Jaguars Take 5: Rookie class doing a 'nice job,' Fowler getting 'better and better'

Doug Marrone on the Jaguars' OTAs 7

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone addressed the media on Monday to discuss several topics after completing the first session of the third week of organized team activities (OTAs).

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Here are five quotes that stood out from the press conference:

1. Marrone believes the rookie class is doing a "nice job" of adjusting to the Jaguars' program.

“I think the young guys have done a nice job. I think in this day and age of technology, with the younger generation – I can’t believe I just said that, but I guess it shows my age -- the things that we have: we have surfaces, we have cut-ups, we have playbooks, we have those things on those Surfaces and iPads for them to learn from. I think this class has really done a nice job. I think they have taken advantage of those situations. I think they have also done a nice job in the weight room talking to [Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tom Myslinski] from a strength and conditioning standpoint. I am positive about that, but again, you hope that that carries over into an indication of results on the field. We won’t know until we get the pads on.”

Our Take: The Jaguars have 25 rookies on their roster, with 23 currently taking part in the offseason program. Running back Tim Cook and wide receiver Kenneth Walker (more on them later) are currently waiting out the league's graduation rule process and should be back in time for training camp or sooner.

Marrone has praised the likes of Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson, and Dawuane Smoot thus far. The rest of the rookies have seemingly stayed healthy and have been in near-perfect attendance for most of organized team activities (OTAs).

The attendance is important, as this is the learning stage for the young guys. They are essentially learning how to practice for training camp and the season. The more they can take in (when it doesn't count), the better.

Fournette and Robinson, in particular, will have large roles early on. They have received rave reviews from teammates thus far. Dede Westbrook, who sat out of workouts all of last week, was also receiving heavy praise before he was sidelined. 

Marrone will use a lot of these rookies on special teams, so it's important that they stick out there as well.

2. Marrone doesn't really know his undrafted rookies who are being held out of workouts, but he seems to like how they are budgeting their time.

“We’ll [keep in] contact with them, obviously, like I said [with the] technology I mentioned before. I was talking to players about making sure that we’re putting in the extra work, we’re watching what we’re doing. I just took a peek at who’s watching what and who’s doing what and I was looking and I was like, ‘Walker, Walker, who the heck is Walker?’ And then I was like, ‘Oh yeah he’s out in California,’ and I’m looking and I’m saying, ‘Holy cow, he’s watched everything.’ I probably don’t know him that well -- I told this to the team -- but I don’t know him that well, I might not be able to pick him out of a lineup right now, but whoever he is, I like him and he’s going to have a chance to make this team because he’s doing the things that he should do to be a pro. I think that’s the message I’m trying to get across to all our players doing everything the right way.”

Our Take: Who is Walker?

Kenneth Walker is a former UCLA wide receiver who signed with the Jaguars after the draft. He and fellow undrafted free agent, Tim Cook, are learning from afar. As previously mentioned, they are dealing with the NFL's graduation rule and are waiting to be cleared for workouts.

Players are not allowed to attend practice until their university's final exams for graduation are completed. Cook and Walker play for schools that use the quarters system as oppose to semesters. It is a common issue for Pac-12 alumni.

Middle linebacker Myles Jack went through the process last offseason before returning for mandatory minicamp. Perhaps, Walker and Cook will rejoin their teammates later this month.

The two players are behind when it comes to field work, but Walker is seemingly making the most of his study technology. In doing so, he has won some serious "like" points with Marrone. 

He will need all the help he can get with a wide receiver group that already features Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Rashad Greene, Arrelious Benn, Keelan Cole, Amba Etta-Tawo, Jamal Robinson, Larry Pinkard and Shane Wynn.

Cook is also facing an uphill battle with the likes of Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant and I'Tavius Mathers already strutting their stuff in workouts.

 

3. Marrone says defensive end Dante Fowler is improving, but he needs to mind his conditioning during the break between minicamp and training camp.

