Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 training camp officially starts today, Tuesday, July 27th. With veterans reporting to the team's facility at TIAA Bank Field, a new era of Jaguars' football — led by first-year head coach Urban Meyer and first overall pick quarterback Trevor Lawrence — is underway.
Here, I'll highlight some of the major storylines to follow and break down some of the training camp battles to watch. We'll also look at some of the key dates leading up to the start of the regular season.
Will Trevor Lawrence take the first-team reps?
It's widely expected that Trevor Lawrence will be the Jaguars' starting quarterback from the get-go. But the Jaguars have yet to name him the starter, at least in public. In fact, passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer confirmed that the team hadn't named a starter towards the end of mandatory minicamp. But let's be real: Trevor Lawrence is the most talented quarterback ever to step on the practice field in a Jaguars' uniform, and it would be a massive shock not to see him trot out as the starting quarterback this September. Of course, Gardner Minshew will do everything he can to win the starting job, but in reality, the mustachioed gunslinger is likely in competition with fourth-year quarterback CJ Beathard for the number two job, whether he realizes it or not. But Minshew's competitive fire should help get the most out of Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the quarterbacks in the room.
This is all going to be new and fresh. A new head coach, a mostly new coaching staff, new trainers, more than a handful of veteran free agent signings, and nearly twenty rookies will be taking part in training camp. For the first time since 2016, there will be someone not named Doug Marrone leading this team through training camp practices. Urban Meyer will lead the way with his coordinators, Darrell Bevell on offense, Joe Cullen on defense, Nick Sorensen on special teams, along with assistant head coach Charlie Strong, setting the tone for these practices.
The Jaguars' offense will look almost entirely different from a schematic standpoint. The final result will be an amalgamation of Urban Meyer, Darrell Bevell, and Brian Schottenheimer's philosophies. With Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback that can make every throw and get the job done with his legs, there will be more deep shots, more RPOs, and likely some read-option plays. And it wouldn't be an Urban Meyer offense without getting the ball into the hands of playmakers like Travis Etienne, DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Marvin Jones, with great haste. The Jaguars have been behind the eight-ball from a pre-snap movement perspective for nearly a decade — expect this coaching staff to fix that. From a rushing perspective, there will likely be a focus on zone rushing, with both inside and outside zone concepts.
On the defensive side of the ball, Joe Cullen, a longtime defensive line coach and first-time defensive coordinator, will bring energy; loud, non-stop energy. And if he gets his way, his defense will too. Cullen will run a blitz-heavy scheme that relies on defensive backs to be sticky enough in coverage for the blitz to get home. In base, we'll see a new 3-4 scheme, with three down linemen and four backers. But the Jaguars' will likely be in nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) the vast majority of the time. How will it all come together?
A more athletic, stronger group
As I mentioned, the Jaguars will have plenty of new, highly athletic players on the field. Every player selected in the draft will bring above-average to elite athleticism to their position group. The veteran free agent signings are the same way. And even the holdovers, like DJ Chark, James Robinson, and Laviska Shenault, are stronger and faster than they have been in the past. With Urban Meyer's affinity for sports performance and lead trainer Anthony Schlegel's enthusiasm and know-how, these Jaguars have been sure to maximize the opportunities for players to improve their physical condition. Fourth-year Wide receiver DJ Chark put on seven pounds of muscle this offseason, while sophomore running back James Robinson believes he was able to improve his speed thanks to pointers from Meyer and Schlegel.
Energy, attention to detail
Did I mention you'll see more energy on defense? I'd expect that on the offensive side of the ball too. Anywhere Urban Meyer is, he'll demand high energy from his players. And because Meyer builds trust through actions, his players will give him what he wants. And when it comes to the details, Meyer is a stickler. He'll cross every t and dot every i. He'll spend hours and hours parsing through practice film, ensuring this team is on track to win and win fast. Whether or not this young, talented collection of football players will be able to live up to Urban Meyer's standard of winning in year one remains to be seen, but he'll give everything he's got to turn his expectations into reality. There was a bit too much energy during OTAs, as the Jaguars and Urban Meyer were slapped with a fine from the NFL for violating the non-contact rules. Not only was the team fined, but they'll also lose two OTA practices in 2022. Meyer might want to pay a bit more attention to the rules moving forward.
Josh Lambo vs. Aldrick Rosas
For whatever reason, the Jaguars' coaching staff decided Aldrick Rosas, who has struggled greatly over the last two seasons, should be in a legitimate competition for the kicking job in Duval with Josh Lambo. You know, the guy who's been the most accurate kicker in the world since joining the Jaguars in 2017. Lambo struggled through 2020 with a hip injury. But as long as he's healthy, and he does appear to be, there's no reason Lambo shouldn't win this competition going away. Still, he's going to have to go out and earn it over the next few weeks.
