Marqise Lee Jersey

It may have been something small in terms of what was going on during the first day of Jaguars OTA’s, but if you were part of the media in attendance on Tuesday morning, you got to see Marqise Lee run off to the side of the practice field.

After a season missed with a horrific ACL injury he suffered against the Atlanta Falcons during the preseason, the sixth-year wide receiver is being counted on to return to action and lead this group of wide receivers by example. A few catches and touchdowns would be welcomed as well.

The Jaguars made no secret about the fact they were happy with the players in the wide receiver room prior to the NFL draft. The only addition was free agent Chris Conley. If this core of pass catchers can duplicate the success they had two seasons ago, then maybe this becomes one of the more underrated groups on the roster.

Receivers coach Keenan McCardell had his hands full last year with players who led the NFL in dropped passes. There are many ways to place the blame on the lack of success, which includes poor quarterback play. Having Lee back, who took a step forward as the leader of this unheralded group in 2017, along with the addition of Nick Foles under center, should make a weakness last season a potential strength this coming year.

According to head coach Doug Marrone, Lee isn’t expected back to the latter part of the preseason. But by all accounts, judging from how he looked and moved on Tuesday, he appears to be ahead of schedule. He ran without a brace on his knee, which is even more breathtaking.

That doesn’t mean the Jaguars are going to rush him back onto the field anytime soon. What it does mean is that when he is fully healthy, he becomes another weapon in this offense.

Dede Westbrook picked up the slack in Lee’s absence last year. I suspect he will once again become the primary target in John DeFilippo’s game plan. Given the erratic play by both Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler last year, anything in the way of consistency from number center will be beneficial not only to this wide receiver corps but also to the entire roster.

Lee was the second player drafted by the Jaguars in the 2014 class that included Bortles, Allen Robinson and undrafted free agent wide receiver Allen Hurns. He is the only player remaining on the roster of that quartet. He was drafted 39th overall out of USC.

Abry Jones Jersey

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At Calais Campbell’s charity bowling classic, Campbell and several other Jaguars said that while they are rooting for linebacker Telvin Smith to return to the field sooner rather than later, players said that they understand and support Smith’s decision to take a year off from football.

“Talking to Telvin, and knowing Telvin, he’s an incredible guy who loves the game and who I have so much respect for,” Campbell said. “He says he needs some time, you have to respect that. This is a guy who has dedicated his life to the game and has for a long time. I’m here for you. If you need to talk or need anything, I’m here for him. Secretly, I’m hoping he comes back. I guess it’s not so secret.”

Perhaps nobody will be more impacted by Smith’s decision than linebacker Myles Jack. He and Smith played next to one another last season, Jack as the middle linebacker, Smith as the weakside linebacker. When asked if he could move to Smith’s position, Jack pushed back on the suggestion but said he’s backing his teammate.

“I’m playing Mike ‘backer, no question about it,” Jack said. “Obviously, there is no secret, we’re going to have to find a Will. That’s for the coaches to decide. I’m playing Mike through and through until my time in Jacksonville is done. That’s what they’ve been grooming me for. I plan on being the Mike when the season starts.”

Jack moved from strongside linebacker to start at middle linebacker after the retirement of Paul Posluszny. Jack said that he has communicated with Smith and that he gets where Smith is coming from.

“Me and Telvin have a relationship that’s deeper than football,” Jack said. “Me and him have been talking about this. We’ve had communications. My mind is clear. I completely understand where he is coming from. There are more important things he needs to take care of in his life than the game of football. I think that’s great. It’s hard to walk away from the game of football.”

The longest-tenured Jaguars player, defensive tackle Abry Jones, offered his support to the defensive co-captain.

“Telvin is a grown man and he knows things he to get done for himself and we all wish him the best,” Jones said. “We definitely know that he has a life outside of football and he feels like he has to get things in order and we just have to be there to support him.”

Campbell, always the veteran voice of reason in the Jaguars locker room, said that everyone who has played in the NFL understands what you have to give up to excel. Keeping life in perspective is sometimes difficult in the midst of a long career.

Corey Grant Jersey

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Leonard Fournette slipped off his sweaty cleats, signed each one and then handed them to a young fan after practice.

The youngster carefully walked away with Fournette’s gold-colored shoes, making sure not to touch the drying ink. After all, the memorabilia could appreciate in value if the Jacksonville Jaguars running back gets his NFL career turned around.

