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Jaguars OTAs 2013: A primer

Posted May 10, 2013

Ten storylines to watch as Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for 2013 Organized Team Activities

JACKSONVILLE – Next up, OTAs.

We’re on to the latest stage of what is misleadingly known as the NFL offseason, and around the Jaguars, the next four weeks of organized team activities – a.k.a., OTAs – will be our latest look into the franchise’s building process.

What will this team look like under Head Coach Gus Bradley?

How is General Manager David Caldwell fitting the pieces together?

We won’t know the final answer until training camp, and we may not actually know it until sometime well after that. This is a building process, not a “snap-your-fingers-and-we’re-suddenly-done” magic act. Still, OTAs do offer a chance at some insight.

The Jaguars will be on the field for 10 OTA practices in the next four weeks – May 13-15, May 20-21, May 23 and June 4-7 – following that with a three-day mandatory minicamp June 18-20. The OTAs are closed to the public.

The OTA dates are open to not only veterans, but to the eight rookies selected in the 2013 NFL Draft and the college free agents signed afterward. Although OTAs are voluntary, attendance during voluntary activities this offseason around the Jaguars has been close to 100 percent, and likely will remain that way with Bradley and a new coaching staff installing new offensive and defensive schemes.

So, what will happen during OTAs? What are the storylines?

Glad you asked. We won’t likely know for sure starters and depth chart when minicamp ends on June 13. Bradley’s theme is competition and getting better, and you’re not going to suddenly halt the competition theme before pads go on in training camp in late July.

At the same time, the next five weeks will provide a glimpse into what to expect, and by mid-June, Jaguars observers should have a clearer idea of where the eight rookies – a class led by first-round right tackle Luke Joeckel and second-round safety Johnathan Cyprien – fit into the schemes.

We should have a clearer idea on some other topics, too, and as the Jaguars prepared for OTAs, here’s a look at 10 storylines to watch the next five weeks:

1) Quarterback I. Who will start? Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne? Despite the presence of two undrafted rookies, the Jaguars’ starting quarterback in early September figures to be one of the two. For all of the early speculation about Gabbert being the “odds-on” favorite, the real competition will be in training camp and preseason. OTAs are part of the process, and we should have an idea of where each player stands – and their comfort level in Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch’s scheme – by mid-June.

2) Where’s Robinson? Denard Robinson played quarterback at Michigan, but was drafted as a running back. There also has been mention of receiver, and he likely will play a role as a kickoff returner. And maybe as a Wildcat quarterback sometimes. He is expected to get multiple opportunities per game next season. The team drafted him to be a weapon. Where will he be most powerful? Fisch figures to start figuring that out over the next few weeks.

3) Quarterback II. There’s a lot of intrigue over rookie undrafted free agents Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers. Each missed time with injuries in rookie minicamp, and it’s unclear if Scott (ankle) will be ready for the start of OTAs. Some expect these players to push for a starting role. Word to the wise: Their first step is making the roster.

4) What’s Fisch up to? Just what does Fisch’s offense entail? We know it’s going to be about zone-blocking up front, and players have discussed a fast-paced, up-tempo scheme that could have no-huddle elements. It’s no accident few details are being offered. The Jaguars have no incentive to publish the playbook, but there should be a bit clearer idea of how the offensive will look in the coming weeks.

5) Beefing the interior. The exterior offensive line seems pretty well set with Eugene Monroe at left tackle and Joeckel on the right. On paper, it would seem Uche Nwaneri has the edge at right guard, with Will Rackley at left guard and Brad Meester at center. But Rackley didn’t play last season, and Nwaneri has been rehabbing from offseason knee surgery. How the interior of the line shakes out will be worth watching in the coming weeks. With Joeckel playing, and Rackley and Nwaneri healthy – if that’s the line – this could be an area that improves in a hurry.

6) Leo, Leo, Leo . . . Jason Babin is expected to start at the Leo position, an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid that is key to Bradley’s defense. Andre Branch also has been projected as a potential LEO. How will they move those players around? Who else will fit? OTAs will be about starting to figure that out, as well as about where rookies such as Paul Hazel and J.D. Griggs might project.

7) DB depth. Talk about a different look. Since last season, the Jaguars have overhauled their secondary. Dwight Lowery figures to start at free safety, and Cyprien looked like a big-time player at strong during rookie minicamp. Third-round rookie Dwayne Gratz has chance to start at one corner, with perhaps Alan Ball and a lot of others perhapses on the other side. This will be a group that looks dramatically different, and the competition in the secondary could be as intense as anywhere on the roster.

8) Adjustment process. The Jaguars drafted Joeckel with the No. 2 overall selection late last month, and he spent the recent rookie minicamp making the first steps of the transition to right tackle after playing left at Texas A&M. His objective is to be significantly more comfortable on the right side entering training camp, and if early indications are correct, he’ll work enough during OTAs to be ready in late July.

9) Return game. The Jaguars drafted Robinson in the fifth round with kick returner in mind, and wide receiver Ace Sanders in the fourth round with punt returner in mind. On paper, these guys figure to add speed and big-play ability to those spots. OTAs could show a different dynamic to those spots than was there in recent seasons.

10) Help wanted. The Jaguars will be without starting wide receiver Justin Blackmon for the first four games of the season. Cecil Shorts will start at one spot, but some combination of Mohamed Massaquoi, Jordan Shipley, Ace Sanders, Mike Brown . . . well, you get the idea. A lot of people will be working at receiver in OTAs. The Jaguars need to figure out how this will look come early September.

CONTENT RECAP

After each of the Jaguars eight selections, Senior Writer John Oehser provided instant analysis. His insight on each draft prospect is listed on our Jags 2013 Picks Analysis Page.

Entering their first NFL Draft in their current roles, fans were wondering how the Jaguars new regime would do. Oehser reflects on what the NFL Draft taught us about the Jaguars decision makers in What We Learned: Jaguars 2013 Draft.

Rookie Minicamp offered staff, fans and media their first opportunity to see the rookie class take the field as Jaguars. Oehser lets the viewers know who and what caught his eye in What We Learned: Rookie Minicamp edition.

Jaguars GM David Caldwell was adamant about the importance of college free agency. The work for the Jaguars front office did not stop at the conclusion of the NFL Draft. Jacksonville added 23 players via college free agency.

The week following Rookie Minicamp offered Oehser an opportunity to catch his breath before Organized Team Activities start. He addresses the four hot button issues surrounding the Jaguars in Fabulous Four.

For those fans that want to get a look at some of the highlights from the past two weeks, check out the videos and photo galleries below.

Inside the Jaguars: Draft Rewind Luke Joeckel Arrives in Jacksonville
Inside the Jaguars: Draft Rewind Luke Joeckel arrives in Jacksonville
Rookie Minicamp Highlights Jaguars Rookie Minicamp
Rookie Minicamp Highlights Third Day of Jaguars Rookie Minicamp

                 

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