by Cole Pepper
Reporting day at training camp is rarely eventful. Even with a new coaching staff, new players and a new look, the Jaguars first day of camp was rather uneventful. That should change tomorrow when the team takes the field for the first time.
This year’s version of the Jaguars has a wave of novelty, whether players, coaches, schemes, the logo, the jersey or the helmet, but on thing remains the same: training camp is a mental pressure cooker.
“I think that’s what training camp is for,” said linebacker Russell Allen. “We all know how to play football. It’s about making this harder than the game so the game seems easy.”
The Jaguars linebackers will have one new starter this year. Geno Atkins figures to replace the departed Daryl Smith. In the secondary, there will be three new starters–two of them likely rookies–with free safety Dwight Lowery as the lone returning starter from that position group.
“Training camp, when you are doing it day in and day out, you learn about a guy, not only on the field, but off the field,” said Lowery. “When there’s adversity, how they handle those situations. You learn a lot and it accelerates the learning process.”
The new Jaguars brass really focused on improving the lines in the off-season. While they made a number of moves in free agency on the defensive line, the most significant move on the offensive side was the drafting of Luke Joeckel. He’ll play right tackle while 5th year veteran Eugene Monroe anchors the left side. Monroe admits that he doesn’t feel like a grizzled veteran, but he found himself giving some advice like one.
“Just be yourself and do what got you here,” Monroe said. “[The biggest mistake is] trying to do something extra or extreme that is just unnecessary and in the end can be detrimental. Just stay hungry, stay focused and work. It’s a simple formula.”
While this day is old hat for veterans like Allen, Lowery and Monroe, nobody on the Jaguars can match the longevity of Brad Meester, who begins his 14th training camp, the longest tenure in team history.
Conversely, its the first training camp for Joeckel, who told me that his biggest goal for training camp was to settle into his new position.
“I just want to feel more comfortable at the right tackle position,” Joeckel said. “I need to be 100% comfortable there. I don’t want to go into the season knowing that my [comfort level on the right] is as good as it is on the left.”
For second round pick Jonathan Cyprien, his first camp figures to start a little later due to a leg injury sustained while training at home in Miami. He’s awaiting word from trainers to clear him to work. Then, he’ll be able to put some of the advice he has received from veterans to work.
“They tell me your rookie year is going to be the longest one,” Cyprien said. “They said it was going to be long, it’s going to be a grind, but everyone has gone through it.”
The Jaguars first practice is Friday at 9:55am. It is the first of eight sessions that are open to the public this year.