The first day of pads is officially in the books and the Jacksonville Jaguars have really gotten back to football.
It was an intense practice, with the Jaguars getting a lively speech from a member of the staff ahead of the padded practice and with Urban Meyer quickly having his team go into pursuit drills right off the bat after the stretching period.
What all did we see at the practice? Who stood out? Who made a big play but also had a down moment? We take a look at everything we saw below.
Looking at Trevor Lawrence's day
Quarterbacks aren't always the biggest focus of the first day of pads, but it isn't every year a team's quarterback is the No. 1 overall pick. And with each passing day of Jaguars' training camp, Lawrence's place as the starting quarterback becomes more and more entrenched, even with the magnifying glass purely set on him on each rep. Lawrence wasn't lights out on Tuesday like he was the first two days of camp, but he also didn't have the major miscues he had on Monday.
During individual drills when receivers and cornerbacks faced off, Lawrence was frequently showing off good downfield accuracy. His consistency on each rep in terms of his ability to put the ball on the right shoulder of the receiver was clear, even if the receivers didn't always bring them in (Jalen Camp wasn't able to track one of Lawrence's drop in the bucket passes).
Lawrence looked a bit flustered at the start of 7-on-7 drills, throwing an early interception to Joe Schobert when he was trying to throw a short pass underneath. The defense's pressure and pre-snap disguises seemed to slow Lawrence's trigger to a degree, but this didn't last. As the drills progressed, Lawrence continued to put together several completions in a row, including a third-down period where he went 4 of 5.
He began to look more confident in where he was going with the football and continued to sling it downfield, hitting Travis Etienne, Luke Farrell, Laviska Shenault, DJ Chark, and Marvin Jones all for different big gains in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11. His best throw of the day was a deep shot to Jones down the right sideline that he fit in between two defenders, a throw that likely would have been a touchdown in a real game.
Lawrence looked like a rookie at times on Tuesday, something offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell even noted. But he also continued to test the defense downfield and, more times than not, found great success while doing so.
Etienne, Robinson, Chark have big days
We will get to all of the players who made impact plays on Tuesday one way or another, but there were three who stand out as the highlights of the first day in pads: Travis Etienne, James Robinson and DJ Chark. The Jaguars had players on both sides of the ball flash in big ways on Tuesday, but each of these three were noticeable both in team and individual drills.
- Etienne was unguardable during one-on-one routes against linebackers (even if he wasn't terrific in every phase of the passing game). Linebackers are already at a bit of an advantage in this drill because running backs can get a free release to an extent, but a few linebackers still won their reps -- none against Etienne, though. Etienne proved to be too quick, too sudden, too explosive for Shaquille Quarterman and Dakota Allen. He has looked smooth catching shorter routes, in large part because there aren't many on the team who can keep up with him in short area bursts. Etienne also made a long grab in 7-on-7, getting behind the defense and tracking a Lawrence pass that was around 20 yards in the air.
- Robinson's added speed is noticeable when defenders have to meet him in the hole. He didn't have the highlights Etienne had as a pass-catcher, but he had the better day as a rusher. Robinson showed off a killer stutter step to force a defender to miss in pursuit drills at the start of practice, going 3-of-3 and beating a linebacker each time -- including Damien Wilson on one rep. Robinson consistently got yards after contact on Tuesday and came close to breaking off a few different runs before finally doing so through the right side of the offensive line. A.J. Cann and Jawaan Taylor opened up a hole and Robinson accelerated, beating the angles of the linebackers and secondary to pick up at minimum 40 yards.
- While social media has gotten a strange idea that DJ Chark has had a slow camp, that hasn't been the case. He has made a few nice grabs each day and looks much faster in and out of his breaks. With that said, Tuesday was certainly his best day of camp. He was uncoverable in one-on-ones, beating both Shaquill Griffin, D.J. Daniel and Daniel Thomas for easy catches. He followed this up with the catch of the day in team drills, extending for a bullet from Lawrence after Chark broke inside. Chark found the soft spot in the zone and made an incredibly athletic move for the big gain, showing his and Lawrence's potential as a duo.
Run defense gets closer to doing a complete 180
The Jaguars' badly, badly needed to revamp their defensive line and run defense in 2021. The defensive front last year was an undeniable mess, lacking in overall talent, depth, and star power. The line was also, for a lack of better words, too small and too slow by NFL standards. The Jaguars changed that with their offseason additions, adding plenty of size and strength in Malcom Brown and Jay Tufele and athleticism in bunches in Roy Robertson-Harris and Jihad Ward.
The Jaguars' defense was ready to attack during run drills against the offense (not team drills), frequently shooting gaps and stopping plays at the line of scrimmage. Robertson-Harris made a terrific backside wrap-up of Carlos Hyde to limit a run to zero yards, while Brown and DaVon Hamilton each held their own against Brandon Linder and the Jaguars' guards. Myles Jack brought his hard hat, too, blasting through a tight end to force a tackle for loss.
The tight ends to watch
It was another sub-par day for Tim Tebow catching the ball, but it suddenly doesn't even look like he is one of the tight ends to watch at this point. While Tebow will continue to be a big story due to his mythical status as an athlete and sports figure, the Jaguars had two young tight ends outshine him and the rest of the group on Tuesday with second-year Ben Ellefson and fifth-round rookie Luke Farrell.
Ellefson has seen more and more reps with James O'Shaughnessy still not practicing fully. Ellefson was one of the most targeted players in team drills on Tuesday, providing Gardner Minshew and Lawrence with a safe target underneath and then bringing in an impressive diving catch from Lawrence for a first down, all with a safety draped over him. Ellefson looks to be the team's starting F tight end in the event O'Shaughnessy can't go on any particular day.
