Jaguars Training Camp Observations: Offense Ebbs and Flows During Scrimmage

With Saturday's scrimmage in the books, what takeaways can we have from the final big day of training camp?
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the first time since a Week 17 victory against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 29, the Jaguars were back and playing football inside TIAA Bank Field, with the team holding their final major training camp practice within the stadium. 

And with that final practice came an intrasquad scrimmage, which was still plenty informative despite there being zero full tackling. Some players shined, others struggled, and all in all, we got a better idea for what the Jaguars may look like vs. the Colts when the two teams meet in Week 1 on Sept. 13.

So, what were our observations from inside TIAA Bank Field and what could it mean moving forward? 

The offense had its moments but was overall inconsistent 

Thinking the Jaguars offense was all bad and without bright spots on Saturday wouldn't be accurate, but in our view, it is fair to assess the offense's overall performance as inconsistent, especially the first-team unit. To give you a summary of the day, we are going to look at the quarterbacks on a player-by-player basis.

Gardner Minshew II had a nice first drive, delivering accurate passes to Chris Conley and Collin Johnson while he drove the team into field goal range. Minshew's next two drives were a stark difference from the confident and decisive passing of the first drive, however. 

On his second drive, Minshew was only able to get one snap in. On the first play of the drive, he made an extremely curious decision to throw the ball in the flats and directly in the path of slot cornerback D.J. Hayden, who returned it for a short touchdown. On his second drive, Minshew turned the ball over on downs, with a few passes nearly picked off and one deep ball to Conley being far overthrown. For as good as Minshew was on his first drive, he was glaringly inefficient vs. a more assertive defense on the next two drives. 

Minshew was much better over the final two drives, leading the Jaguars to touchdowns from the 25-yard line each time. His first touchdown pass came on a nice deep pass to DJ Chark in the back of the end zone. The pass fluttered a bit but ultimately was placed perfectly for Chark to make a play. Minshew then flashed a bit with his scrambling, getting away pressure in one instance and completing an accurate pass to Conley for a first down. Minshew's second touchdown came on a short pass to Terry Godwin, but again, Minshew looked more in control than he did on his previous drives. 

As for Mike Glennon, it was a mixed bag. He was erratic when passing to start, but the Jaguars simply kept putting him on the field for reps with both the first- and second-team units, making it clear he is likely the No. 2 quarterback. He made a few nice passes later in practice, including an accurate touchdown to Godwin over Luq Barcoo, but his inconsistency with his accuracy is clear. He overthrew Chark by a good bit on a few instances, which has proven hard to do considering Chark's size, speed and catch radius.

Jake Luton was the second quarterback on the field, but he had a so-so day after offensive coordinator Jay Gruden gave him a lot of praise on Friday. Luton's first drive was encouraging, with him mostly using Collin Johnson as a safety blanket, but he still delivered accurate and high-speed passes to the 6-foot-6 wideout. His promising drive ended in poor fashing, however, as he threw an interception to linebacker Joe Giles-Harris in the end zone. Luton was targeting tight end Tyler Davis, but Giles-Harris was watching his eyes and waiting to pounce the entire time. Luton had his moments later in practice, but he has been more impressive other days. 

Finally, Josh Dobbs was the fourth quarterback in line for reps but you could make an argument he was the second-most effective, even if he wasn't going against starters. He threw a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass to Johnson down the left sideline, and on numerous plays he showed the mobility to escape the pass rush and find a checkdown. If the Jaguars want a backup quarterback who is similar to Minshew in terms of style and strengths, Dobbs would make sense. 

As for the running game, it was hit or miss. Leonard Fournette had a few long runs thanks to good blocks from Jawaan Taylor, Andrew Norwell and Cam Robinson, but the Jaguars failed to get any positive yardage on seemingly every single outside run attempt. When the Jaguars tried to pound the ball down the middle of the defense, they had some success. When they tried to outrun the defense or force it to overpursue, they were much less successful. 

Collin Johnson, DJ Chark and Terry Godwin all make big plays

If you want to point out who the three best pass-catchers were on Saturday, it was clearly Collin Johnson, DJ Chark and Terry Godwin. Dede Westbrook and Laviska Shenault weren't on the field (more on that later), but players up and down the depth chart made plays in the passing game whenever it was actually moving along. 

Johnson was frankly the most dominant player on the field Saturday. He beat the first-round cornerback CJ Henderson on the first drive of the day on a catch he high pointed along the left sideline, just barely staying inbounds. Next, he tracked an underthrown deep ball from Luton and was able to attack the ball in the air to wrestle it away from Tramaine Brock, who was in position to make a play. Johnson would go on to make a few more big plays, such as the touchdown from Dobbs, and he almost caught a second touchdown on another near-spectacular catch toward the end of practice. Amari Henderson made a terrific play and just barely made enough impact on the ball to force it incomplete as Johnson fell to the ground, but he was otherwise a force to be reckoned with Saturday. 

