Jaguars' rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook has started to ascend in practice as of late.
During the team's ninth training camp practice, he was one of the few standouts. Without pads, Westbrook was able to use his speed to get past defenders with ease. The encouraging performance followed a string of strong practices in pads last week.
Westbrook has obvious speed and his route-running ability has been impressive at times. During 11-on-11 work with the second-team offense, Westbrook shined Sunday.
He caught a diving reception off a Chad Henne pass early on during drills. One play later, he made an athletic catch over fellow undrafted rookie, cornerback Ezra Robinson.
“I think he flashed," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said after practice. "I think obviously you see the speed, he makes the catches, but now it’ll be interesting to see him get up there because I think young receivers, the one thing you have to be able to do in this league is you’ve got to be able to get off press. That’s the one thing, I mean they get up there, they get physical."
The physicality of the game may be a challenge for the 6-foot, 178-pound wide receiver. He needs to get off the line of scrimmage quickly so he can get open for his quarterback.
That's the concern for Marrone.
"When we think of skill, we think skill, we don’t think of them as physical players, but the battle on the outside in press coverage is really no different than the battle for the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen," Marrone said. "So those are the things that probably you want to see, him in those situations live to see how he responds to that.”
Westbrook will see his first test of physicality during the team's first preseason game Thursday against the New England Patriots. He will also get a preview with a pair of joint practices set to kickoff Monday.
Small Sample size
The Jaguars waived a former draft pick Sunday.
Safety James Sample was waived after two seasons and four games of work with the franchise. Sample missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. He was also placed on injured reserve midway through his rookie season with a different shoulder injury.
Sample was hyped as a potential starter as a rookie and even started two games next to then-strong safety Johnathan Cyprien before suffering his first of two season-ending shoulder injuries.
Sample had missed the prior two practices with an undisclosed injury and hadn't stood out this offseason when healthy. He was listed as the last safety on the "unofficial depth chart" released by the team Friday.
"Just availability and we weren't able to see a lot at this time," Marrone said, regarding Sample's departure.
The Jaguars selected Sample with their fourth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He split his college career between Washington and Louisville.
The Jaguars signed veteran safety Jeron Johnson to fill Sample's roster spot. Johnson was given Sample's No. 23 jersey, which was part of a minor storyline last offseason when the then-second-year player refused to give up the number to first-round pick Jalen Ramsey.
Johnson practiced with the team on Sunday and will get to fly to New England for the joint practices and first preseason game.
A former undrafted free agent signing of the Seattle Seahawks, Johnson has played six NFL seasons. He spent his first four seasons in Seattle before joining the Washington Redskins in 2015. He returned to the Seattle last season. He has appeared 60 career games, producing 75 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
He won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks following the 2014 regular season.
More News and Notes
- The Jaguars activated rookie fullback Marquez Williams off the physically unable to perform list before practice.
Marrone said after practice that veteran fullback Tommy Bohanon hasn't been as consistent as he would like, but added that the lead blocker did have a lot on his plate with Williams sidelined. Bohanon has struggled quite a bit with drops during training camp.
- The Jaguars were without three active players on Sunday. Tight end Mychal Rivera, guard Earl Watford and linebacker Justin Horton continued to miss practice due to undisclosed injuries.
Cornerback Tyler Patmon returned after missing Family Night at the stadium. Defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Jarrod Wilson worked off to the side.
Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Colvin and fullback Marquez Williams remain on the physically unable to perform list.
- The Jaguars continue to struggle with drops from their depth groups. Tight ends Alex Ellis and Caleb Bluiett had wide-open drops during 7-on-7 drills. Wide receivers Amba Etta-Tawo and Arrelious Benn also dropped wide-open passes.
- The defense had a few standout plays in an otherwise boring non-padded practice. Linebacker Telvin Smith broke up a pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis during 7-on-7 drills. Cornerback Doran Grant had a pass breakup against wide recevier Keelan Cole during 11-on-11 work.
Defensive end Dante Fowler broke up a Blake Bortles pass at the line during 11-on-11 drills. There was another batted ball at the line for Bortles, but literally the entire backside of the defense went for the ball and collided. There was no interception on a "spoon fed" opportunity.
- Outside of the batted balls at the line, Bortles had a solid day. There were no interceptions and he made a few really strong throws. He hit a well-covered Allen Robinson in stride on a go route during 7-on-7 drills. He also well-positioned a jump ball for Lewis on the sidelines during 11-on-11 work.
- The team funneled in crowd noise for one period of 11-on-11 work. Marrone said after practice that the crowd noise was part of a checklist before the team left for New England. The noise was very loud and sounded more like a fighter jet engine than an actual crowd.
The only major issue due to the noise was third-string quarterback Brandon Allen getting whistled for a delay of game penalty.
- The Jaguars will head to Foxborough, Massachusetts Sunday night for joint practices on Monday and Tuesday. The Jaguars will face the New England Patriots Thursday at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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