As for Farrell, he continues to show a higher upside as a pass-catcher than he was allowed to flash in Ohio State's scheme. He tracked a Lawrence pass over his right shoulder and made a great adjustment to stay in bounds during the third-down period to create not just a first down, but a big gain. He has continued to look impressive.
Sorting out the running backs' passing game work
While Twitter and fantasy football will always place an emphasis on which running backs are catching passes (and how often), it needs to be pointed out that simply isn't the only role they play in the passing game. What is just as important to the position and its place in the offense is how the running backs operate as pass-blockers. We got to see the running backs take their turns with one-on-ones vs. the linebackers with both routes and blitz pick-up sets, giving us a good idea of the whole picture on Tuesday.
- We talked about Etienne's pass-catching. In terms of pass-protecting, he went 1-of-2 but his lone win was a close contest with Dakota Allen. On his other rep, Quarterman blitzed and simply overpowered Etienne with ease to get to the quarterback for the sack. That one wasn't nearly as close.
- James Robinson once again looked solid as both a blocker and pass-catcher, but it wasn't a perfect day for him, either. Chapelle Russell (pass breakup) and Quincy Williams (sack) both won their respective reps against the 1,000-yard rusher, with Robinson winning the rest of his for the day.
- Carlos Hyde was overall unspectacular in either facet. Myles Jack easily broke up a pass intended for Hyde in the route-running drills, while Hyde provided some resistance as a pass-blocker but didn't provide any outright dominant reps.
- Dare Ogunbowale was the Jaguars' most consistent pass-protector, but even he gave up some ground to Joe Schobert.
- Nathan Cottrell was a tough cover but his size makes it tough for him to pass-protect, with Quarterman easily winning a rep for a sack against him.
- Devine Ozigbo showed extremely quick feet as a route-runner. He didn't come down with a grab each time (Damien Wilson deflected one), but it is clear he can at least get some separation.
Daniel Thomas, Tyson Campbell, Andre Cisco make plays
For those wanting to see more from the young secondary, there were plenty of glimpses on Tuesday. It is hard to focus in on any one defensive back since those are the most populated positions on the Jaguars' roster, but there were three who made some impressive individual plays.
- Daniel Thomas made a terrific play to breakup a deep Gardner Minshew pass down the right sideline to Tyler Davis. He trailed Davis by just a step but showed good recovery speed and awareness as he made a play on the ball without creating too much contact.
- Tyson Campbell was called for defensive pass interference on Collin Johnson in one-on-ones, but he made up for it later in the day. With the Jaguars holding 7-on-7, Campbell clamped Laquon Treadwell on an underneath route and continued to stay in his hip pocket as Gardner Minshew held onto the ball and extended the play. Minshew would go on to target Treadwell, but Campbell gave him zero room to make the grab and the pass fell incomplete.
- Andre Cisco made his presence known in team drills, breaking up a would-be Jalen Camp completion from Jake Luton near the end of practice. Cisco is one of the team's most athletic defensive backs and plays like this one showed how quickly he can drive downhill and breakup passes.
An end to a pattern at quarterback
That whole thing where the Jaguars rotated Trevor Lawrence and Gardner Minshew as the No. 1 quarterback every day? That looks like it is over. Lawrence got the first-team reps for the second day in a row on Tuesday and dominated the number of snaps with the first-team offense. He was also taking snaps from Brandon Linder at the start of practice, which typically indicates which quarterback is with the first-team that day. The Jaguars' plan to have Minshew get reps with the starters seems to have unofficially come to a close, with Lawrence continuing to get the type of work that makes it clear he is on the verge of being named the starter sooner rather than later.
New coaches, scouts added
The Jaguars announced some new additions to the franchise before practice on Tuesday. Via the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, the Jaguars hired Martin Bayless (special teams) and Kiel McDonald (running backs). Through the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, the Jaguars added Aashon Larkins and Byron Archambault. Each hire will be with the team through camp.
Bayless played for 13 years in the NFL (1984-1996) and is a member of the Bowling Green State University Hall of Fame. After his playing career, he joined the Bills as a director of player development before transitioning to coaching. He was the special teams coordinator and safeties coach for the Los Angles Wildcats of the XFL as well.
McDonald is currently the running backs coach for the University of Utah and led their running back room when Zack Moss led the entire Pac-12 in rushing in2019 with 1,416 yards.
Larkins is currently the director of recruiting at the University of Michigan "where he helps with the Wolverines’ recruiting and player development efforts". Before that, he was the special teams and recruiting coordinator at Bethune Cookman from 2015-19.
Archambault is currently the director of national scouting for the Montreal Alouettes. He played two years in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after being a second-round pick (17th overall) in the 2015 CFL draft.
Dabo makes an appearance
The Jaguars had another special guest on Tuesday. A week after the Jaguars hosted Lou Holtz, the team also played host to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. Swinney obviously has deep connections to the Jaguars due to the drafting of Lawrence (No. 1 overall) and Travis Etienne (No. 25 overall), two of his former star pupils. He is also close friends with Urban Meyer. It is unlikely you would have seen Swinney at any Jaguars' camp in recent years, but it made perfect sense why he showed up Tuesday.
- Jarrod Wilson and Chris Claybrooks returned to the field from the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
- James O'Shaughnessy came out to the field in pads but still worked off to the side or individually while the rest of the tight end room was together. He has been dealing with an ankle injury.
- Both Tim Jones and Josh Imatorbhebhe did not practice but were on the practice field in their jerseys and shorts.
- CJ Henderson didn't participate in practice, but he was off to the side at the start of the day and was eventually hip-by-hip with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton during drills throughout the course of the day. He is still on the COVID-19 list, but Tuesday was a sign that he should be off of it soon.
- Still no Taven Bryan at Jaguars' practice. He is currently on the team's NFI list and has yet to practice during training camp.