BY JORDAN DE LUGO
Despite not being able to participate in team drills, Marqise Lee was the first player to take the field. He was greeted by a host of loyal fans asking for his autograph. He gladly signed a few choice items and trotted out on the field to begin throwing around the pigskin with an assistant. This type of display shows that despite being set back by a minor injury, Marqise is still dedicated to mastering his craft, and improving on a less than stellar rookie season.
The team started practice with special teams drills. Notable players on the kick off coverage team were Dan Skuta, Sergio Brown, Aaron Colvin, LaRoy Reynolds, Chris Smith, and Ryan Davis. Skuta and Brown were special teams standouts in San Fransisco and Indianapolis respectively. They were brought to Jacksonville to play bigger roles on defense than they did for their former teams, but it is clear that the Jaguars want them to contribute on special teams as well. Perhaps more interesting was who was back deep to return kick offs. Sure, there were the usual suspects, Rashad Greene, Denard Robinson, Ace Sanders, Tandon Doss all took reps as kick returners, but the most notable player lined up to receive kicks, was former Auburn QB, Nick Marshall. Marshall is a freaky athlete who might just make it in the NFL if he can make a big impact on special teams.
After a few reps the horn sounded and special teams drills were over. It was finally time to for the fans to see second year QB Blake Bortles take some snaps. In team drills the defense was playing soft as there was no contact allowed, but fans got to see the improvement in Blake’s mechanics that he worked on in the offseason. Blake went 13 of 17 and the offense showed some no huddle. Bortles threw 3 TD’s and 1 INT on the day. On his fifth pass he threw the ball high over the middle looking for Marcedes Lewis, unfortunately for Blake, fellow second year player Telvin Smith, was waiting on that pass the whole way and picked it off with ease. After that mental blunder, Blake looked sharp. He threw a TD to rookie TE, Ben Koyack followed by two more TD’s later in practice to Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis. Blake seemed to really enjoy using his new weapons.
Coach Bradley called the practice short so that the players would have more time to interact with the fans, and that they did. 30 minutes after practice ended, players were still signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans. It was a hot day for the Jaguars and their fans, but a good one nonetheless.
After the practice Bradley spoke to the media. He commented on the fans saying "It's amazing, this group of fans that we have." He also said "I spoke to the players and told them how important it is to connect with the fans, we're on this journey together." In regards to the practice he said "Today was about the mental part of it." Regarding the level of talent on the team Bradley said "it feels different, offensively there is more talent at every position group." In regards to Blake he commented "Fabulous ... very pleased with Blake." It seems as if Gus is truly excited about the new talent and the development of the players that have been here. Get excited Duval, the season is just around the corner!
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