Fournette spoke publicly for the first time in nearly six months Friday, finally addressing the worst season in his 24 years and everything that’s happened since. He was injured, suspended and on the bench in crunch time. He was fined, criticized and admittedly not in ideal shape late in the year.

The Jaguars voided the remaining guarantees in his rookie contract following his one-game suspension for fighting, and personnel chief Tom Coughlin ripped him for being “disrespectful” and “selfish” during the season finale. Adding to the chaos, Fournette was arrested last month for driving with a suspended license.

Jacksonville completely revamped its running backs room around Fournette, firing position coach Tyrone Wheatley and parting ways with backups T.J. Yeldon, Carlos Hyde and Corey Grant.

Lerentee McCray Jersey

Ngakoue rejoins Jaguars, vows to play even without new deal

The Jaguars announced the re-signing of linebacker Lerentee McCray on Monday.

McCray, 27, joined the Jaguars last year after two seasons with Denver and one with Buffalo.

In a statement released by the team, McCray called it an “overwhelming” feeling to remain in the Jaguars. “Since I’ve been in the NFL, I’ve been waiting to find a home and I’m excited to be back here and finish the unfinished business that we left last year.”

In 2017, McCray played 36 snaps on defense (1 1/2 sacks), but was fourth on the Jaguars with 268 special teams snaps (third on the team with nine tackles). Along with newcomers Niles Paul, Cody Davis and Don Carey and returning players James O’Shaughnessy and Jarrod Wilson, McCray will be expected to fill a core special teams role.

McCray played collegiately at Florida. For the Broncos, he played for current Jaguars special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

The Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be on their way to having two defensive players who missed Week 10’s game against the Indianapolis Colts back in cornerback A.J. Bouye and linebacker Lerentee McCray. Both were upgraded to full participation Thursday after being limited Wednesday.

D.J. Hayden Jersey

Upon looking at the Jacksonville Jaguars free agent signings last offseason, cornerback D.J. Hayden was arguably the most puzzling — but when fast forwarding to present day, it appears to be the best one. Simply put, aside from the toe injury that sidelined him for numerous weeks, the veteran showed up when his number was called and proved to be better than the nickelback before him in Aaron Colvin. By the end of the season, the veteran had accumulated 46 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception good for a Pro Football Focus grade of 74.8. The number was shockingly better than that of star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who acquired a 72.8.

The free agent group Hayden came in with included guard Andrew Norwell, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Marqise Lee, all of whom ended up on injured reserve, which most will point out as the reason he was able to earn the title as the team’s top 2018 signing. Still, despite the rash of injuries that occurred to his comrades, Hayden’s performance in 2018 shouldn’t be overlooked as he previously had a PFF grade of 50.7 in 2017 with the Detroit Lions. In a nutshell, his jump to a 74.8 shows he made great strides as a player, and if he’s healthier in 2019 it’s not out of the question for him to improve even more.

Some of the receiving groups the Jags will face in 2019 include those of the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts, all of whom will be big-time challenges for Hayden and the Jags secondary. However, if he handles his business as he did in 2018, he could find himself under Pro Bowl consideration as Ramsey will get plenty of eyes on the Jags’ secondary this upcoming season.

Niles Paul Jersey

Niles Paul

Former Husker Niles Paul was waived Friday by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the non-football injury designation.

Paul was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 16 after he suffered a sprained MCL. He hadn’t played since Oct. 14, when he suffered the injury on a rushing attempt against the Dallas Cowboys.

Paul had 10 catches for 98 yards this season before going down with the injury. He has 954 receiving yards and two touchdown catches in his career.

Paul, a graduate of Omaha North, was in his seventh NFL season after getting selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft. He spent his first six seasons with the Washington Redskins before signing a two-year contract with the Jaguars during the offseason.

The Jaguars have another former Husker on their roster — quarterback Tanner Lee, who was drafted in the sixth round last year and is on the team’s practice squad.

Paul, a graduate of Omaha North, was in his seventh NFL season after getting selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft. He spent his first six seasons with the Washington Redskins before signing a two-year contract with the Jaguars during the offseason.

The Jaguars have another former Husker on their roster — quarterback Tanner Lee, who was drafted in the sixth round last year and is on the team’s practice squad.

