Jaguars Report for Training Camp

Monroe media-cropped
Eugene Monroe meets with the assembled media after checking into Jaguars training camp.

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.




Jaguars Off-season Review: Offensive Line

Second overall pick, Luke Joeckel, figures to start for the Jaguars at right tackle in 2013.
Second overall pick, Luke Joeckel, figures to start for the Jaguars at right tackle in 2013. (photo by NESN)

by Cole Pepper

Each week during the off-season, I’ll break down a position group for the Jaguars. This week, it’s the offensive line.

In an off-season of dramatic change, there may be more consistency on the offensive line than at any other position group for the Jaguars. That being said, it doesn’t take much to be more stable than the rest of this team.

There are questions–plenty of questions.  But let’s start with what we (think we) know. Eugene Monroe will start at left tackle, Brad Meester at center and first round pick Luke Joeckel at right tackle.

Much has been written about Gus Bradley’s plans for Joeckel. It flies in the face of traditional football logic to use a player at a “non-premium” position. But perhaps right tackle is beginning to join left tackle as a premium position in the current, pass-happy NFL.

There are more teams running hybrid defenses. There are more teams who put lighter, faster pass rushers on the field on 3rd down. It makes some sense. And with Monroe’s contract up after 2013, if the Jaguars don’t re-sign him, Joeckel can always move over to the left side, where he will see the opponents best pass rusher more often.

I’ll be interested to watch Joeckel’s development.

At guard, Uche Nwaneri has to get healthy. When he’s not injured, Nwaneri can be a better than adequate guard. He’s athletic for the position, but with the change in the run blocking scheme, it will be interesting to see what kind of guard is favored by the Jaguars going forward.

Left guard is going to be up for grabs. The Jaguars used 9 different players at that position last year (including preseason starters). Will Rackley is returning from a foot injury. Veteran Jason Spitz, Austin Pasztor, Drew Nowak and center-turned-guard (for now) Mike Brewster are also in the mix. The previous coaching and scouting staffs liked Brewster as a developmental center, Brad Meester’s heir apparent. If he is viewed the same way by the new regime, it might make sense to keep Brewster in the starting lineup. He’s not as powerful as Spitz or Paszstor, but he moves well and has a high football IQ.

And so we come to Brad Meester. Mr. Jaguar. Nobody has started or played more games in a Jaguars uniform. The 36-year old father of six girls told me at the end of last season that he only wanted to return as a Jaguar. He wasn’t going to shop himself to another team for a year, maybe two (even with six future weddings to pay for!). Whatever the football equivalent of a crafty left handed pitcher is, Meester is that. When his playing days are done (some thought that would happen years ago), he wants to open up a motorcycle repair shop. No, I”m not kidding. He’ll have to wait at least another year. Maybe his most signification contribution to the team will be as a leader.

What is Success for this group? Improving pass protection, adapting to new run blocking scheme, giving the quarterback (whoever it is) a chance.

Secondary success: Figure out whether Mike Brewster is Brad Meester’s heir apparent.

Projected Depth Chart:

OLine Depth Chart