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Five significant Jaguars storylines heading into OTAs

Demetrius Harvey

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Jul 26, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs with the ball following a catch as Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (44) runs behind during training camp at the Dream Finder Homes practice facility outside of TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The first of the Jaguars ten Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are starting today.  As the players get set to hit the field, there will be a multitude of storylines worth watching. This will be the first time the Jaguars coaches and their players can take part in 11 on 11 activities. Although there will be no pads for any of these practices.

The Jaguars will use this time to get better in terms of on-the-field performance, but their camaraderie as they get set to go with an abundance of new players, including the starting QB will be just as important.

The team’s OTAs will begin Tuesday (Today), May 21 and conclude on Friday, June 7, while the Jaguars’ three-day mandatory minicamp will take place June 11 – 13.

1. Nick Foles and the Jaguars offense

The Jaguars entered the 2019 offseason with a splash; signing quarterback Nick Foles to the highest guaranteed money a Jaguars player has ever received. Since then, they have made moves to allow for him to succeed, such as selecting tight end Josh Oliver and right tackle Jawaan Taylor in the draft just last month.

Quarterback is the most important position group on the team, and with Nick Foles at the center, all eyes will be on him from now on. It will be important for the Jaguars — and their fans —  to get a good look at the new offense under offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, and how well Foles can execute it. Although many fans feel the Jaguars did not adequately address the weapons on offense, there is a possibility the quarterback was holding the team back.

With Marqise Lee not ready yet, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark will be the only Jaguars receivers on the Jaguars roster last season participating. It will be interesting to see their connection with Foles even as early as today.

2. How will the linebacker group shake out?

This storyline has almost as much intrigue as the quarterback situation. This is because of Telvin Smith posting an impromptu Instagram post revealing his intentions to sit out the 2019 season. The Jaguars have addressed the position during the offseason seemingly as a response to Smith not being in contact with the team prior to the draft. Selecting LB Quincy Williams at the bottom of the third round was the icing on the cake.

The Jaguars will look for a new weak-side linebacker and there have been plenty of questions of whether they will turn to a rookie, a new vet, or even Myles Jack to take over the position. Who takes over will be very important and we should get an answer sooner rather than later.

3. Rookies

The rookies are always a storyline and with the Jaguars selecting two premier players — Josh Allen and Jawaan Taylor — all eyes will be on them. Rookies are not typically thrust into starting positions too early, so do not be shocked if Taylor is taking second-team reps or if Allen is not out there with the defensive line/linebacker group. However, it will be important to see exactly what position Allen plays as there has been speculation of him playing SAM since they drafted him.

Rookie TE Josh Oliver will be someone worth watching on offense. As mentioned earlier, he was a part of the Jaguars plan to get an influx of talent on offense. Quincy Williams, as previously mentioned, might be one of the more underrated rookies to watch for. How he plays during the offseason could change the entire linebacker group.

Obviously all eyes will be on the Jaguars rookies during the 10 OTAs starting today, however, these are the most important to keep an eye out on how they perform.

4. Safety situation

Probably one of the most talked about situations as far as depth on the roster this offseason has been safety. Before the end of the 2018 season, the Jaguars released strong safety Barry Church and circled back to release Tashaun Gipson earlier this offseason. This allowed then-rookie Ronnie Harrison to start in place of Church, and Jarrod Wilson to start in place of Gipson. How Wilson performs in this new role will be vital to the Jaguars success at free safety.

The Jaguars in this offseason have not addressed the safety position at all besides signing former AAF safety Josh Brown. How Jaguars undrafted rookies and other depth players attack this position will be important to watch out for as we begin OTAs.

5. No injuries, please

Seriously. If there is one thing the Jaguars cannot afford, it is an injury to a pivotal position. These practices are not supposed to be extensive but as we have seen in the past, anything can happen. If the Jaguars come out of these OTAs with no injuries, it will be a huge win entering mandatory minicamp in June, and training camp in July.

Keep a close eye on Jaguars players who are already injured. Players such as Marqise Lee, Jake Ryan, and Cam Robinson will be going through various levels of rehab. Lee will not be on the field, however, Ryan or Robinson might be closer to returning.

Demetrius Harvey is the lead editor for the Locked on Jaguars website covering breaking news, breakdowns, and more. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee officially taken off PUP list

Demetrius Harvey

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Aug 25, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville wide receiver Marqise Lee (11) is carted off the field after an apparent injury during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially taken wide receiver Marqise Lee off of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list today. Head coach Doug Marrone announced the development at his pre-practice press conference today. Marrone says Lee will be practicing today.

Lee has not practiced or played since his preseason knee injury almost a year ago today. With this progression, the Jaguars will go into the season — at least for now — with their top receivers active and relatively healthy. If Lee is able to make any sort of contribution during the start of the season it will be a major success for the Jaguars.

Currently, the Jaguars have relied on newcomer Chris Conley along with veterans Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark along with other newcomers to make up for Lee’s absence. It is not yet known how this will affect the Jaguars roster come the cut-down day.

The Jaguars have not announced a corresponding move as of right now. The roster stands at 91 until they do so.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars sign RB Elijah Hood, release QB Tanner Lee

Demetrius Harvey

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Aug 17, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Elijah Hood (30) runs away from Miami Dolphins defensive end Claudy Mathieu (60) towards the goal line during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today the Jacksonville Jaguars announced the signing of running back Elijah Hood.  As a corresponding move, the Jaguars have released quarterback Tanner Lee.

