Jaguars OTA No. 8 Notebook: Lawrence Limited, Shenault Flashes and Secondary Dominates

Another organized team activity practice is in the book for Jacksonville. Who stood out during Tuesday's practice and who does Jaguar Report think needs a rebound day moving forward?
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Another organized team activity is in the books for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who practiced through some heat, some rain and the humid Florida air as they attempted to stack together a solid practice.

While this voluntary practice was in shorts and helmets and wasn't full contact, we still saw a considerable amount of noteworthy plays made by Jaguars on both sides of the ball on Tuesday. As the team marches closer and closer to Week 1, days like Tuesday will be what sets the foundation.

So, what did we take away from the team's eighth OTA? We break down all that we saw below. 

Secondary dominates the offense

The Jaguars' defense won the day in a dominant fashion on Tuesday, with the secondary taking advantage of Trevor Lawrence's limited reps and making plays against both Gardner Minshew and C.J. Beathard. Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke made upgrading the secondary their largest non-quarterback priority this offseason, and the team saw some results from that work on Tuesday as the faster and more physical unit flew around the field for multiple pass breakups and interceptions. 

Overall, the secondary recorded three interceptions against the quarterbacks, including a pick-six from Daniel Thomas. Sidney Jones also did a great job of reading Lawrence's eyes and undercutting a route to record an interception of his own. Meanwhile, Josh Jones tracked a wildly inaccurate Beathard pass and recorded a one-handed interception in the back of the end zone. 

The secondary made more plays outside of that though, hounding the Jaguars' passing game throughout Tuesday. Safety Rudy Ford had an excellent pass breakup against second-year tight end Ben Ellefson during red zone drills, showing good patience and eye discipline. Sidney Jones contested several passes outside of his interception, while Shaquille Griffin was stout in the red zone and had a big pass breakup on a deep attempt from Minshew to DJ Chark toward the end of the practice. 

The Jaguars will need the secondary to take giant leaps in 2021. Consider Tuesday a small step toward that ultimate goal, albeit an important one -- and one that shows tangible improvement. 

Trevor Lawrence's limited afternoon

We didn't see much from Trevor Lawrence on Tuesday due to what Meyer described as a tight hamstring, just a few days after we saw him dominate last Thursday. The No. 1 overall pick went through individual drills but didn't attempt passes during team drills, with Minshew and Beathard taking all of the reps (Jake Luton was absent from practice). He did throw two passes in 7-on-7 drills that we will delve into later, but that was the overall extent of his day from a passing perspective. Meyer said Lawrence should be good to go for Thursday as well. 

"Yeah, he just tightened up his hamstring and we don’t want to take any chances. He should be fine. Tomorrow is an off day and then we’re going to go Thursday, so he should be fine Thursday," Meyer said after practice. 

Lawrence has flashed remarkable arm talent and downfield accuracy throughout OTAs this offseason and his limited practice on Tuesday shouldn't do much to deter optimism for the former Clemson star as the team enters minicamp. He will have his rookie moments throughout the offseason and in training camp, so don't expect this to be the last multi-interception practice Lawrence ever has. With that in mind, Tuesday was just a blip on the radar considering the limited sample size in terms of reps. It was a limited and forgetful day and nothing deeper or more significant than that. 

Laviska Shenault continues to make plays 

Laviska Shenault has staked a claim as the Jaguars' best skill player during OTAs -- he has been that impressive. Shenault made several big grabs last week and has looked explosive and dynamic as a route-runner all summer, but Tuesday was arguably his best practice yet. Even with the quarterbacks struggling, and with Lawrence not throwing many passes, Shenault continued to turn heads and make plays on Tuesday by catching every catchable target that came his way during team drills.

Shenault beat Tre Herndon with a beautiful release during red-zone drills and then tracked the ball over his shoulder while moving toward the back of the end zone. He showed strong hands downfield during other periods in the practice, bringing in passes outside his frame while on the move. He looks like one of the best athletes on the field and has yet to put a ball on the ground in the few OTAs that have been opened to the media, with Tuesday being another example of his offseason success. 

