The Jacksonville Jaguars are set to kick off their second preseason game in eight days on Friday night, taking on the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field after a tough week of practice.
With some more hard-hitting days of practice now in the rearview mirror and with the Jaguars soon transitioning into the final phases of camp, we are taking a look at which Jaguars have their arrows pointing upward ahead of the Brown's game. Whose stock is on the rise, and who is standing out more and more as camp drags on?
"It’s still a little bit early in camp, but we’re settled in now here, and you start seeing a little separation with the guys and the ones who really take the reins and lead by example, lead by grabbing their position group, grabbing the whole offense or defense, and you just need more of that," Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday.
"You need more guys that embrace it. It’s not about being perfect because we’re not perfect out here. Guys are going to make mistakes, but at the same time we’ve got to take ownership in it, learn from them, and this is that time.”
So, who is on the rise entering Friday? We take a look at the main names below.
S Andre Cisco
Second-year safety Andre Cisco had a solid start to his first training camp as a starter, but it has been the last week where he has truly put himself on the map. Cisco was a standout performer against the Las Vegas Raiders in last week's Hall of Fame game and he followed that up with a pair of electrifying practices to start the week, including a forced fumble and the best hit of camp on Travis Etienne.
"Absolutely," Cisco said this week when asked if his confidence has risen.
"It comes with reps, comes with time. Just being around professionals and letting my mentality grow and becoming a leader is what I’m striving for right now. My confidence has been growing in that aspect, and I’m looking forward to more growth.”
WR Zay Jones
It was a mostly quiet first week of camp as Zay Jones and the rest of the Jaguars' new pieces blended themselves into their new scheme and with their new quarterback. But Jones has elevated his game to a great extent over the last several practices, standing out as one of Lawrence's most-frequented targets since the Hall of Fame game and looking like a wideout Lawrence truly trusts. He has gotten the bulk of the deep shots in practice but has also made big plays over the middle and along the sideline.
“He’s been great. I think when you get new receivers especially, it takes a while to figure out where everyone fits in, what people are good at. We’ve got a lot of great players, but they’re all different," Lawrence said about Jones this week.
"They all do different things well, so that’s great for us. Just kind of figuring that out, putting us in the best spot, moving them around, seeing how they do this versus that, moving them all over the place with our concepts and working from there. I really feel like we’re in a good spot for them to figure out who we want on certain routes, matchups, and all that. Zay had a great day. He’s a really smart player, gets open really well, uses his length, he’s got speed, all that. I think he’s a great player, and it’s been fun building that connection with him.”
DL Foley Fatukasi
Free-agent addition Foley Fatukasi was always going to be a big piece of what the Jaguars do up-front, and he has shown that more and more as he has been able to hit the field at full speed. He missed the first-half of camp with a calf injury before returning over the last week and making a noticeable impact to the first-team defense's run defense, while also giving every starting interior offensive lineman trouble in one-on-ones -- including Brandon Scherff.
"It's good to get him back so he can start to show and put his imprint on the defense," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell said on Monday. "He's been out awhile with an injury, so now he's working his way back and it's just good to get him back out there and let him continue to work on a new technique he's learning and just continue to get better."
CB Tre Herndon
No player in training camp has taken increased reps and ran with them quite like veteran cornerback Tre Herndon. Herndon has gotten most of the first-team reps as the Jaguars' nickel defense as Darious Williams recovers from a shoulder injury, and Herndon has impressed in a big way with them, recording a number of impressive pass breakups on some of the team's top wideouts, including Christian Kirk. Herndon looks like a player the Jaguars are more than comfortable with as a potential starter.
“He's having a good camp. I'm excited for him, too. There's some really good competition if we get Darious Williams back out there at that nickel spot, too. There's going to be some good competition there," Pederson said earlier in camp. "Tre has been doing extremely well. He's locked in; he's dialed in. It's fun to see those types of battles out there.”
TE Luke Farrell
There weren't too many hype pieces written about second-year Jaguars tight end Luke Farrell this offseason; the former fifth-round pick caught just seven passes as a rookie and shares the field with veteran tight ends in Chris Manhertz, Evan Engram and Dan Arnold. Despite this, though, Farrell has come into his own this camp, playing a versatile role as a blocker while also showing some exciting upside as a pass-catcher.
