The Jacksonville Jaguars will soon be entering the next stage of their offseason as the team prepares for the first mandatory veteran minicamp of the Urban Meyer regime. The Jaguars have a long way to go, and next week's practices will be a major step toward their ultimate goals.
But before the Jaguars ramp up the intensity during minicamp, the team went through voluntary organized team activities and saw rookies and veterans alike join Meyer and his staff on the field to begin installing the offense, defense and special teams.
After the media was able to view three of those OTA practices -- which is less than half of the total OTA practices the Jaguars held, for context -- we were able to see the seeds of the Meyer regime be planted. With this in mind, what did the OTA practices show us and what did we learn from the outings?
Gardner Minshew should enter training camp as the No. 2 quarterback
To say Gardner Minshew has been lights out during the handful of OTA practices the media has seen wouldn't exactly be accurate considering he has had his own struggles here and there, but that doesn't change the simple fact that Minshew had been undeniably better than C.J. Beathard in terms of practices in shorts and helmets. While it wasn't clear which quarterback had the leg up on the backup quarterback job entering the home stretch of the offseason, Minshew has outperformed Beathard consistently during OTAs. As a result, there should be no question about whether he should enter training camp as the team's backup quarterback behind No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. He’s one of the leaders on offense, his greatest quality is competitive spirit," Meyer said.
Minshew entered this season with a fair amount of vagueness surrounding his future, especially since the Jaguars paid Bethard like a No. 2 quarterback in free agency and then drafted Lawrence. But Minshew has been more impressive than Beathard in practice in every sense, at least in the practices the media has been able to see. He is more accurate at all levels of the field, more mobile and is a significantly quicker decision-maker. Minshew's time as a starting quarterback in Jacksonville is over as long as Lawrence is healthy, but OTAs showed us he is still easily the team's second-best quarterback.
Standout veterans included Shaquill Griffin, James O'Shaughnessy, Marvin Jones, and Josh Jones
Some context is needed when it comes to talking about which players shine at OTAs. The voluntary practices are not exactly as intensely paced as the Jaguars' practices will be moving forward, and they are again in just shorts and helmets. With that in mind, there are still a few veterans who have made impressions thanks to standout performances over the course of three practices.
- Shaquill Griffin looked exactly like one would expect a big-money free agent cornerback to look like during OTA practices. Even without pads on, Griffin was able to keep up with receivers step for step downfield as well as disrupt their routes in the red zone. He made a number of impressive pass breakups during the practices, including one on a deep attempt to DJ Chark on Tuesday.
- Maybe the Jaguars' veteran tight ends heard the offseason talk about the weakness of the position. Not only did Chris Manhertz make several nice grabs over the course of the open practices, but veteran receiving tight end James O'Shaughnessy had several big plays of his own. O'Shaughnessy did a terrific job in terms of tracking passes downfield and he showed genuine explosiveness as a route-runner. He may be the favorite to get snaps as Jacksonville's "F" tight end, which is the pass-catching role.
- Marvin Jones hasn't made as many big plays in OTAs as a few other Jaguars' receivers, but it is clear that he is the security blanket of the offense. His releases off the line are dynamic and he has provided a safe and consistent target for both Minshew and Lawrence throughout OTAs, not dropping a pass during team drills.
- Josh Jones was a player the Jaguars' opted to re-sign to see how he would fit into their new defensive scheme and so far it appears the fit has been a natural one. Jones impressed in practices last year before struggling during the season, but he has made a number of impressive plays in coverage during this year's OTAs, including a one-handed interception on Tuesday.
Laviska Shenault has a chance to be the Jaguars' top offensive weapon
It truly seems as if the only two things that could limit Laviska Shenault are his health and his opportunities in the offense, neither of which is guaranteed to negatively impact him. Between him, Chark, Jones, Travis Etienne, James Robinson, and others, the Jaguars have quite a few players to share the ball with. Despite this, Shenault may very well be the best skill player the Jaguars have at their disposal.
Considering Shenault's play style, one would assume he would terrific in pads as opposed to shorts and helmets. But the powerful and explosive second-year wideout has been dazzling in OTA practices, catching everything thrown his way, scoring touchdowns in the red zone thanks to impressive releases and ball tracking and showing that he is much more than the gadget player many peg him as. As long as he is healthy and as long as the Jaguars can get him the ball on a regular basis, he could be primed for a breakout season.
Tim Tebow has been a non-story
Through a few OTA practices and heading into next week's mandatory minicamp, new tight end Tim Tebow has ... kind of just been there for the Jaguars. That isn't to put it in a negative light, but the lighting rod athlete and celebrity brings a circus and eyes on him wherever he goes, and this was no different when he first signed with the Jaguars.
Fast forward a few weeks and at least from an outside perspective it seems more and more like Tebow is a bottom of roster player and nothing more. Tebow's mere presence alone shows he is anything but since his signing was a direct act of special treatment, but so far the former quarterback and Florida Gators legend has made no noise with his play or actions, whether positively or negatively. This isn't to say the signing couldn't still have negative implications, but he certainly hasn't been a focus of OTAs.
"Tim has done a decent job. We all know this is a new position for him. You wish you could see and do [more]. In spring football, you have full pads and scrimmages, and you can really evaluate, but it’s kind of tough right now," Urban Meyer said on Tuesday. "But he’s a great teammate. In the locker room, I can see everybody getting along, we have a good chemistry on our team. But he’s picked it up decently.”
Daniel Thomas' playmaking ability isn't going away
After receiver and cornerback, there likely isn't a tougher position to make a name at on the Jaguars' roster and make the team than at safety. The Jaguars added multiple safeties in free agency, including Rayshawn Jenkins on a big-money contract. Add in the fact that the Jaguars re-signed Josh Jones, already had Jarrod Wilson and Andrew Wingard, and drafted Andre Cisco at No. 65 overall in April, and the Jaguars have a crowded safety room.
With this in mind, Daniel Thomas shouldn't be a safety the Jaguars forget about. He was the team's best playmaking safety last year despite only seeing meaningful snaps in a handful of games and he has carried that over to OTAs, recording interceptions in each of the two last practices available to the media. Thomas has been an electric playmaker in coverage, flashing range and versatility. This was the case in 2020 and it has been the case thus far in OTAs.