Who the team's two best quarterbacks are through OTAs has become clear

No quarterback had a "good" day on Tuesday, but it is clear the Jaguars may have made a miscalculation if they signed veteran quarterback C.J. Beathard to be their No. 2 quarterback. Through Tuesday's practice, it has become more and more clear that Minshew -- and not Beathard -- is the team's second-best quarterback. 

Minshew has struggled with his deep accuracy and keeping balls from being deflected at the line of scrimmage, but Bethard has struggled in exponentially more ways. Beathard was 1 of 4 in red-zone drills with an interception, but even his misses were wild. Minshew wasn't exactly accurate himself in the red zone period (3 of 8), but he at least was more effective than Beathard by throwing three touchdowns, including a beautiful drop into the bucket over Laviska Shenault's shoulder against Tre Herndon. Ultimately, Minshew was more accurate and showed a quicker trigger in terms of decision-making than Beathard, with Beathard rarely looking comfortable on Tuesday. 

The Jaguars paid Beathard like a No. 2 quarterback, but he has continued to struggle to hit the mark through OTAs and has been shown up by Minshew in the process. This wasn't the first practice he has struggled in, either, so it looks more and more like the backup quarterback job could be Minshew's to lose -- even if Minshew isn't lights out himself. 

Joe Cullen's infectious presence 

One can just watch Jaguars' first-year defensive coordinator Joe Cullen on the practice field for a few short minutes and know all they need to know about the type of energy he brings to the field. Cullen, a veteran defensive line coach by nature, could be seen giving vigorous encouragement to the unit throughout Tuesday's practice, with his voice carrying over every other whenever he needed it to. The Jaguars' defensive line group looks like the team's most competitive and spirited unit through OTAs, and Cullen's infectious presence is likely a big, big part of that.

Etienne makes a big play

The development and usage of first-round (No. 25 overall) pick Travis Etienne is set to be one of the most fascinating storylines of Jacksonville's entire 2021 season. The most productive back in ACC history took rookie minicamp reps at wide receiver and has even been called a "slash" player by Meyer during the offseason. As a result, it was noteworthy to see the former Clemson running back make a big play in the air on Tuesday. 

During red-zone drills, Etienne was able to separate in the end zone and bring in a pass near the sideline, showing terrific body control and hand-eye coordination. It was a legitimate standout catch from the rookie, coming on a day in which the offense didn't have many others. Etienne's ability to develop as a receiving threat who does more than catch screens and swing passes from a backfield alignment will be crucial to the Jaguars' offense. 

Defensive line remains active despite a lack of contact 

It is hard for the defensive line (or offensive line) to show much during OTA practices. The Jaguars were in shorts and helmets, which is a far cry from the contact practices that we will see leading up to the regular season. But even with this practice setting, the Jaguars' new-look defensive line is still making their presence known during team drills. 

The Jaguars' improved their size and length across the defensive line this offseason, which showed up in team drills as the unit was frequently able to get their hands up and disrupt passing lanes. One Gardner Minshew pass in team drills was deflected and ended up in the hands of edge defender Lerentee McCray, who returned it for a touchdown. Dawuane Smoot was also able to deflect a Minshew pass, giving the defensive line a chance to contribute to Tuesday's effort against the passing game. 

Parting shots

  • Marvin Jones was one of the team's most consistent targets on Tuesday. Gardner Minshew was especially fond of Jones, throwing to him often early in the practice to get into a rhythm. 
  • Tim Tebow updates so far are limited. The Jaguars' tight ends didn't do much of anything noteworthy during team drills, and it is tough to get a feel for Tebow's complete skill set as a tight end without pads. He didn't stand out in a positive or negative way on Tuesday, though perhaps that changes next week as the Jaguars ramp up the intensity of practice. 
  • Jalen Camp caught a touchdown from Minshew toward the end of practice that showed some impressive ball-tracking and coordination, wrapping up a final few minutes that showed some impressive traits. It was a good showing for the sixth-round rookie, answering the bell when called upon. 
  • Daniel Thomas now has two interceptions in the last two practices, picking off Luton last week and Lawrence today. The 2020 fifth-rounder has to fight for a spot on the depth chart, but he has made plays throughout the summer. 
  • Andrew Norwell was a notable absence among the veterans, joining second-year quarterback Jake Luton.