Hood, 5’11” 230 pounds, was originally drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders. After bouncing around on the Raiders practice squad for the year, he was eventually waived following the 2017 season.

Hood most recently played the Carolina Panthers, however, his time with the Panthers was cut short in 2018 due to a torn ACL. He will get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jaguars and potentially live up to his collegiate career where he accumulated 2,580 yards and 29 touchdowns while at UNC.

With the injury to running back Alfred Blue (ankle) this past Thursday along with other running backs on the roster, the Jaguars needed to add depth at the position. Hood will get every opportunity to make the team, but his chances are rather slim.

Lee, a 2018 6th-round pick by the Jaguars was finally released as a corresponding move to signing Hood. Releasing Lee will not come to much of a shock for Jaguars fans. Lee has struggled throughout the offseason and in the preseason during both of his seasons with the Jaguars. This leaves backup quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Alex McGough to battle it out in the Jaguars last two preseason games — although it looks like Minshew has the upper hand as of right now.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars defensive end Datone Jones has inside track on backup job

Demetrius Harvey

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Jul 25, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Datone Jones (96) works on the pads during training camp at Dream Finders Home Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to sign seven-year veteran Datone Jones as a means to create more competition and depth behind defensive end Calais Campbell. At the time, this was seen as more of a roster-filler type move, essentially to make sure the Jaguars have enough bodies during training camp. However, the situation has completely changed due to the way Jones has played during the offseason and into training camp.

Jones, 6’4″ 285 pounds, was originally drafted 26th overall in the 2013 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. Coming out of UCLA he was expected to make a major impact along the defensive line after accumulating a respectable 62 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks during his senior season. Since being drafted, Jones has bounced around the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and, most recently, the Dallas Cowboys.

Jones was not able to make as much of an impact on the Packers’ 3-4 defensive front after bouncing around from the defensive line to — surprisingly — linebacker.

For a short time, Jones signed with the Minnesota Vikings shortly after his contract with the Packers ended and expressed the concern of a position switch during an interview with the Vikings update stating, “They didn’t tell me. I found out on NFL Network that they had moved me to outside linebacker, I kind of knew that I would have to make the adjustment or I wasn’t going to be there anymore. I wanted to come into a place where I felt most natural, where I could really showcase my ability, what I could really do.”

Having to make such a drastic change in his career path after being mildly successful — 73 tackles and nine sacks with the Packers — at another position impacted Jones. While Jones did accumulate the most pressures for the Packers during the 2016 season while playing outside linebacker, it still was not the appropriate position for him to play given his natural ability.

Now with the Jaguars, Jones is back along the defensive line and is thriving. With the backup strong-side defensive end position for the Jaguars being completely wide open, Jones has taken the opportunity afforded to him and could be apart of the first group of players coming onto the field for the normal starters.

The Jaguars have tried for a couple of years now to find a good backup behind Campbell. They drafted defensive tackle/end Taven Bryan in the first round just a year ago, however, he has switched to more of a fulltime role on the interior of the defense. Mostly a disappointment his first two seasons, defensive end Dawuane Smoot has also taken a backseat with the arrival of Jones, giving Jones the inside track to win the primary backup job.

Jones has taken that opportunity and has thrived. Able to come off the ball with speed and power, he has the ability to adequately stop the run along with getting to the quarterback. During the game on Thursday, Jones completely took over the Eagles offensive line. One play in particular from Thursday’s game stands out.

Jones lines up on the defensive edge and is unblocked, getting to the quarterback and knocking him (Cody Kessler) out of the game. These are the type of plays which illustrate why he has earned a spot on the Jaguars 53-man roster.

A rotation from normal starters Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, and Campbell to Josh Allen, Bryan, Eli Ankou, and Jones illustrates just how deep the Jaguars are along the defensive line.

This past week head coach Jaguars Doug Marrone was asked about the importance of the defensive end spot behind Campbell.

“I feel good about where we are with our D-Line, I do. In other words, I feel like we have good starters, and I feel like we have good depth. I think we have a lot of players there, guys that will probably be, if you look at the roster, I think that can potentially be the toughest. Who is nine, who is 10 if we keep 10, wherever that goes,” Marrone stated.

“Yan obviously looks great out there, but then all of a sudden [Dontavius] Russell, [Michael] Hughes, Datone Jones, I mean you have guys now, big V [Kalani Vakameilalo] is a big body in there. We have guys now that are in there that are pretty good that it’s going to be a tough call.”

A “tough call” that might have gotten tougher — or easier depending on how you look at it — with the performance Jones put on Thursday and throughout the offseason. Against the Eagles, Jones was credited with three tackles and a quarterback hit, however, it was his persistent pressure and pocket collapsing plays that set him apart from everyone else.

Shortly after the game, reporters spoke to Jones about his strong play against the Eagles. “I just wanted to go out there and execute and compete. I felt like I started off really slow the first preseason game and I felt like I owed it to my teammates to go out there today, execute and put my abilities on film,” Jones said.

“[I wanted to] let guys like Calais [Campbell], Marcell [Dareus] and Yannick [Ngakoue] know that I’m here to compete and I want to be in the lineup with those guys. I want to be here in Sacksonville, sacking quarterbacks. Preseason is all about coming out here and displaying and competing and just having fun with your brothers. Executing, you know.”

It is clear playing behind the Jaguars starting defensive line, and seeing the culture within that group has lit a fire under Jones for the better. If he can provide the same production he has done in the past, the Jaguars may have one of the deepest defensive line groups in the entire league.

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