A blistering hot Tuesday in Duval was the setting for the Jaguars 11th day of 2021 training camp. They had a special guest, team legend Maurice Jones-Drew on hand to take in the first practice of preseason week one.
Minshew sharp until crunch time
Until the final team drills of the day — hurry up situations for the offense — third-year QB Gardner Minshew was on target and on time with his passes. He was sharp for most of the practice, even if he wasn't exactly testing the defense down the field. And this came on a day when first overall pick Trevor Lawrence struggled with accuracy just a tad and threw an interception to Shaquill Griffin on his last toss of the day. Neither QB had the luxury of throwing to their top receivers on Tuesday.
But even as Minshew operated with precision for much of the practice, I couldn't help but notice that the offense still looked better with Trevor Lawrence on the field. Why? He's willing to take shots, and he usually converts on them. He's poised in the pocket and knows when to escape. The average degree of difficulty on Lawrence's throws dramatically exceeds that of Gardner Minshew's attempts. Even on a day where the offense was heavily run focused and Lawrence was a little off, he still completed 9/15 attempts, throwing a dart to Jamal Agnew in the back of the end zone during red-zone work and scrambling for an easy touchdown a couple plays later. Another play that caught my eye from Lawrence: the defense jumped offside, and like clockwork, the rookie immediately looked to the outside and took a shot at the end zone. That type of awareness is part of why he's considered a generational talent. His two touchdowns displayed other elite traits: arm talent and athleticism.
The Jaguars would be wise to get Trevor Lawrence as many practice reps as possible over the next several weeks leading up the regular season. Even when he's not at his best, Lawrence is the only choice for the starting quarterback job.
Big day for defensive backs
The Jaguars' defensive backfield made a ton of plays in coverage on Tuesday. As I mentioned before, Shaquill Griffin picked off a Trevor Lawrence back shoulder shot down the right side intended for Josh Hammond to close out Lawrence's practice.
Rookie safety Andre Cisco played with physicality in coverage, bodying wide receiver Collin Johnson. He also broke up a Gardner Minshew pass to the flat. He's been making progress throughout camp and will have a chance to take another step forward when the Jaguars take on the Browns on Saturday night at The Bank.
We all know what James Robinson was able to do as undrafted running back in 2020. But he looks even better in 2021. Robinson is running with more speed and running routes as a receiver with much more precision. He's also displaying his usual elite vision. Travis Etienne will undoubtedly eat into Robinson's volume, but I'd expect him to get the bulk of the rushing work still, and I'd bet he'll be even more efficient and explosive than he was in 2020.
One on one trenches
The Jaguars had some big battles in the trenches with a heavy emphasis on individual competition Tuesday. Notable winners from those matchups: AJ Cann, Ben Bartch, and Walker Little showed out on the offensive side, while Jay Tufele, DaVon Hamilton, and Daniel Ekuale won the majority of their reps on defense.
The Jaguars' offensive line and defensive line traded punches during team work, especially in the run game. The offensive line opened a few big holes, but the defensive line was stout up the middle. Roy Robertson-Harris was impressive, with Malcom Brown and Dawuane Smoot also making run stuffs.
Competition is the word of the day. Urban Meyer held one of the more intense practices of camp so far. During all the one-on-one drills, the PA announcer declared and winner for each rep.
CJ Henderson returned to the practice field after missing Sunday's "scrimmage" for personal reasons. The second-year pro has had more off-field storylines and injuries than quality performances for the Jaguars since being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. But he was active on Tuesday, participating in individual drills and 11 on 11 work.
Assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong was excited to get Henderson back on the field and said, "we know he can make us a better football team." Strong left the door open to the possibility that Henderson could play in Saturday's preseason opener.
Jarrod Wilson picked off CJ Beathard on the left side of the field, showing off range and ball skills. He's been fairly active when it comes to getting his hands on the ball in camp.
Newcomer Tavon Austin made two impressive touchdown grabs on the day. He, like many of the receivers in Jacksonville, is going to make roster cuts tough for this coaching staff.
2021 fourth-round pick Jordan Smith picked up a sack in 11 on 11.
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