The next time we see the Jacksonville Jaguars on the practice field, they will be just a few short weeks removed from their Week 1 bout against the Houston Texans and the dawn of a new era.
But for now, we have weeks of work put in by the Jaguars to show off just how far they have come since head coach Urban Meyer took the job in January -- and just how much further they have to go.
So, which Jaguars impressed during the offseason workout program and look to have their stocks climbing entering the summer and ahead of camp? We break it down here.
While Trevor Lawrence dealt with hamstring tightness during the latter end of offseason workouts, there is zero denying that the No. 1 overall pick improved over the course of the offseason. After misfiring on a few different occasions in the red-zone at the very start of organized team activities, Lawrence's execution did a complete reverse by the end of the offseason on Tuesday.
Lawrence looked quick, had a lighting quick release, made decisions in an efficient manner, and also showed exceptional arm strength throughout the offseason workout program. He had a few misses and had a practice in which he threw two interceptions in just two attempts against the defense, but that will happen in June. Big picture-wise, Lawrence truly looked as advertised this offseason, and he has earned the praise of his veteran teammates and coaches alike.
"As far as Trevor [Lawrence], Trevor has been a true professional since he’s been here, day one," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Tuesday.
"He’s worked tirelessly to learn the offense, to learn the verbiage, to learn his teammates, to improve on the field. And whatever the limitations are, we’ve been going with them. So, whether it’s been the shoulder that we’ve kind of worked around, or the hamstring that he’s had a little issue with, it has really not been a problem. We’re still able to get the things that we need to.”
The tight end room
It would be hard to find a position on the Jaguars' with more scrutiny and pressure surrounding it this offseason than the tight end room. And while the unit isn't able to completely able to show what they can do in minicamp and OTAs due to the lack of pads, it is at least clear the Jaguars' tight ends are making progress and plays at a higher rate than expected.
Veteran tight end Chris Manhertz enters his Jaguars tenure with just 12 career catches but has displayed soft hands throughout the offseason. Ben Ellefson and James O'Shaughnessy have both looked more explosive and dynamic compared to last season, while Tyler Davis came into his own toward the end of the offseason. Luke Farrell and Tim Tebow have yet to stand out much, but positive impressions from four of the team's six tight ends is an encouraging development.
"It’s a physical position, it’s part offensive line and it’s part wide receiver. So, some of the stuff is not going to be able to show up, but it’s a much-improved room from top to bottom. Even the guys that have been here in the past have really upgraded themselves," Bevell said on Tuesday.
"I would probably say on the offensive side, one of the most improved rooms; in the weight room, in the conditioning area, so there’s some good depth there. Ben Ellefson is doing a great job, we have Tyler Davis doing a great job. I think O’Shag [James O’Shaughnessy], I really like what he’s doing. It’s a good room and a lot of competition there.”
Going from being forced to be a starter to a No. 5 cornerback in the span of a few seasons is quite an adjustment in some ways, but for Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon it just reinforces his worth to the roster and defense. Herndon has been viewed at by the Jaguars' locker room as one of the hardest-working players on the team since he signed with the squad as an undrafted free agent in 2018, turning himself into a fringe free agent into one of the team's most versatile cornerbacks. Thanks to his special teams and inside/out versatility in terms of where he can be deployed as a cornerback, it seems as if Herndon has found the perfect depth role behind Shaquill Griffin, CJ Henderson, Sidney Jones, and eventually Tyson Campbell.
While it remains to be seen just how many snaps Herndon can get in a completely healthy Jaguars' secondary, the value he brings to the locker room and the defense is clear to both his teammates and coaches, rising his stock entering the month ahead of training camp.
“The main one that jumped out to me has to be Tre. He’s just different, it’s the technique. That’s the person that I go to a lot about different things," Griffin said on Tuesday when asked about a teammate in the secondary who has stood out.
"I don’t know if it’s plays, or the press technique that I’m learning for the first time this year. That’s a guy that’s just always, day-in, day-out, doesn’t matter what it is. Like I said, playing this game, some days it’s like, ‘Phew, I don’t know I’m going to get through.’ Not Tre. Tre is not that guy. Every single day, he’s going to find a way to get better and that’s what motivates me. So, there’s never a day for me [when] I feel like, ‘Ah man, I don’t know how I feel today.’ When I see Tre, it’s just something that he brings to this room, it’s like, ‘You know what, I want to get better,’ because I know he does too. So, that’s one of the main ones that just jumped out to me since the beginning, since I first got here."
It is hard to say there was a player on the Jaguars' roster who was more impressive than Shenault during OTAs and minicamp. Shenault routinely made a few big plays each practice, with all of those players being examples of his ability to win downfield as a wide receiver as opposed to a gadget player near the line of scrimmage. He has looked explosive in his routes and has caught everything thrown in his vicinity, already getting the needed chemistry down with Trevor Lawrence. For a player whose skill set suggests he would be at his best when pads are on instead of off, Shenault still dominated throughout the offseason.
The Jaguars will still have to sort out the exact role and vision they have in place for Shenault in the offense, especially when he has to compete with Marvin Jones, DJ Chark and Travis Etienne for touches in the passing game. But the Jaguars have a player with apparent WR1 upside in Shenault and it has become clearer over the past several weeks that they see just how special of a talent he is. If he can remain healthy throughout camp, expect him to be one of the team's most heavily utilized players on offense this fall.
Another player whose role will heavily rely on how much the Jaguars ask of him and put on his plate will be rookie running back Travis Etienne. But so far, so good for the No. 25 overall pick from Clemson, who has impressed his coaches and teammates with his work ethic and willingness to learn. Etienne is the most productive running back in ACC history, so the Jaguars more or less know what they are getting from him in that aspect. The aspect they need to learn more about is how he functions as a receiver, whether when split out wide or out of the backfield.
Through the offseason, Etienne has done nothing but impress as a pass-catcher. He has been a tough cover in man coverage due to his quickness and explosiveness, often getting easy separation from the defense during red-zone drills. He has been one of the offense's most reliable targets in red-zone drills, turning numerous targets into touchdowns throughout the offseason and showing soft hands and good balance on multiple occasions.
No defender made more plays in the practices open to the media this offseason than second-year safety Daniel Thomas. The Jaguars are deep at safety after signing two free agents (Rayshawn Jenkins and Rudy Ford) and drafting Andre Cisco at No. 65 overall, but Thomas has still been able to standout in a crowded room thanks to his playmaking ability.
A year after Thomas was the team's top playmaker at safety, the former Auburn defender has continued to make plays in coverage under the team's new regime. His breaks on the ball have been explosive and dictated by anticipation and instincts, with him rarely putting himself in a bad position. Thomas was going to have to make an impact to seperate himself from the rest of the safety room, and he has done just that by recording multiple interceptions this offseason.
One of the more low-key free agency additions the Jaguars made in March, Phillip Dorsett wasn't pegged by many as Jacksonville's potential No. 4 wide receiver before OTAs. Perhaps that should change now, however, after Dorsett was arguably the team's most impressive receiver not named Jones, Shenault or Chark during OTAs and minicamp.
Dorsett has failed to produce at past stops before, but his field-stretching speed has shown up on more than a few occasions. He has shown off impressive hands and timing, connecting with Gardner Minshew, CJ Beathard and Lawrence for big plays at different spots during camp. If he can continue to be an impact player in practice, don't be surprised to see him carve out a role in the rotation in the fall.