Andre Cisco vs. Jarrod Wilson
After signing a four-year, $35 million contract with the Jags this offseason, Rayshawn Jenkins is going to be a starting safety for the Jaguars. His versatility and playmaking ability are apparent. But who will start next to Jenkins? Jarrod Wilson is the incumbent and has been a steady contributor and leader for the Jaguars' defense. But Andre Cisco, the 2021 third-round pick, has more talent than anyone else in that room. He's coming off a torn ACL, and at times lacked discipline during his college days, but his range and ball skills should flash regularly. Will he be able to win the job in camp?
Tyson Campbell vs. Sidney Jones
Another rookie versus vet battle. The 33rd overall pick in 2021, Campbell has length and all the athleticism you could ask for, but he struggled to make an impact with the ball in the air at Georgia. Is he suddenly going to improve in this area? He'll need to in order to beat out Sidney Jones, who has plenty of talent himself and impressed as a starter for the Jaguars in 2020. Of course, Jones has always struggled with injuries, specifically to his Achilles. If Jones remains healthy throughout training camp, Tyson Campbell might have a tough time earning the job as the Jaguars' third cornerback. Both should see significant reps with the ones early, as CJ Henderson, a 2020 first-round pick, is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Marvin Jones will be the team's top three receivers. But who comes next? Collin Johnson impressed down the stretch as a rookie and brings a massive frame, strong hands, and deceptive speed to the table. Phillip Dorsett missed 2020 with an injury, but he played well over the summer and has a trait that Urban Meyer covets: speed. Return man Jamal Agnew will also look to carve out a role, as will several other young receivers. Phillip Dorsett feels like he could be the fourth option, but I'm guessing the actual fourth option in the passing game will be a rookie who played running back at Clemson. Travis Etienne will have a unique role in this offense — he'll be a "slash" player — part running back, part receiver.
The Jaguars have plenty of defensive linemen that can play. But what will their roles be? The team traded for Malcom Brown this offseason for one reason, to stop the run. He'll be the primary nose tackle and will need to eat up blocks. I'd also expect edge rusher Josh Allen to be on the field almost all the time, with K'Lavon Chaisson having a big role too. Free-agent signing Roy Roberston-Harris, who can play virtually every position on the defensive line, figures to have a starting role as well, thanks to a new three-year, $28.65 million contract. Who else will earn significant playing time? Rookie Jay Tufele has as much talent as anyone up front for the Jaguars but hasn't played since 2019 after opting out in 2020. Taven Bryan has been a massive disappointment to this point in his career, but the new coaching staff is eager to work with him. DaVon Hamilton, a 2020 third-round pick, was coming on strong before suffering a knee injury. Adam Gotsis was the Jaguars' most consistent playmaker on the defensive line in 2020, and he's back too. Jihad Ward followed Joe Cullen over from Baltimore and is one of his defensive coordinator's favorite players. How will this rotation shake out? We'll find out over the next several weeks.
Who will emerge as a receiving threat from this tight end group? Chris Manhertz is going to be the top blocking tight end, but can he carve out a bigger role? Will James O'Shaughnessy prove he's the best receiver of the bunch? Tim Tebow will get his chance too. Could he actually prove to be an effective role player? Luke Farrell was underutilized at Ohio State, but the rookie has some impressive athletic numbers and size. Perhaps he could surprise. Ben Ellefson and Tyler Davis are two more young guys that earned the favor of the previous coaching staff. Will they have a part to play? Perhaps the answer to this question isn't yet in Duval.
There are so many fascinating storylines and competitions to follow in Jacksonville throughout training camp. But none will be more important than the development of first overall pick Trevor Lawrence. He's fully healthy after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery in his non-throwing arm. How quickly can he acclimate to his new offense, his new teammates, and the speed of the NFL? He's said and done everything the right way so far.
Just as critical will be the men protecting him. The same starting five returns on the offensive line, as does O-Line coach George Warhop. Continuity is important up front, and the Jaguars have that in spades, but talent and consistency are critical as well. Can Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor handle their business against the top edge rushers in football? If not, rookie Walker Little, who has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff, could find his way onto the field early.
The Jaguars will play three preseason games in August, taking on the Browns on 8/14, the Saints on 8/23, and the Cowboys on 8/29. The first contest against the Browns is the only home game. All three games will be televised nationally, and the matchup against the Saints will be featured on ESPN's Monday Night Football. How will the lack of a fourth preseason game impact strategy when it comes to load management? Will the third game still be considered the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season?
By 4 pm on 8/24, the Jaguars will need to cut their roster down to 80 players and then down to 53 players by 4 pm on 8/31.
The Jaguars currently have four players, QB Jake Luton, and cornerbacks CJ Henderson, Luq Barcoo, and Chris Claybrooks, on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Linebacker Leon Jacobs is on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, an undrafted rookie free agent linebacker Dylan Moses is on the Active/Non-Football Injury list.
Fans will be permitted to attend several training camp practices this year:
Friday, 7/30, Season Ticket Holders Only
Sunday, 8/8 Team Scrimmage
Stay tuned for more coverage!
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