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Jaguars Training Camp: How Familiarity and Growth Could Elevate the Secondary

The Jaguars are hoping for big things from their secondary in 2022, with the hopes that the experience of the 2021 season benefits them on the field together now.

The dog days of training camp are never easy on anybody, let alone when those days are spent under the unforgiving Florida sun, basking in the humidity as another day of full-pad work drags on. 

But watching the Jacksonville Jaguars' secondary through nearly a dozen training camp practices, it is hard to say the dog days have begun to hit the unit. 

The spirits and confidence have been high and on a public display, with the quality of play being even higher as the starting secondary continues to make plays throughout camp.

Some of the standout performers from Jaguars' camp have been members of the secondary, with most of them being second-year Jaguars. 2021 draft picks Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco have made some of the most impressive plays of camp, while Rayshawn Jenkins and Shaquill Griffin have come up with big plays in key moments on their own, setting the tone for the room.

"Man our secondary really looks like it's gelling together and really getting that chemistry going that we know we're gonna need to carry ourselves on to the season," Jenkins told Jaguar Report on Monday.

Some of the most impressive individual plays of the Jaguars' entire camp has come from the secondary, including some lockdown reps by Campbell against the team's best wideouts and some of the camp's most physical hits from Cisco. 

Griffin has the lone interception of Trevor Lawrence -- a diving catch off a deflection off Evan Engram -- and Jenkins is the only other defense who has come close to picking off the former No. 1 overall pick, baiting him into one of his few bad decisions of camp on a dropped interception that could have potentially gone either way.

The energy and confidence stemming from the secondary has been palpable. Each camp, there is one unit that seems to take the reins of the team's bravado voice. Right now, it is the Jaguars' secondary, growing more and more energetic as it becomes comfortable.

But outside of the secondary's big plays creating confidence ahead of Week 1, there are other factors. For one, there aren't many new faces. There isn't any transition or feeling out period where the Jaguars take their lumps as they work out their comfort together, because the Jaguars already went through that.

Yes, free-agent signing Darious Williams is expected to start in the slot, but the team's other four starters spent 2021 together. Griffin, Campbell and Jenkins have plenty of game and practice experience with each other. Cisco has less than the others, but he also spent last year's camp and a handful of games in the same secondary.

"It's not a lot of new faces," Jenkins said. 

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"We probably got five rookies in but everybody else was pretty much in there with us last year. We got new additions like D-Will [Darious Williams] and then we got X [Xavier Crawford] as well so we got guys like that coming in and just helping us you know improve our secondary but I do think that you know having guys around who have been here and really you know know each other on and off the field that really helps and carries onto the field."

With that experience comes a bond that has helped form the culture of the secondary. There are few units as tight-knit on the roster as the secondary, with Griffin and Jenkins sharing a long-time bond and Cisco and Campbell being friends even before they were teammates.

“Tyson is just one of those guys that keeps his head down no matter what the result is, so I’ve learned from him in that aspect. Me and him have been good friends even from pre-draft until now," Cisco said on Wednesday. 

"We pray together, we talk about a lot of stuff. We’re also locker buddies, so we joke and that’s my guy. We come from the same draft class. There are a lot of things we have in common naturally, so we’re able to go off that, and we’re good friends that way.”

Aside from the closeness and experience in the unit, the Jaguars are also looking for natural development and improvement to take place, especially from Campbell and Cisco, the No. 33 and No. 65 overall picks last year. 

Campbell got extensive experience as a rookie and flashed high-level play by the end of the year, but Cisco started just three games as the Jaguars took a slow approach with his development. But each still got valuable reps and experienced things as rookies that they simply needed to face. 

And so far, the Jaguars have seen Cisco and Campbell be only better for it. Each has been a standout performer in camp, with Cisco looking like a do-it-all playmaker and one of the best athletes on the field, and Campbell looking like a legitimate shut-down cornerback at times against each of the Jaguars' starting three receivers and their top backups. 

"I’ve seen someone growing into a leadership role, someone who’s really developing his craft, honing his skill. He’s playing with confidence, and those are all things that we need to continue to nurture in him as a young player," Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said this week. 

"He’s had a really good camp. It was really good to see in the Raider game, he got nicked earlier in the game and wanted to go back, so confidently put him back in the football game where he could work through that, and those are kinds of things you’re starting to see with him and how he’s developing himself and turning into a leader on that defense.”

"He’s been playing great. He’s a guy, when you look at safeties, a guy that’s willing to take some calculated risks, but he’s usually right. I haven’t seen him be wrong many times," Lawrence said about Cisco this week as well.

" He’s had a couple plays, I won’t go into all the details because it might be something they’re doing schematically on defense, but he’s had a couple plays where he just comes out of nowhere, like how can I even see this guy? I’m looking the opposite direction. You need plays like that from a safety, to step up; he’s really physical. He’s one of the best open-field tacklers I’ve seen. Yesterday we went live, and he’s all over the place, not letting anybody get by him. That’s great to see. I think he’s had a great offseason and camp.”