when the pads come on. I need you keep this same stuff up when the pads come on.’ But he has a lot of potential.”
On Yannick Ngakoue: “He’s hungry. He’s always trying to get better, working on little, small things every day. Whether it’s hands, hand placement, his first step, the way he comes off moves. He’s working every day on something different and you see his progression. He’s getting better every day, too. He had a great year last year but I think he’s getting ready to become one of those premier pass rushers.”
- Campbell is taking on a leadership role with the Jaguars. He knows what a winning team needs to be successful and he is trying to share that knowledge with his young teammates.
"It comes down to taking care of the small things," Campbell said.
"It comes down to having an attitude toward the small things so that you do them well and then once you take care of the small things then the big things become easy. They become small things. So as far as just the technique. Technique right now is the best thing you can get better at. If you’re technique is strong and you’re playing with energy and you’re talented, you’re going to make plays. You’re going to win games."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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