Jaguars open 1st OTAs under Doug Pederson with goal of ‘seeing where we are as a football team’

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, center, directs an NFL football practice, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. At right is quarterback Trevor Lawrence. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time, Jaguars veterans and rookies were on the practice field together under the watch of head coach Doug Pederson on Monday as the team conducted the first organized team activity (OTA) of the off-season.

Call it the starting point for the rest of season one of the Pederson era.

“I value the OTAs and from the standpoint of really being able to evaluate players this time of year,” Pederson said. “(You) get a lot out of these as a coach and now you get to really put your team into game situations and really start coaching that here in the OTAs. What I look to get out of these next couple of weeks is just that, just the execution from phase two that we did individually and against each other now offense and defensively, how well the guys retain the information from the classroom to the football field, and playing fast, protecting each other, and just see where we are as a football team.”

The Jaguars had nearly all of the 91 players on the roster on the field for the voluntary session. Four starters were not in attendance on the first of ten OTAs scheduled this offseason: No.1 pick Travon Walker, left tackle Cam Robinson, cornerback Darious Williams and nose tackle Malcom Brown.

Trevor Lawrence was on the field, and for the first time since last preseason, so was his college teammate, running back Travis Etienne. Etienne injured his foot in the Jaguars’ preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 23 and had not been on the field since. But on Monday, Etienne was on the field after being medically cleared.

“Travis has been cleared for everything,” Pederson said. “He’s been doing really well through the whole offseason program. We’re still going to monitor and make sure he’s 100 percent. We don’t want to have any setbacks at this stage, but he’s been doing really good.”

In addition to Etienne, Lawrence had his full complement of offseason additions in the passing game to work with Monday. Wide receiver Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram were all on the field working with the second-year quarterback. Lawrence was particularly complimentary of Kirk, who signed a four-year deal worth up to $84 million free-agent deal with the Jaguars after a 77 catch, 982 yard, five-touchdown season with the Cardinals.

“He’s great. Just from a football IQ sense, I think he’s really quarterback friendly,” Lawrence said The way he sees the field, different coverages unfold, the way he runs his routes, I just think he’s quarterback friendly. And then obviously his speed is something that we really needed and it’s going to help us a lot. You guys saw today, he can fly and locate a ball, all those things. [He’s] really talented and we get along really well.”

Lawrence also said that he is a little lighter at this point in the season than he was last year, weighing in at 217 pounds compared to last year when he played at 221 or 222 pounds.

Lawrence suffered through a difficult rookie season during a dysfunctional 13-game stretch under Urban Meyer. Now with a proven, professional head coach at the helm, things seem to be operating differently for the Jaguars. Pederson’s experience as a professional quarterback and the gravitas he brings with his Super Bowl ring hasn’t been lost on Lawrence.

“It’s not a big rah-rah, chew somebody out. I mean you have some coaches that are like that but for me, that’s just not what I need,” Lawrence said. “I can have a conversation and [Head Coach] Coach [Doug] Pederson’s great about that. At every play, he gives you a piece of feedback that another coach might not give you just because he knows what it’s like and it’s something little that he might see that someone else doesn’t see. Having the head coach be able to step in after a play and give me a little tip or whatever. Just having a head coach that can do that and really, really knows what he’s talking about is cool.”

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Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.