5 Jaguars Who Would Have Benefited the Most From Minicamps
For a young and inexperienced roster like the one the Jacksonville Jaguars are set to trot onto the field on Sundays this fall, there numerous questions about how a reshaped offseason could impact their preparedness for 2020.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all organized team physical activities have been put to a halt. One specific portion of the offseason that teams have now lost out on has been in-person minicamps, the annual Phase 3 practice sessions which let rookies and veterans alike begin to acclimate back to on-field work.
In-person minicamps were canceled by the NFL earlier this offseason, meaning the first time teams will be able to see their locker rooms on the grass will be during training camp (set to take place July 28). Considering the amount of question marks facing the Jaguars, such as a new offensive system, an overhauled roster, a new starting quarterback and the largest draft class in team history, this is a fairly significant development.
So, which players may have lost out the most when it comes to canceled minicamps? To determine the answer, we look at which players could have most needed the acclimation and preparation period.
TE Josh Oliver
No second-year player needs to make as much of a positive impression early on in field work this year than Josh Oliver. The 2019 third-round draft pick battled multiple injuries as a rookie and ended up catching just three passes for 15 yards, and frankly, he is a massive unknown to those inside TIAA Bank Field as it stands today. There is definite talent with Oliver, but he simply wasn't able to show the Jaguars what he could do on Sundays as a rookie and there is almost zero tape for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to go off of.
Considering how important tight ends are to Gruden's schemes throughout his career, it will be vital for the Jaguars to get a return on their investment from Oliver in 2020. A minicamp would have helped Oliver not only transition to his third offensive scheme in three years, but it could have helped the Jaguars feel more confident in his development and usage as well.
"I think I know how important the tight end position is because if you look at our successful teams in Cincinnati and in Washington, when Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis played with the Redskins, we were pretty good on offense, really, especially on third down and in the red zone," Gruden said about the usage of tight ends within his offense in May. "When those guys didn’t play, you were asked to replace them with some younger guys who aren’t quite as athletic or gifted as those guys. It’s difficult down there."
QB Gardner Minshew II
This one is obvious, but it can't be ignored. There is no player who is more important to Jacksonville's success than second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II, but luckily for the Jaguars, he has already shown them glimpses of what he can do after appearing in 14 games as a rookie. But despite a good amount of starting experience last season, Minshew could have greatly benefitted from a minicamp in his first year in Gruden's offense.
Gruden's offenses have traditionally been known as detail-oriented schemes which could take younger quarterbacks more time to transition to from a mental standpoint. Minshew does have an advantage considering his prowess when it comes to the mental aspect of the game, but extra reps on the field with Gruden and new quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo would have been invaluable in helping Minshew find his comfort in his new offense.
"I think just learning how you learn best, I think that experience helped me as I move into the more complicated NFL offenses, but still just keeping that same process of learning how much repetition, learning different ways whether it’s hearing recordings or writing it out whether it’s just reading or a combination of both. I think just learning your own process is key for that," Minshew said in May.
CB CJ Henderson
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jaguars clearly have a big role envisioned for CJ Henderson early on in his career. It is hard to see Henderson not being the day one starter at cornerback for Jacksonville considering both the investment the team made in him and their lack of cornerback depth, all of which would have made minicamp even more vital for the rookie.
Cornerback is historically one of the tougher positions for players to make a smooth transition to from college, so any reps Henderson could get on the field with his coaches and teammates would have been invaluable in every sense of the word. Henderson will almost assuredly be asked to man the No. 1 cornerback spot no matter how the final phase of this offseason shapes up, but a minicamp could have still aided him and his rookie season greatly.
OT Will Richardson
Last year, Will Richardson was the Jaguars' key sixth offensive lineman. He spent the entirety of training camp battling for a starting spot at right guard before moving to left tackle just days before Week 1, a spot he would ultimately start two games at. Then over the final 14 weeks, Richardson moved back to right guard and rotated with A.J. Cann. Fast forward a few months, and Richardson's position has changed once again.
Richardson was officially moved to left tackle after the Jaguars drafted offensive lineman Ben Bartch in the fourth-round of April's draft. Richardson will now be tasked with learning left tackle on a full-time basis for the first time in either his college or NFL career, meaning any reps he could possibly get would be extremely beneficial considering his switch from the right side of the line to the left.
"I feel like the biggest thing for me this year is just becoming more accustomed to that left side. And people don't realize it but more than switching positions, it is tougher to switch sides," Richardson said during an interview with 1010 XL/WJXL-FM on Jaguars Today in Jacksonville this week.
LB Myles Jack
Another player who will be in a new position in 2020, Myles Jack is set to be Jacksonville's weak side linebacker for the first time in his five seasons as a Jaguar. Jack spent his first two years at strong side linebacker before moving to middle linebacker in 2018, but Jack will now be moved out of either spot and asked to play the role Telvin Smith once played in Jacksonville's defense.
Jack will be replaced at middle linebacker by Joe Schobert which should in theory make Jack's job easier each week since he won't have to lineup the defense. But Jack will still have to learn the ins and outs of a new position and alignment, one in which he will have to pick up on responsibilities he didn't have to focus on in past years. Because of this, a minicamp could have done wonders for Jack in his transition back to the outside.