“I mean he was doing well. Today was the first time he missed, which he communicated, we spoke to him about that. I’ve seen him getting better and better. I think it’s the same thing, the big thing for him is going to be, he’s done a very good job while he’s been here in gaining strength, flashing, and doing a good job nutritionally. I think he’s going to be in that same boat like I talked about with Marqise before, it’s really going to be a big transition for how we finish up this week and next week and more importantly the second offseason and how he reports. If he reports with his left knee and his weight and all that stuff is in the right spot, and then all we have to worry about is football, I think he will have a great chance to contribute. But we’ve got to say ‘Hold on a second here, we’ve got to add more weight, we’ve got to make sure you’re in better shape,” and I’m saying this about everyone, not just Dante. If you have to do that with any of the players, well then, you’re not really getting better and you’re not going to put yourself in a position to help your team win; what you’re doing is you’re taking up valuable time to get yourself in a position just to step on the field. That’s what we can’t have as a team and that’s going to be a big message for our team after the mandatory minicamp.”

Our Take: Dante Fowler is improving as a player on the field, but he needs to stay in shape throughout the entire offseason. The team signed Calais Campbell and drafted Dawuane Smoot to play opposite Yannick Ngakoue this season, so Fowler has to work his way into a new rotation under a new head coach. 

Last season, defensive coordinator Todd Wash wasn't shy about pointing out Fowler's mistakes, from needless penalties to poor technique. Wash is back as the defensive coordinator and Fowler has to impress new bosses, Marrone and football executive Tom Coughlin.

He can clearly impress with his conditioning. Fowler and his teammates need to come back in tip-top shape, so they don't have to waste time focusing on conditioning during training camp. 

Marrone was adamant that football needed to be the complete focus when the players return to EverBank Field in July. It appears tolerance for poor conditioning will be limited.

4. The Jaguars are weighing the "risk-reward" of using Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church during mandatory minicamp.

“I kind of go back and forth on that sometimes, because one option we can [have them back for minicamp] or you get to this point now, and you’re like, ‘Okay, we just have the minicamp left.’ You have the ability to bring them back earlier, obviously if they’re not cleared on their physical, so it’s kind of like, what’s the better option: to bring them back early and make sure they’re ready for training camp or throw them in this minicamp and say they’re okay and you get three days with them and then they report when the rest of the team reports? A lot of it, we’re simply going back and forth to see where they are, to see if a lot of risk-reward. I mean you look at someone and say, ‘Do I really want to put them out there right now or we have the next couple of weeks we could just make sure he’s in good shape and then put him out there?’ I think it’s done on an individual basis, but I tend to lean more towards how much am I going to see in these three days in three practices different than if we we’re going two practices a day and then I think you’re at like five, two, two, then one is how it used to be – but now it’s just really three. I think it’s a case by case basis.”  

Our Take: The Jaguars are working to figure out if it's worth putting Tashuan Gipson and Barry Church in workouts during this part of the offseason program. The projected starting safeties haven't taken part in organized team activities workouts. They have been replaced by Jarrod Wilson and Peyton Thompson, who Marrone has praised for their work.

Does it make sense to open up Church or Gipson to potential injury risks during workouts that Marrone doesn't deem as essential? Probably not. With Wilson and Thompson proving they are capable depth, it makes sense to continue to give them work in case they are needed in the future.

The team also has to figure out the talent level of James Sample, Charlie Harper, and Jarrod Harper. While Church and Gipson would be well-served to play a bit longer with their fellow defensive backs, playing the young players in their place could be beneficial for emergency situations.

5. A.J. Bouye's return to the lineup has been a positive during workouts.

“He looks really good. I think it’s a good lesson, it’s tough when people get injured. Some guys can come back quick, some guys can take their time, but he’s someone from day one, he wanted to be back there and he wanted to be on the field and worked hard enough and was able to overcome that and he looks like he’s at 100 percent. He’s fine.”

Our Take: The team's big free agent signing in the secondary will play a massive role this season. He needs to show he is worth the contract, despite only one season of starting experience.

Bouye will also compete to be the No. 1 cornerback on the roster with Jalen Ramsey, which should be fun to watch.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

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