The Jacksonville Jaguars completed the padless portion of training camp with an intense and spirited Monday practice, which saw the No. 1 overall pick come down to earth before once again flashing, along with a rejuvenated defense.
After an opening period to camp where the defense essentially had to play with one hand tied behind their back due to contact rules, the unit came alive on the day before pads came on, creating the most interesting Jaguars' camp practice to date this year.
What all did we see live from camp? We break it down point by point below.
Trevor Lawrence struggles before he bounces back and flashes
The early portions of Monday's practice was not Trevor Lawrence's best day. That is the simple truth of it, but there is also plenty of reason to not overreact to the No. 1 overall pick throwing two interceptions (including a third on a play where the defense was offsides) in the team's first 11-on-11 period. In fact, there are more reasons to believe that perhaps a day like Monday should have been expected.
Lawrence completed only one pass in the team's first 11-on-11 period to go along with the pair of interceptions and a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage. The defense was at last allowed to contest passes and go after the football (more on that later). This meant tighter windows and less throwing to spots for Lawrence. It was clear for at least the first period of team drills that Lawrence had to adjust to the changed intensity and style of coverage, especially after a first week where defenders were purposely not contesting most passes due to contact rules.
But context is required. One of Lawrence's interceptions came on a miscommunication on a deep pass, with the receiver breaking outside as Lawrence threw inside, resulting in an interception by Rudy Ford where the safety was essentially on an island all by himself. It was still an interception and one that will be counted against Lawrence, but context is needed.
The second official pick came on a play where Lawrence held onto the ball and rolled to his right. Lawrence continued to break to the right as he tried to find a target near the sideline, eventually throwing the ball into traffic. The pass was intercepted by undrafted free agent cornerback D.J. Daniel, and this was likely the worst play Lawrence has had in camp from a decision-making standpoint.
That is mostly where the negatives stopped, though. From that point on, Lawrence was pinpoint. He was near-perfect in 7-on-7 drills later on in practice, throwing strikes to Marvin Jones and Ben Ellefson in tight coverage over the middle of the field and throwing a 20-yard completion to a covered Carlos Hyde down the left sideline (yes, Carlos Hyde). Each pass had pristine accuracy and Lawrence proceeded to settle down throughout the rest of practice and not throw another interception.
Lawrence had some bad throws on Monday and moments he will want to have back, but it certainly wasn't all bad from the No. 1 overall pick. There will likely be more days like Monday as well, but the Jaguars will hope those days come in August to help him learn as opposed to in September and October.
The defense finally gets their chance and proceed to take advantage
The defense overall won the day against the offense. The offense created a few chunk gains throughout the practice, but the defense was finally unleashed after four practices of essentially having to shadow receivers by a step or so. Jacksonville's defense (especially the secondary) has clearly been chomping at the bit to be more active and close on the football, and Monday was finally a chance for them to do. Through one day, they answered the call.
The Jaguars' saw players like Ford, Daniel and Shaquill Griffin make plays, but Tre Herndon, Tyson Campbell, and Sidney Jones (who had a interception off Jake Luton) were all around the ball often as well. The Jaguars' secondary could have easily had a rusty day after being allowed to go 100%, but they stepped up and challenged Jacksonville's talented group of receivers and running backs.
It was clear that Lawrence had to adjust to the tighter coverage, but he wasn't alone. Gardner Minshew II had a few passes during team drills that saw him have to adjust to it as well before he came out and had a terrific 7-on-7 period as well. The defense won the start of practice and the quarterbacks recovered, but it is still ultimately encouraging for the secondary to be active on the first day they were truly asked to be.
Etienne has another active day catching the ball
Few players were as active catching the ball on Monday as running back and No. 25 overall pick Travis Etienne. The Jaguars clearly have big plans for the running back position as a whole, but the usage of Etienne as a pass-catcher has been evident throughout the first week of camp. We can't give away where he is aligning, of course, but we can say he has shown terrific hands a burst after the catch, which was on display on Monday.
One of Etienne's best reps catching the ball came on a play where he was nearly on the losing end. With linebacker Quincy Williams in Etienne's hip pocket in a one-on-one matchup downfield, Williams leaped and deflected an underthrown deep ball from Lawrence to nearly create an incompletion. But Etienne never took his eyes off the ball and was able to pluck it before it hit the ground, resulting in a completion.
James Robinson has impressed running the ball and should still be the favorite to get the most carries, but the Jaguars willingness to utilize Etienne as a pass-catcher is clear. And so far, he has answered their challenges each time.
Rudy Ford shows out
Free agent addition Rudy Ford has been mostly a special teams standout up to this point in his career, but it was on defense where Ford showed up in a big way on Monday. Considering how much depth the Jaguars added to the safety room this offseason (two free agents signed, one safety drafted, one safety re-signed), any big play a safety makes will be key, so count Monday as a big win for Ford.
Ford's aforementioned interception of Lawrence came on a miscommunication, but Ford still stuck to his responsibility and let a play come to him. He caught the ball cleanly and created yards after the catch. Later on in the day, he undercut a Jake Luton pass intended for Tim Tebow and nearly intercepted it. Ford was a split second away from having two interceptions on the first day the defense could really play their style of football, which could end up going a long way.