Chark, meanwhile, continues to prove he is the unquestioned top offensive playmaker in Jacksonville. To a point, it even seems like greatness is already expected from Chark once he hits the field. He was open frequently on Saturday, made a few different tough catches and was a safety valve for every quarterback who threw to him. He nearly scored a second touchdown from Minshew, but even without that score he had a near-flawless day. 

Finally, Godwin continued his hot streak in training camp by catching four passes, including two touchdown catches. He is simply an electric player, showing explosive movements both without the ball in his hands as he runs routes and then as a ball-carrier looking for yards after the catch. His quickness makes him a tough cover for nearly every cornerback on the team, and he has solidified his status as one of the seven best receivers in camp this year. 

Defensive line gets better of offensive line

The Jaguars starting and backup offensive line each needed to show good things on Saturday, but it was a mixed result. The line opened several holes up throughout the practice for the running game, but pass protection was another story entirely, namely for the starting unit. Players like Adam Gotsis, Cassius Marsh, Dawuane Smoot and DaVon Hamilton all made plays vs. Jacksonville's starters to generate pressure, leading to an ineffective offense for some stretches. 

Meanwhile, Jacksonville's backup defense line was similarly impactful. Leon Jacobs and K'Lavon Chaisson each would have recorded sacks against Austin Pleasants, whole Doug Costin and Caraun Reid each got several pressures. We thought Cam Robinson had a solid practice, but the rest of the line had some negative points they would likely want to forget considering Minshew was under a lot of pressure during his slump.

Schobert and Jack combine for strong days 

Jacksonville needs Myles Jack and Joe Schobert to have big seasons if they want their defense to improve from last year's underwhelming unit, and Saturday was likely just what the Jaguars have been hoping to see from the duo. It was clear from the day the Jaguars signed Schobert to be their new middle linebacker that he would be the new mouthpiece of the defense, and he did this effortlessly on Saturday, having the defense set up each play without any major pre-snap gaffes. As for Jack, he was one of the most energetic and vocal players on the field, and nobody celebrated harder than Jack when Schobert picked off Minshew during seven-on-sevens. 

When it came to the scrimmage, both linebackers made stops all over the field. Jack was particularly a strong performer against the run, forcing losses on several outside runs and finding himself in a position to make a play in game-like situations multiple times. He hasn't looked like a rangy and confident linebacker since 2017, but he played like one on Saturday. As for Schobert, he has shown quite a bit of functional athleticism at the inside linebacker spot, using his quickness to help him make run stops all over the field on Saturday. These were two of the standout performers from the practice, something the Jaguars are likely over the moon about. 

Two major pieces of the offense miss practice 

Two of the key pieces of Jacksonville's offense didn't participate in practice on Saturday, but head coach Doug Marrone said it was more for precautionary reasons than anything. Both starting Brandon Linder and rookie receiver Laviska Shenault (the team's second-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft) did not practice, though Marrone said each player would have played had it been a game. 

"If we went out today, those players could have dressed and been out there," Marrone said following practice. 

Linder not practicing could be the direct reason why the offensive lines struggled throughout the day. Tyler Shatley started in Linder's place and while he is experienced, he simply isn't the same caliber of player as Linder. Meanwhile, Sheanult being out was disappointing to the hype he has created during camp, but it gave Jacksonville's other receivers a chance to shine one more time.

Musings

  • Chris Thompson rotated onto the field quite a bit in passing situations, with Leonard Fournette heading to the sideline. Fournette should still be expected to be the team's workhorse in terms of carries, but it really does seem like Thompson could potentially be a big piece of the passing game out of the backfield. 
  • Rookie receiver Marvelle Ross has had his moments in camp, but Saturday was a tough day with him fumbling a punt return.
  • The second-best running back on Saturday wasn't Ryquell Armstead (who didn't practice) or Devine Ozigbo. Instead, it was burly undrafted free agent back James Robinson, who had several big runs and moments where he made defenders look silly in the hole thanks to a surprisingly quick jump cut move. 
  • Aside from Shenault, Armstead and Linder, the following other players didn't practice: linebacker Dakota Allen, defensive tackle Taven Bryan, safety Daniel Thomas, wide receiver Dede Westbrook and linebacker Quincy Williams. 
  • Shaquille Quarterman had a few good run stops, showing off his instincts and ability to read plays and beat blocks downhill.