"Luke is not somebody I knew a ton about before I got here, but he's somebody that's a very versatile piece for us," Press Taylor said this week.
"We feel that he can be that inline blocking tight end but also has ability to get out in the open field and run and catch and do some things with it. You saw that the other day, big play down the sideline. I now y'all skipped practice yesterday, but he had a couple big plays out here yesterday, running the ball, catching it, doing some good things. We are excited. He's a young player and got a long way to go in this league to prove himself, but we are excited where he is in the grand scheme of that."
OT Walker Little
Friday night will be a good test for second-year offensive tackle Walker Little. He has had a strong training camp after moving from left tackle to right tackle and impressed the Jaguars' staff with his performance against the Raiders, a game he played the entire first half in. He has a chance to potentially take a hold of the right tackle battle if he can have a repeat performance on Friday night.
“Good. It’s unfortunate with JT (Jawaan Taylor) missing some time right now, but it's great for Walker to get a ton of reps, and I think he's done really well, and you can kind of see the communication with him and Brandon there on the right side," Pederson said earlier in camp.
"He's off to a good start, we just got to keep them coming and see where it ends up.”
DL Arden Key
The Jaguars have shown throughout training camp that reserve linemen like Dawuane Smoot and Arden Key are going to play large roles within their defense, lining up inside and out and giving the Jaguars the pass-rush depth and scheme flexibility their system demands. Key especially has stood out, having some terrific reps in both one-on-ones and team drills and standing out as one of the leaders of the defense.
“What I see from Arden is he’s a pass rusher, and I’ve seen a lot of different types of moves and techniques from him. He seems like a guy that that is his specialty. He has looked really good," Cisco said this week.
"A good dude. Me and him go back and forth and joke a lot, so he’s a personality guy, I would say. Someone who’s been around the league, who’s been on winning teams, and he’ll express it out here. He’ll bring it up sometimes and be vocal, and you appreciate that because you know he comes from a winning background.”
CB Tyson Campbell
It is hard to make an argument that there has been a better defender in training camp than second-year cornerback Tyson Campbell. Campbell looks like a legitimate No. 1 cornerback, frequently presenting the toughest battle for the starting receivers and having multiple days where he recorded two-to-three pass breakups. He has also shown a much more confident play-style than this time in last year's camp, showing a growing confidence.
"If you look at it you see not a lot of balls caught his way," Caldwell said this week. "He's doing a real good job as far as staying on top of receivers and really locking guys down so we've been pleased with him. You saw in the game, he came up, set the edge a couple times. So far, he's doing good."
RB Travis Etienne
Travis Etienne has been one of the stars of training camp for the Jaguars. He has consistently created big plays as a rusher and as a pass-catcher and has really showcased a balanced skill-set; he has been able to break tackles from linebackers and defensive linemen, he has shown vision, he has proven to be a mismatch on linebackers in the passing game, and his pass-protection is far ahead of where it was in last year's camp. He also was able to take several big hits earlier this week and shrug them off like they were nothing.
“I need that! I haven’t played in so long, I want to get tackled. I need to get tackled just to get my body back acclimated with that," Etienne said. "I’ve just been at home, working out, chilling on the couch, stuff like that, so to come out here and get some bumps and bruises. I miss that contact. It may sound crazy, but I miss kind of being in those car crashes.”
QB Trevor Lawrence
You can't talk about players with their arrows pointing up on the Jaguars' roster and not mention Trevor Lawrence. The second-year quarterback has come into his own as he has gained more and more reps in Pederson's scheme, but even during the early days of camp he was showing many of the same traits he is now, which includes improved accuracy and decision-making.
“I think I’m definitely ahead of where I was last year. I would hope so. That’s the goal. I think learning the offense last year helped me learn this one faster. Once you learn one, it’s easier to learn the second one," Lawrence said this week.
"Then just having guys like we talked about that are really smart, that are easy, you can make a check, and they pick it up right away. I think the guys have done a great job with that. That’s been a lot of fun, and we’re building and building on all the different things that we can do because when you’ve got guys that know it, whatever you call they know it, you can really do anything, so it’s been fun.”