Training camp is off and running and the new-look Jaguars are braving the heat under Urban Meyer’s leadership, and we have already seen and learned a lot. The tempo is up, the offense looks way more explosive and Trevor Lawrence is as advertised from what we have seen so far.
Without pads we haven’t had a chance to learn too much about the offensive line, or even the defense for that matter outside of coverage in the secondary to a degree, but it’s still the beginning and plenty of guys have a lot to show and prove before the season starts.
So, lets take a look at who on this team needs to improve the most before the regular season kicks off September 12.
LT Cam Robinson
Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson has been an enigma throughout his young career. He has missed time due to injury in 2018 and had ups and downs when on the field. Last season he thrived as a run-blocker but struggled protecting the quarterback, and with Trevor Lawrence back there that job is as valuable as it will ever be.
“My biggest issue with Jawaan is just consistency and pass protection. In the run game, he’s physical, same with Cam [Robinson]," Jaguars offensive line coach George Warhop said in June.
"From a run standpoint, I really can’t [complain] about any of our guys and how we approach it. I’m of the belief that there [are] very few teams, if we decide that we want to hand a ball off, are going to stop us from running the ball. But where we struggled last year at times was in pass protection. And that’s a technique issue and a consistency issue. And that’s been addressed and will continue to be addressed, those guys know it. It’s something that we’re not shying away from, so it’ll get better.”
Robinson still has the potential and ability to be a starting-caliber left tackle in this league and will have to prove it this season. He agreed to and signed on the franchise tag this offseason so this is a prove it year for him.
Jacksonville also spent a second-round pick (45th overall) on Walker Little from Stanford. And while Little is going to be a rookie he has a lot of upside and could potentially push Robinson for the job if he cannot improve throughout camp.
This is the year Robinson will prove whether or not he can be one of 32 starting left tackles in this league and this training camp is the most important in his career. Once pads go on next week Robinson will be able to show whether or not he is up to the challenge.
CB CJ Henderson
Last year's top-ten pick CJ Henderson burst onto the scene in the season opener, picking off veteran quarterback Philip Rivers twice en route to the Jaguars lone victory of the season. Unfortunately, like the Jaguars season, things went downhill after that.
Henderson began to struggle on the field and with injuries off it. That struggle seemed to somewhat remain for the former Gator as he is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list and has yet to hit the field for training camp.
He is behind the eight-ball in learning Joe Cullen’s new defense and the missed time is turning into a bit of a trend. Henderson is also potentially the only returning starter on the Jaguars secondary and has the talent to be a cornerstone piece of this defense. He just has to be on it.
With all the new additions like Shaquill Griffin, Rayshawn Jenkins, Andre Cisco, and Tyson Campbell Henderson could use all of the reps he can get in order to build necessary chemistry within the secondary.
Henderson can be a great corner, but he has to get going and be more consistent and available if he wants to become the cornerstone of this secondary and pair alongside Griffin to make this secondary great.
DT Taven Bryan
Taven Bryan has been, up to this point, a big disappointment. The former first-round pick has clearly not lived up to expectations and this may be his last chance. The jury is however still out on Bryan.
This is a new team and a new defense under new leadership. Bryan has an opportunity to salvage his career and become a good rotational piece along this defensive line under Tosh Lupoi.
Who knows, maybe this new scheme is what Bryan needs to turn things around. If he can it will help fortify a defensive line that needs as much help as it can get after one of the worst seasons in franchise history in 2020. If not, he may end up cut before the regular season begins.
He has always had the size and strength to be a force in this league, but he has to show he has the motivation, motor and plus-two mentality Meyer expects out of his players.
WR DJ Chark
As he enters his fourth year DJ Chark is coming off a lack-luster season following a pro bowl year in 2019, and Meyer openly challenged Chark, calling him out this offseason.
''He didn't play well last year, and his first year he was very good,'' Meyer said. ''I just didn't like his size or strength. I just thought it was way below average, way below from what we expect from our receivers.
''He was told that, and the best thing I love about DJ is that he addressed it and hit it very hard. He has gained seven pounds of muscle, and he's playing a much more physical game.''
Like Meyer said Chark has attacked his weaknesses and feels more confident than ever heading into the 2021 season. He is set to be a cornerstone of this offense and a big-time target for Lawrence.
Alongside Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault, Chark can get back to that Pro Bowl level we saw of him a couple of years ago in this new offense. He has shown great signs so far, but let's see how much more physical his game has become once the pads go on next week.
"Yeah, I feel it. Also, I worked on speed a lot, I feel the speed when I’m coming off the ball. That’s something that Coach Sanjay [Lal] and Coach [Urban] Meyer really buckled down on," Chark said this week.
"But I feel it coming off the ball, getting in and out of breaks, just moving people around. It’s something good to add to my game, as well as being shifty.”