With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books, the Jacksonville Jaguars are now moving toward their next phase of spring — the voluntary virtual offseason program.
Typical offseason programs, in which players flock back to their team facilities to workout, learn new schemes, and meet with coaches and trainers, have been turned upside down this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, clubs are being forced to meet with their staff and players via technology.
The Jaguars began their voluntary virtual offseason program Monday at 11 a.m. According to the Jaguars, head coach Doug Marrone addressed a Microsoft Teams call of 90+ people, which included players, coaches, and football technology personnel.
Four days per week, Jacksonville players will be able to virtual meet with position coaches, coordinators, and special teams coaches. This is especially significant considering the Jaguars have a new offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden and a new quarterbacks coach in Ben McAdoo. Jacksonville will be changing its entire offensive scheme in 2020, as well as making tweaks on defense, so any time the staff can get with the roster is important.
"We’re going to be able to film a lot of the installations. That’s something that we’ve done before. We used to film them in-house," head coach Doug Marrone said about the virtual offseason earlier this month.
"That way, if we did pick a player up, not necessarily later in the year but later in training camp or even later in the year, we’ve always had that stuff – that library – that we’re able to show the players to kind of makeup for what the foundation of the system that we have are. We’re doing that right now. We started that a couple of weeks ago, getting everything ready."
While being able to meet with players virtually is an invaluable tool during an uncertain time in the sports world, and the world at large, there are still going to be some challenges associated with a virtual offseason. These challenges are magnified when you consider how youthful the Jaguars' roster is after an offseason in which the roster was purged of veteran talent.
"The challenge is going to be when we have these young guys and what I’m still working on is how do you create that chemistry that you would normally have if you were here Phase 1 and Phase 2, get to know your teammates," Marrone said this month. "Now all of a sudden there’s a certain type of a bond when you go out there and do it. Those are the big challenges."
One Jaguars player who has confirmed he will participate in the virtual offseason program is second-year right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Taylor, who Jacksonville traded up for in the second round last season, started 16 games for the Jaguars in 2019 and is set to be a major building block in 2020.
"I know right now the NFL is supposed to be helping players with money to get equipment to use at home. Right now, that is what we are in the process of doing. I have been training myself along with a few other teammates," Taylor said earlier in April. "I feel like the virtual program will be pretty good. It will be a lot different. I feel like we will be able to get a lot of work in and we will see how it goes.”
Of course, the virtual offseason is set to be far different from any typical offseason. Taylor and his teammates will be in communication, but it will be a far cry from any offseason they had experienced in the past. Despite that, Taylor and his teammates know they have to work with the situation dealt to them.
“I love the offseason – being around teammates, training together and getting better as a unit and getting better as a team," Taylor said. "It is different right now because everyone is at home training on their own. At the same time, we still have to find ways to get better. There are really no excuses. You have to stay in shape. Right now, we are all trying to find ways to get better.”