As the Jacksonville Jaguars worked through Wednesday’s practice in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, a familiar voice rang out…but in an entirely new way.
Eighth-year veteran defensive lineman Abry Jones, in street clothes and a backwards hat, coached his teammates through drills, offering advice, demonstrating moves and working on his coach voice…which is still going to take some—pardon the pun—practice.
“I think he needs to work on his authoritative stance,” joked middle linebacker Joe Schobert.
Jones is stepping in as the defensive staff, including defensive coordinator Todd Wash and defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich, are working virtually due to the league’s intensive COVID-19 protocols. The coaches are not allowed at practice all week and will not be allowed on the sidelines for Sunday’s game.
Wash and Rebrovich can conduct meetings virtually during the week. Safeties coach Joe Danna will call the defensive playbook on Sunday. On the practice field during the week though, the plan is for head coach Doug Marrone and special teams assistant coach Mike Mallory to coach the defense.
“It’s not a problem,” remarked Marrone.
“I mean a lot of us when we started coaching, we used to coach both sides of the football. We have all the coaches helping us support, players will do a good job. I don’t see it as anything except adversity that you face, but it’s not going to affect the way we plan or the way we do things. The only part of what the coaches aren’t involved in are going to be actually just whatever hour and twenty minutes we’re on the football field.”
Marrone is looking forward to the change for the time being, promising a soundtrack of 80’s music and the possibility to take over the play calling himself, even as a former offensive-line coach.
“I’m kind of fired up to be on that defensive side of the ball. I’m going to have the music cranking today, my music I’m going to play. I get to play mine now, so they might not like it, but I’ll be all fired up out there. I’m good with it. They understand what’s going on, they’re professionals. I told them expect the unexpected this season. I’m not one to go ahead and mope around with it, I’m going to have some fun. S***, I might be calling it too by the end of the week, you never know.”
But with holes on the staff, everyone is pitching in, including Jones. The lineman has been a non-participant or limited participant in practice lately while on IR with an ankle injury. He was designated for return on Wednesday but instead of donning his pads, donned a call sheet and a whistle
As the most tenured player on the whole team, much less the defense, he has the vastest knowledge of the scheme. Now he’s using it to literally coach the youngest team in the league…and it’s still taking some work, but all in due time.
Said Schobert, “I don’t think the guys were really listening to him as well as they should [listen to] a real coach. I think he had a little bit of struggles with getting talk back and a little chatter, but he was out there enjoying it. Although I think I heard after practice he said that coaching’s for the birds, so I don’t know if he has a second career after he’s done playing.”