JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s only two weeks or so into training camp but it’s already apparent things are going to be different on defense for the Jaguars this year.
“It was good to see the high level of competition on both sides, going back and forth,” head coach Gus Bradley said after his team faced the New York Jets Thursday night. “Really competitive.”
What’s happened in Jaguars practices continued in the first preseason game with the defense holding their own and the offense getting the fast start they wanted when the two clubs matched their first-teamers. Last year’s defense finished 31st in the league in points allowed and oftentimes didn’t put up much of a fight against the offense with Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in practice. This year, it’s much more even after the money spent in the off-season to shore up the defense and spending all but one of their draft picks on that side of the ball. It showed against the Jets.
“The defense has gotten better so the windows are even more tighter than they were last year, which is only good and is only going to help us out,” Bortles said, reviewing the competitive nature of practices so far. Bortles was 7-8 against the Jets, directing two scoring drives in the Jaguars first two possessions.
After missing last year with an ACL injury, Dante Fowler looks like the player the Jaguars were hoping they would get when they made him their first round pick in 2015. He’s energetic and shows no ill effects of his injury. Although he claims he’s “100%” he doesn’t feel like his explosiveness has come back yet.
“They say that’s the last thing you get back,” he said last week. “But I’m feeling good.”
It’s the first time in over a year that Fowler took the field in a football game. He said it was an “emotional time.”
Veteran free-agent Malik Jackson has mentored Fowler so far in camp, helping him with the nuance of the pro game. He likes what he sees when it comes to the pass rush abilities of Fowler and this year’s 5th round pick, Yannick Ngakoue.
“They definitely have speed, high motors, high energy, very smart and they take coaching well,” Jackson explained.
Although he had a personal foul penalty, Myles Jack drew some positive notices and admitted it’s different than college.
“Everybody’s fast,” he mentioned in the post-game locker room. “Even the offensive linemen. I’ve got a lot of work to do, that’s for sure. But I’m excited about it.”
After having Friday off, the Jaguars were back at practice on Saturday. Julius Thomas sat out with knee soreness but the Jaguars don’t think it’s going to be a problem. Denard Robison had a veterans day off, Davon House was out with hamstring soreness and Aaron Colvin’s ankle was giving him a problem so he didn’t practice. The concern is for rookie DL Sheldon Day, out of practice for about a week now with a back problem. No word on when he’ll return.