The Jacksonville Jaguars still have a long way to go to form their roster and develop their team ahead of their Week 1 opener vs. the Washington Commanders, but this weekend's rookie minicamp was a good start.
For the public, we got to see Doug Pederson lead the Jaguars on the practice field for the first time, while also getting a glimpse at the Jaguars' newest crop of rookies and No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. It is just non-contact practice in shorts and helmets, but it is an important first step for the rookie class.
"We’re trying to really also see what these guys can do," Pederson said on Friday ahead of the first practice.
"We want to challenge them in the classroom and then obviously take it to the practice field and let them really kind of showcase their talent and let them play fast, protect each other out there, just learn how we do things here. [Those] are all things I’m looking for these next few days.”
With rookie minicamp now over, we take a look at who we see as winners from the weekend. This is of course within the context of a rookie camp, which is designed for players to look good in, but there are still a number of Jaguars who came out the weekend with some extra shine.
From his teammates gushing over his physical tools to his quick learning of the outside linebacker position while working one-on-one with outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey, Travon Walker was the star of the show at rookie minicamp. This is to be expected of any No. 1 overall pick considering the controlled practice setting, but Walker checked every box during his first practices based on his otherworldly size, frame, and fluidity alone.
Walker will obviously have to prove he can put those tools together and make plays when pads come on. His true tests will come later in training camp and the preseason, as well as clearly the regular season. Still, Walker's flashes of athletic prowess were enough to help earn him plenty of fans this weekend all the same.
Like with Walker, Jaguars rookies Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma won't face and real tests until pads come on and the tempo and intensity picks up. Still, the first- and third-round linebackers were impossible to miss during Friday's and Saturday's practices. Watching the two work together on the field, it was hard not to think that inside linebackers coach Tony Gilbert is one of the organization's biggest winners of the entire offseason.
Lloyd and Muma looked the part in terms of movement skills and communication ability this weekend. When the two are able to share the field together on Sundays, they will give the Jaguars a pair of versatile and athletic linebackers who can perform in a variety of roles. Watching the two fly around this weekend reinforced this fact and the upside to Gilbert's position group moving forward.
Few undrafted free agents have a better chance to make the roster this year than Iowa State's Andrew Mevis. The Jaguars released kicker Matthew Wright earlier this week, bringing the kicker competition down to just Mevis and veteran kicker Ryan Santoso. And so far, Mevis has answered the bell, making his kicks on Saturday in front of owner Shad Khan, general manager Trent Baalke, and Pederson.
"[We] just want to see consistency in what we’re asking that position to do," Pederson said Friday. "We know that we have to improve and get better there and that’s a big part of wins and losses and whether to kick off or three points or whatever it might be. This will be great for both guys now moving forward to create that competition.”
It would be tough to call either Santoso or Mevis the favorite as of today, but Mevis did nothing over the weekend that could hurt him in the wake of Wright's release.
Trent Baalke caught a lot of criticism both locally and nationally when he took Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1 overall. And while there is no reason for Baalke or the Jaguars to take a victory lap, they can at least take solace in everyone else seeing in Walker this weekend what they have for the entire draft process.
Baalke's job status moving forward hinges more on his overall body of work than the Walker pick alone, but Walker stood out in a positive way this weekend. Considering many seem to have come around on the pick already, that is likely good news for Baalke.
The lone tryout player signed to the active roster so far, former Marshall wide receiver and return man Willie Johnson IV looks to have earned a spot in training camp. It would be tough for him to crack the 53-man roster due to his size and the numbers at the position, but Johnson was impressive enough this weekend to warrant a longer look, something not all tryout players can say.
It remains to be seen whether it will pay off for Sean Davis or not, but few players made bigger impact plays this weekend than the 2016 second-round pick. The former Pittsburgh Steelers safety and top-60 draft pick intercepted EJ Perry on both Friday and Saturday and stood out among the crowded group of defensive backs. He isn't a younger player so it is unknown if his performance will help his cause, but he stood out.
Just comparing what we saw from Doug Pederson to how we saw Urban Meyer conduct rookie minicamp last year, there was a clear and distinctive difference. Meyer need seemed as detailed or in-tuned with practice like Pederson was this past weekend. Pederson went from drill to drill and position group to position group with a watchful eye but also with an open ear, doing his fair share of delegating and letting his staff do their job. It didn't feel like a Meyer practice.
"Coach, we always joke around, but you can tell he’s serious. He’s about getting better," Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd said on Saturday.
"He’s also a players’ coach like we’ll chop it up, like I said, we’ll play around. He’s somebody who’s fun to be around, but at the same time, like I said, when it’s work, it’s work and he’s about his work and he’s serious. He’s about everybody getting better and understanding what to do. As long as we’re on the same page, I feel like he’s one of those coaches where he’s just worried about how can we be the best team.”