JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On the first day of Jaguars mini camp, everybody was there. And for the first time this off-season, every player was on the field as the first of three mini camp days convened Tuesday.
That included running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who explained his absence from the voluntary organized team activities as a tactic to stay healthy, unlike the past two off-seasons.
“It was a setback the previous two years,” Ramsey said. “I’m always going to work hard, but I felt like I was behind schedule and I had to work that much harder. I didn’t really feel like I got into the swing of things until during the season. This year, I am trying to avoid that and so far I have done good avoiding that. So, if you all thought I was good the past two years, stay tuned.”
Ramsey’s presence wasn't lost on his teammates, several of whom said that having all 11 starters on defense made it feel like the start of everything. The All-Pro cornerback said that he had been communicating with his teammates and did not expect and pushback.
"I don’t think me and my teammates had an issue because they knew I was going to come back ready,” Ramsey said. "But at the same time, if they did, I don’t think I would care because once I get out here I know what I was doing was the right thing for me. I know what I was doing was going to get me prepared as best as anything for the season, and once I put that out on the field there won’t be any issue."
Fournette returned to the field after missing a significant amount of time during OTAs.
"Happy to be back with the team after taking care of some family issues," Fournette said. "We have everything you want in a football team. Now, we just have to put the pieces together."
Fournette said that he plans on playing leaner in 2018. In 2017, he played at near 235 pounds.
"I played at my best in college at 223, 224. I don't want to be average. I don't want to be above average. I want to be the greatest one to play this game. I feel lighter. I feel quicker. I have my burst."
One of the lingering questions for the Jaguars entering the 2018 season is whether the defense, which ranked second in the NFL in 2017, can be even better.
The only significant losses from a year ago are linebacker Paul Posluszny, who retired, and cornerback Aaron Colvin, who played the nickel position, a virtual starting position.
Colvin has been replaced by free-agent signing D.J. Hayden, while the Jaguars also used a first-round draft pick on defense of lineman Taven Bryan, and a third round pick on safety Ronnie Harrison.
"We're not going to rest on our laurels," said safety Barry Church. As a whole we know, as a defense, communication is key. We gave up some big plays at the end of the year. That mental breakdown aspect should be out of the game for us."