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What We Learned: Rookie Minicamp edition

Posted May 6, 2013

What we learned from the Jaguars’ three-day rookie minicamp at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields...

JACKSONVILLE – Here’s what we learned from the Jaguars’ three-day rookie minicamp at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields . . .

1. Luke Joeckel is what they thought he was. This wasn’t surprising, but the Jaguars left the three-day minicamp liking their first-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. A lot. That stands to reason, because many analysts thought Joeckel was the best player in the draft. But early indications are that Joeckel has a professional approach to go with the athletic feet, superior balance and pass-blocking skills that made him the No. 2 overall selection. It’s focus, work ethic and desire to be the best that turns elite draft selections into cornerstones.

2. The transition is going smoothly – as smoothly as possible, anyway. Joeckel, who started at left tackle for three seasons at Texas A&M, is making a much-watched move to the right side. He said while the move has been an adjustment in terms of his “stagger” and switching post feet, overall he is feeling comfortable quickly and expects to be ready in time for the regular season. Jaguars offensive line coach George Yarno said of Joeckel, “He has a great future.” This is a much-watched story, but it would be surprising if there are big-picture issues in this move.

3. Johnathan Cyprien fits . . . If there was a star at minicamp – in this case, “star” meaning a player who shows he belongs – it was Cyprien, a safety from Florida International. That’s not surprising, because many projected Cyprien as a first-round selection before he slipped to the Jaguars at No. 33 overall. Beyond being physically imposing, Cyprien showed good range and ball skills in the secondary this weekend.

4.  . . . and he stands out, too. Cyprien throughout the weekend showed more than athleticism. He appeared to quickly become a leader among the other first-year secondary players, and after a pass breakup Sunday, he leaped through the defense yelling and high-fiving with teammates. It was easy to see why the effusive, energetic Gus Bradley took an immediate liking to him.

5. Everyone’s getting the same look. The message from both General Manager David Caldwell and Bradley before the draft was that the Jaguars would be a place where a free agent could get a fair chance to make the team. That appears to be true, and it extends to workout players, too. Two rookies in camp on a workout basis – running back De’Leon Eskridge and end J.D. Griggs – played well over the weekend, and could be signed to the active roster Monday.

6. Tobais Palmer may have a chance. The rookie wide receiver from North Carolina State stood out on Friday, and after missing Saturday with a stomach virus, he caught several long passes in better conditions Sunday. At a position with just two established veterans – Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon – Palmer will be a player to watch in organized team activities.

7. Palmer’s not the only one. With just three practices, none in pads – and with two of those practices being in the rain – it was difficult to get a gauge on all 53 players in town this weekend. But Bradley said he liked what he saw from three undrafted rookie linebackers – Maalik Bomar, LaRoy Reynolds and Michael Zimmer – and defensive end Paul Hazel has enough pass-rushing skills to be a developmental possibility at the Leo position.

8. Rain is just a “thing” ­to Gus Bradley – and apparently not a very significant thing. The Jaguars practiced Friday and Saturday in steady rains, and Bradley said he was impressed with how the rookies focused despite the elements. Bradley took advantage of there being no lightning on the two days to get work in on windy, rainy days.

9. The secondary will have a new look. That has become more obvious through the offseason, but there was a time in minicamp Sunday when Cyprien was lined up at one safety, with Josh Evans at the other. Dwayne Gratz was at one corner with Demetrius McCray at other. That almost certainly won’t be the Jaguars’ starting secondary next season, not with Dwight Lowery expected to be a leader at free safety. But all four of those players likely will play a lot – and soon. They’re aggressive players, and the corners appear comfortable in press coverage. That’s the future of the secondary.

10. The Jaguars’ secondary is going to be aggressive. You can’t tell everything from a minicamp, but you saw first-hand over the weekend what Bradley has been talking about with aggressive secondary play. Cyprien looked comfortable as the single-high safety and the cornerbacks are going to be asked to play tight a lot at the line of scrimmage.

11. Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers will be factors for roster spots. Bradley said he liked what he saw from Scott Friday before he sustained an ankle injury while Rodgers toughed through a groin injury to make some solid throws Saturday. The two undrafted quarterbacks have a long way to go before pushing for a starting position, but their progress in organized team activities will be worth watching.

12. Lonnie Pryor could have a diversified role. When the Jaguars signed the free agent from Florida State, it was assumed he was being signed as a blocking fullback – particularly with longtime Jaguars veteran Greg Jones having signed with Houston as a free agent. But Bradley said multiple times over the weekend that the team is looking at Pryor to potentially play some running back, with having a bigger back available being a position in the team’s new zone-blocking approach.

13. Denard Robinson could be a factor. The Michigan quarterback/running back practiced just one day Friday before heading back to Ann Arbor for graduation ceremonies, but if you weren’t impressed with his speed you weren’t watching. How Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch utilizes that speed will be fascinating to watch.

14. The foundation is being built. Right now, it’s just a foundation. Let’s not lose sight of that, and it’s true the Jaguars haven’t been in pads yet. But you saw speed on offense and defense, and you saw what the secondary might start looking like next season. Next up are organized team activities beginning next week. Seeing how this rookie class fits into the existing structure is the next offseason storyline.

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