Assessing Tebow's area of improvement
Urban Meyer has already outlined where he wants to see tight end convert Tim Tebow improve over the next few weeks: contested catches. Tebow brought in several nice catches for big gains during the first few days of camp, but Tebow was given the opportunity to more or less body-catch a good chunk of those passes since the defense wasn't actively going after the ball. That changed on Monday, though.
"He has good hands. In his drill work, he’s great, but when you get in a competitive moment, just [because of his] lack of experience he wants to body the ball," Meyer said on Saturday. "When you get to a point where two people are going after it, you have to go get the ball. He is fighting through that a little bit, but he has the skill set to catch the ball."
Well, Monday was full of "competitive moments", and Tebow will likely want to do better once pads come on during Tuesday's practice. Tebow sat and waited on the aforementioned near-interception from Ford, with Ford easily powering through Tebow to get his hands on the ball. And on a play in the first 11-on-11 period, safety Brandon Rusnak made a similar play to undercut a short Tebow route and force the incompletion. Those are the plays Tebow will likely have to make over the next few weeks, but they weren't made on Monday.
Which linebackers stood out in coverage?
We got to get a great feel for the Jaguars' linebackers ability to cover on Monday. For the first time, linebackers could really get physical with tight ends and running backs and contest them out of the backfield, on the line of scrimmage, and throughout the route. With the linebackers finally allowed to even the odds, who stood out?
Quincy Williams is the first name that comes to mind. The allowed completion to Etienne was more or so a great heads-up play by Etienne, because Williams stayed with him step for step downfield and had terrific coverage at the catch point. Williams also broke up a shorter pass intended for Etienne earlier in the drill.
Second-year linebacker Shaquille Quarterman made his own big play in a rep against Dare Ogunbowale. With Quarterman trailing Ogunbowale with nearly zero separation, Quarterman was able to extend himself in front of the veteran running back and make a terrific play to intercept Jake Luton.
Assessing the depth at receiver
It is clear who the Jaguars' top three wide receivers will be. DJ Chark, Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault have all made big plays throughout camp and have been the core players the Jaguars have utilized at receiver. But what about the players behind them? I kept a close eye on them on Monday to give the latest updates.
Phillip Dorsett's speed is just so noticeable, and he seems to have put his early drops in camp to bed. He caught everything thrown his way on Monday and the Jaguars keep him with their starting trio of receivers to work with receivers coach Sanjay Lal while the rest of the unit (and most of the skill players on the roster) practice special teams.
Collin Johnson has turned it on. After a quiet few days to open camp, Johnson's name has been called more and more as camp has progressed. This culminated with a deep completion from Lawrence where Johnson beat Sidney Jones to get separation.
It is hard to not be impressed by Jalen Camp. He didn't make any big plays in team drills, but just watching him in individual drills is a sight to behold. He just moves at a different level of speed in and out of his breaks. There is a good chance he could be their most naturally explosive receiver.
Laquon Treadwell continues to show good hands. He hasn't made any jaw-dropping plays, but he has been a safe target underneath and has a chance to fight for snaps if the Jaguars ever face injuries at receiver.
Robinson and Little have a day
Tuesday is when the offensive line will really be allowed to have their fun and face-off against the defensive line. The one-on-ones between the two units are typically the most exciting and anticipated drills each camp, and the Jaguars' Monday practice indicated this would yet again be the case as the units had a spirited drill against one another.
During that drill, the Jaguars saw each of their left tackles -- Cam Robinson and No. 45 overall pick Walker Little -- win their reps against 2020 No. 20 overall pick K'Lavon Chaisson. Little drew cheers from the offensive line when his last rep against Chaisson ended up with the pass-rusher on the ground, a good sign for the rookie tackle from Stanford. Chaisson has impressed in camp to this point, but count Monday as a win for the blockers.
Luton gets live reps at last
Up until Monday, Jake Luton had more or less gotten as many live reps at quarterback as the 86 non-quarterbacks on the roster. He has only practiced for a few days since he wasn't activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list until last Thursday, but the Jaguars divided up the reps to Lawrence, Minshew and C.J. Beathard in each event.
With Beathard not practicing on Monday, the Jaguars got to see what the second-year Luton could do. Luton struggled, throwing the aforementioned interception and nearly throwing a few more, but it was still a positive rep for the young passer to at least put a few reps on tape in front of the coaching staff. It is a bit of a hindrance to him that he didn't get any reps when the Jaguars' defense couldn't go after the ball, but that is how the cards fell.
With the Jaguars' holding another camp practice, there was once again a slew of housekeeping updates to add to the roster's status. Here is what we learned and saw Monday.
- Wide receiver Jamal Agnew practiced for the first time after being activated from the active/non-football injury list.
- CJ Henderson is still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, making him one of the few players on the roster yet to practice in camp.
- Chris Claybrooks is still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but he could be seen running to the side at the start of practice. Luton did something similar in the days leading up to his activation, which suggests Claybrooks will also soon be activated.
- James O'Shaughnessy was on the practice field but didn't do much. The veteran tight end is dealing with an ankle injury from last week and ran with trainers off to the side throughout practice, while also going after a few catches, but wasn't given much more work otherwise.
- C.J. Beathard missed practice due to close-contact COVID-19 protocols.