Here’s what we’ve learned during the first two weeks of Jaguars 2013 organized team activities...
1. The Jaguars are faster. Yes, we’ve gone over the speed thing before – several times since the 2013 NFL Draft, in fact – but this What We Learned is serving as a Week 1-2 wrap for 2013 OTAs, and of all the notable notes about this franchise in late May, that’s it. The Jaguars drafted with speed in mind. Through two weeks of OTAs, it’s apparent they got it.
2. The defensive line is in transition. Big transition. Head Coach Gus Bradley promised competition when taking the job, and at the same time, said that could mean a ton of transactions. We’ve seen them everywhere around the roster, but nowhere more than the defensive line in recent weeks. Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick in, Jeris Pendleton out. Tyson Alualu from inside to outside. The Jaguars are trying to find the right mix, and you get the idea the action isn’t stopping yet.
3. The Jaguars are beefier on the interior of the line. With Tyson Alualu moving outside and Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller and Kyle Love signed to play inside, the Jaguars have a significantly bigger, heavier look on the interior of the defensive line. The Seahawks under Bradley last season played heavy tackles in run situation and rotated to a more pass-rush oriented scheme on passing downs. The Jaguars won’t be where they want on the personnel front by this season, but they’re starting to look more like a Bradley-style defense.
4. Jason Babin likes the Leo. I had a chance to talk to Babin late in the week about the Leo position. Nothing earth-shattering, but he said after a minicamp and two weeks of OTAs, he likes the Leo position. It fits what he likes to do. A lot. “It’s the same style, the same rules, for me personally,” Babin said. “It fits me well.”
5. Johnathan Cyprien looks like a starter... Remember how good the second-round safety looked in rookie minicamp? Well, two weeks into OTAs he looks about as good. A safety can’t be judged until the pads come on, but if he hits as well as practices, he’s a big-time second-round selection.
6. ...and Dwayne Gratz does, too. Cyprien and first-round left tackle Luke Joeckel understandably got most of the early notice after the draft. That’s understandable, because each got a lot of pre-draft hype among the draftniks. Gratz was less-known nationally but he appears comfortable at the NFL level, and the early buzz is positive. It’s hard to see a scenario in which Gratz, Cyprien and veteran safety Dwight Lowery aren’t starting in September. Mike Harris and Marcus Trufant should get a chance to compete at nickel, and we need to see more of Alan Ball at the corner opposite Gratz. That could still be a spot at which a veteran is signed in camp.
7. Tyson Alualu could be a fit at end. Of all the moves being made in recent weeks, this in retrospect seems the most logical. The Jaguars coaches have liked Alualu since he has arrived, and it’s easy to see why. He is tough and dedicated. He never has missed a start in three seasons despite knee issues. He’s now playing a position similar to that which he played in college. Alualu playing on first and second down and perhaps moving inside on third downs with Andre Branch and Babin rushing? Is that possible? The Jaguars will rotate personnel up front a lot. Let’s just say that.
8. Luke Joeckel still looks the part. We haven’t discussed the No. 2 overall selection in the draft too much since rookie minicamp. The next real step for Joeckel will be camp when he blocks padded ends and something closer to game speed. But for now, he continues to look every bit the part of a No. 2 overall selection.
9. Joeckel should help Marcedes Lewis. Lewis sounded more optimistic this week talking about an upcoming season than he has since 2010. That was his lone Pro Bowl season. The eight-year veteran tight end loves the new coaching staff, likes Jedd Fisch’s offense and he’s looking forward to not having to be a third tackle this season. This is a big year for Lewis, and he knows it, but not insignificantly, he’s really, genuinely excited about it. It will be interesting to see what that means.
10. Geno Hayes responded. Bradley doesn’t often call players out publicly, and he didn’t exactly criticize Hayes during the first week of OTAs. But he did say that week that Hayes needed to play better than he had early. “Geno has picked it up the last couple of practices,” Bradley said Thursday. “That’s what we challenged him on and I know today he flashed a couple of plays. I will be really interested to see what kind of tape he put out today, but I did see where it jumped out at me where I saw him doing some things, so that’s a good sign.”
11. “Hard Knocks” ain’t likely. We’re getting close to Hard Knocks time. Bradley said this week that the Jaguars probably won’t be interested in appearing on the popular HBO series this season. That should end that for this season at least.
12. Still rising. It has been said before, but it continues to bear repeating. If there is a player who appears to be raising his game steadily and looking smoother and more professional each offseason, it’s third-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. Don’t pencil him into the Pro Bowl yet, but...
Photo Gallery of the Best of Week Two of 2013 OTAs