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Jaguars Training Camp, Day 3: 5 Observations on Defense's First Big Day

What all went down on Day 3 of Jaguars training camp in Jacksonville?

After a relatively short and simple practice on Monday and a Tuesday practice that was dominated by the offense, the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense found its groove on Wednesday.

Wednesday's practice at Episcopal School of Jacksonville Knight Campus was the best the Jaguars' defense has looked throughout the early phase of training camp, a good sign for defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell's unit.

“That’s the goal. That’s what everyone works towards. You want to be elite. Whatever team you’re on, you want to be elite. You come out here every day of training camp and our message to them is that you have to build and it’s a process," Caldwell said on Tuesday. 

"You get there and you work and put the work in everyday, and then at the end of the day, what happens happens. You never know. You have great players, injuries happen. We’re constructed to go out there and get better every day, and we set goals for ourselves and our goal is to be a great team.”

So, what did we see during Wednesday's practice and what does it mean moving forward? We break down Day 3 below.

Defense wins the day as Tyson Campbell locks his side of the field down 

A day after Trevor Lawrence didn't miss a single time during 7-on-7 or team drills, the Jaguars' defense (namely the secondary) made sure there wasn't a repeat performance. Lawrence didn't have as efficient or spectacular a practice as the day before, but he still didn't put the ball in harm's way and his accuracy was on point save for one to two throws. The difference on Wednesday, though, was the defense.

Even with balls being placed accurately, the Jaguars' secondary made life tough for Lawrence, who went 13-of-19 in team drills. Lawrence didn't have errant throws or misguided tosses into enemy territory, but the Jaguars' defense still made several plays on good throws. This effort was led by second-year cornerback Tyson Campbell, who looked like a true lockdown cornerback on Wednesday. 

First, Campbell nearly tipped an interception to himself when he defended a back-shoulder Lawrence throw downfield to Marvin Jones. Campbell didn't let Jones win the red-line on the boundary and he did a good job of tracking the ball and timing it while in the air. 

Then, Campbell made another big-time pass breakup when he broke up a well-placed pass from Lawrence to Zay Jones, again down the left sideline. This route was even deeper than the first play, but Campbell again was able to pin the receiver to the sideline and time his deflection to prevent a completion and big gain. Campbell was oozing in confidence after the second play, a reflection of the growth he has taken since he entered the NFL as a quiet rookie.

It wasn't just Campbell who got his hands on the football. The Jaguars haven't recorded an interception through three days of camp, but Rayshawn Jenkins broke up a Lawrence pass intended for Evan Engram, while Montaric Brown had a pass breakup on a Jake Luton-Laquon Treadwell target that could have been a pick-six had he caught it. 

Ultimately, the secondary flew around the field on Wednesday and showed that even with an accurate Lawrence, they can make plays. Campbell was the star of the show, but he was far from the only one.

Travis Etienne is the offense's standout skill player

If there is one non-Lawrence player who has stood out on offense so far, it would have to be running back Travis Etienne. Last year's No. 25 overall pick was one of the stars of the offseason program after returning from last year's Lisfranc injury, and he has so far carried that over to training camp as the Jaguars lean on him as their primary returning back while James Robinson recovers.

Etienne has flashed his ability as a pass-catcher throughout camp, but on Wednesday he showed why he could be the whole package at running back. He earned praises from Jaguars' coaches for his route-running and his checkdown ability during early drills before breaking off some nice runs during team drills, exploding into space and seemingly gliding by defenders with ease.

Etienne's best run came during a team drill where he took a carry around the left end of the offense, bouncing it outside while still making sure he wasn't overzealous with his timing in terms of hitting the hole. Once he found a sliver of space, he exploded upfield and attacked it, breezing past the defensive front and easily getting into the secondary for what would have been at least a 20-yard gain. As one Jaguars coach exclaimed after the play: 'See you later!'.

Through three days, Etienne looks like the most explosive and exciting weapon the Jaguars have on offense. That could be in part due to no other skill players truly standing out, but a lot of it has to do with how dynamic Etienne has looked when given the chances.

Offensive line continues to look for the right mix

The Jaguars continued to shift the offensive line around some on Wednesday, though we still saw most of the same five players take first reps with the starting offense. Cam Robinson and Brandon Scherff are clearly locked into left tackle and right guard, while the Jaguars again put Tyler Shatley and Luke Fortner at left guard and center, respectively. 

