Today (Monday) the Jaguars rookies will report to training camp. The rest of the team will show up over the next couple of days (hopefully that includes star pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue), with training camp practices officially getting underway on Thursday.
Football is here, ladies and gentlemen.
I'll be covering training camp and all the storylines surrounding the Jaguars leading up to their 25th regular season. But for now, it's time to take a look at the rookies.
Here I'll talk a little bit about each draft pick and breakdown what I think is critical for each of these newcomers.
Josh Allen - Allen should be fully healed after a knee contusion held him out of mandatory minicamp. According to the coaching staff, it was more of a precautionary move to hold him out, but he should be full go to get training camp going. Staying healthy will obviously be paramount for Allen (and the rest of the rookies), but on the field, the seventh overall pick needs to show why he was such a coveted prospect. Speed off the edge, the ability to bend, and finishing. I have little doubt that Allen will be able to do those things. My biggest question for him is how quickly it will click. Will he grasp the playbook from the get-go? Will the transition from being a two-point stance pass rusher at Kentucky to a guy who's asked to put his hand in the dirt for the Jaguars go smoothly?
Jawaan Taylor - I want to see this guys feet and toughness. Is he able to keep up with speed off the edge? In his final year at Florida, Taylor gave up just one sack (Josh Allen was the culprit). If he can keep up with the likes of Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Josh Allen, Taven Bryan, and Lerentee McCray it'll be a positive sign for the player the Jaguars selected to be their bookend right tackle. You also want to see competitive toughness from Taylor. Does he bring physicality and a mean streak with him to Duval?
Josh Oliver - Oliver has the skills to pay the bills. He's big, fast, and has a massive catch radius. The biggest obstacle for Oliver will be the mental side of the game. He's no dummy, but in John DeFilippo's offense, Oliver is being asked to be able to play on the line of scrimmage, in the slot, and in the backfield. There's a lot for him to take in and if he shows that he's comfortable early on in training camp, it'll likely lead to a smooth transition from small-school college football to the pros.
Quincy Williams - Another player from a small school that will likely be asked to do a lot for the Jaguars as a rookie. With Telvin Smith going AWOL this year, Williams will likely be thrust into the starting lineup at weakside linebacker. Can he grasp his responsibilities consistently enough to be able to play free? He clearly has all the physical ability in the world, so like Oliver, if the mental side of the game comes quickly, the transition might not be as difficult as many think it will be.
RyQuell Armstead - STAY HEALTHY. The rookie runner suffered a hamstring tweak that kept him out of minicamp. The team needs to make sure he's 100 before letting him step foot on the field. Aside from the hamstring issue, Armstead should have an easy transition to the NFL. He's a 220-pound bowling ball with 4.45 speed, and he's used to running the ball from the shotgun, something Jaguars' runningbacks will be asked to do quite a bit with John DeFilippo calling the shots. Besides staying healthy, Armstead would do well to show that he can pick up blocking assignments and catch the ball well out of the backfield. He wasn't asked to be a receiver all that much at Temple, but he undoubtedly will need to prove that he has that ability to carve out a role early on.
Gardner Minshew - For Minshew, it doesn't seem likely that getting a firm grasp on the playbook will be an issue. He's a football savant. So my question is, will he look noticeably better than Alex McGough and Tanner Lee? The answer needs to be yes if Minshew is to be the team's second-string QB entering the season. I feel confident that he will be able to thrive in the short and intermediate parts of the field. But can he complete passes down the field? Can he hit the deep out?
Dontavius Russell - Russell just needs to look like an NFL caliber athlete at the defensive tackle position. He's not likely to see the field much as a rookie, if at all. Russell may be stashed on the practice squad with how much depth the Jaguars have at defensive tackle. But if he can make some splash plays here and there, and hold up in run defense, those will be positive signs for the rookie from Auburn.
Other rookies to watch? The Jaguars signed a number of undrafted free agents this spring. Savion Smith was the most productive cornerback at Alabama in 2018 and could be a versatile defensive back in the Jaguars' scheme. If he can show that he belongs, Smith could be a solid depth addition to the secondary. Also, keep an eye at the bottom of the roster at WR. The Jaguars have several UDFA's that will be fighting to make the team and or the practice squad. Do any of them show up on special teams? That could be the key to one of them earning a surprise roster spot.
Which rookies are you most excited to see play for the first time? Let us know in the comments below!
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