The difference on Wednesday was the emphasis on Walker Little running with the starting offense. After it was more of a 60/40 split in Jawaan Taylor's favor in terms of first-team reps on Tuesday, the order was reversed on Wednesday as Little seemingly got the lion's share of the reps. 

This isn't to say Little overtook Taylor as the starting right tackle; after all, Taylor did get the first rep of 11-on-11. But it is clear the Jaguars are keeping an open mind when it comes to right tackle, which is seemingly where their most competition is going to be at among the open offensive line spots.

Still, the Jaguars should be expected to keep mixing and matching their offensive line all throughout camp, especially when pads come on. While Shatley and Fortner have gotten the majority of reps at their spots, expect for the Jaguars to still give players like Little and Ben Bartch a chance to establish themselves.

It’s going to be an ongoing process finding the best five. We’re going to continue to work with guys. You may see them starting one day, you may see them someone else starting a period that day, whatever it may be. It’s going to be a fluid process," Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said on Wednesday. 

"We’re fortunate we don’t have to release a depth chart right now and figure that out. We’re still in the process of figuring out who our best five is. The best five works together. You may have a guy that’s very talented, but he doesn’t communicate well and doesn’t help this guy play his best. So you’re working through that process. Even in walk throughs in the afternoon, we’ll mix and match rotations to see who communicates well and who gets the best out of each other playing next to one another.”

James Robinson continues to look closer to a return

James Robinson is seemingly doing a little more each day at Jaguars practice. He took some reps in pass-protection drills during the individual periods on Wednesday, which was new for him during this year's camp and offseason. Avoiding the PUP list was clearly a big step for Robinson, but everything he has done throughout the week has suggested he is inching closer and closer to the mid-August return that has seemingly become the goal. 

The Jaguars have given Etienne, Snoop Conner and Ryquell Armstead all reps with the first-team offense while they wait on Robinson to return. But once he does, it seems clear he will have a role in the offense alongside Etienne, who the Jaguars are confident can be a factor as both a pass-catcher and as a rusher. 

Simply avoiding the PUP list was a good start for Robinson, but he has done more than that. He is doing more cutting and overall has been more active with each passing day. The idea of him missing considerable regular-season time may now be firmly put in the rearview mirror. 

“It’s a huge benefit to know, right now, it’s looking like he’s going to be able to be active at some point and time in the near future. It’s a credit to the work he’s put in throughout the spring, through the summer," Taylor said on Wednesday. 

"Coming off that injury, you never really know the timeline. I know there have been experiences where guys come back quicker and some guys haven’t, whatever it is. So that’s a testament to James, the training staff, the work he’s put in.”

Play of the day

There were several standout plays during Wednesday's practice; Etienne's big run was impressive, while Zay Jones managed to track an underthrown deep ball from Lawrence and bring it in for a completion despite the Jaguars having multiple defenders in the area. But today's play of the day from our end goes to tight end Evan Engram.

Engram has had some up-and-down moments during the early phase of camp. He has been on the wrong end of a few drops and incompletions, but he has also been an explosive and exciting player after the catch. And on Wednesday, he brought in a pass from Lawrence during 7-on-7 drills that likely wouldn't have been caught last year.

With Rayshawn Jenkins and Foyesade Oluokun closing in on Engram, the veteran tight end caught an absolute fastball from Lawrence that was maybe a tic behind him. That is a pass that Engram would have maybe dropped in the past, but he came through for his quarterback on a tough catch in this instance.

Other notes

  • Andre Cisco continues to get starter reps. While Mike Caldwell declined to call him a starter on Tuesday, he hasn't even rotated with Andrew Wingard this year; instead, it appears he is the guy at safety across from Jenkins. 
  • The Jaguars are looking to get creative with their skill players. Without giving too much away, the Jaguars saw several non-running back skill players take handoffs, either from the backfield or after being put into motion. 
  • On one such play, Tre Herndon blew into the backfield and recorded a tackle for loss for at least a loss of three yards. He has had a good camp thus far. 
  • C.J. Beathard continues to not perform in team drills, though he clearly is on a different level from Jake Luton and Kyle Sloter in terms of accuracy and arm strength during individual drills. 
  • Dawuane Smoot and Arden Key were the Jaguars' interior defenders in nickel looks, a reflection of who their first two players inside might be on third-downs. 
  • Josh Allen would have recorded two sacks on Wednesday if it was an actual game, while Daniel Thomas would have had another.