Cody Kessler Jersey

Clayton Thorson has the poise and confidence of a player who started 53 games with 36 wins in his collegiate career at Northwestern and who isn’t awed, not in the least, at the enormity of the moment of being a Philadelphia Eagle. He came through his first weekend on the field at the team’s Rookie Minicamp in fine shape, comfortable in the huddle and learning quickly on the field.

Having Thorson off to a good start portends well for the Eagles as they build their depth behind franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, and the Eagles added to that promising picture on Monday by adding veteran Cody Kessler on a one-year contract. Luis Perez, signed before the draft after a stint with the AAF, was waived to make room on the 90-man roster.

Kessler has 12 starts in his three NFL seasons, eight in his 2016 rookie season in Cleveland and another four starts last year in Jacksonville. The Jags released Kessler last week and the Eagles, continuing a remarkable and efficient and a roster-building run of adding veterans to bolster depth, got a deal done.

What does Kessler mean as far as the depth chart goes? It’s going to play out on the field, but at the moment it looks like this: The Eagles have Wentz, a player who they are building around for the present and the long term. Nate Sudfeld returns for his third season as an Eagle and his fourth in the NFL as a rising prospect whom the Eagles feel very confident in, also aware that Sudfeld has never started an NFL game and that there is an experiential learning curve happening with Sudfeld. Thorson, a 2019 fifth-round draft pick, had a strong weekend and continues his assimilation into the Eagles’ offensive scheme.

Kessler brings what the rest of the quarterback crop – not including Wentz, of course – does not have: Starting experience in the NFL. He was thrust into the 2016 mess in Cleveland, starting eight games and completing 66 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and only two interceptions in nine games. The Browns stunk that year and Kessler took a beating in and out of the pocket, but he showed toughness, he showed some moxie, and he moved the offense as much as that offense could move. After two seasons with the Browns, Kessler played in Jacksonville in 2018 and went 2-2 as a starter with 709 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in the five games he played.

All of this is about creating, as we’ve said time and time again in this offseason, as much competition as possible at every position on the roster. The Eagles have done a terrific job of doing just that. They know what they’ve got in Wentz, entering his fourth season. Sudfeld has done all the right things since the Eagles claimed him off waivers from Washington prior to the 2017 season. He’s only thrown 25 regular-season passes, though, so there’s that. Kessler obviously brings in more gameday experience.

Thorson is a player to develop for the future, and he seemed to understand that when he spoke to reporters on Friday at the NovaCare Complex after Day 1 of the completed-on-Sunday Rookie Minicamp.

“I think just the complexity of going from college to the NFL,” Thorson said when asked about what he knows of making the tough transition. “I think, thankfully, the system we had at Northwestern allows me to have not as steep of a learning curve, but there are a lot of differences as well. Just really learning from Press Taylor (quarterbacks coach). He’s really teaching me a lot. Things are kind of interchangeable in this system, so its been good so far.

“I think it’s more the mental side. Obviously, there’s some technique in that, but the mental side and different things are going different ways and are different than in college. That part of it is the biggest thing.”

We know that Carson Wentz stirs this Eagles’ drink and that putting as many pieces around Wentz as the Eagles have done in this offseason is part of the master plan to build a dynamic, varied attack. Wentz is the guy. There is no disputing that. And the Eagles truly, honestly believe that Sudfeld is ready for the jump from third quarterback to No. 2. He’s taken a lot of reps on the practice field and in the preseason in this system, and he’s played well. Thorson is a quarterback to develop for the future.

And Kessler? A move that makes every bit of sense. He’s been a starter in the regular season and he’s won games. He’s been in trying circumstances in both Cleveland and Jacksonville. He’s overcome adversity. And he’s here to make the Eagles a better team – deeper and stronger and more experienced at the quarterback position.

As they’ve done with Andrew Sendejo and Blake Countess at safety and with Richard Rodgers at tight end and with Vinny Curry at defensive end and Tim Jernigan at defensive tackle and Zach Brown at linebacker and guard/center Stefen Wisniewski – among other moves – the Eagles have directly addressed positions on their roster and added depth and competition. It sounds so boring, doesn’t it? Depth and competition. How much does that really help?

The truth is, it helps a lot. The Eagles saw an opportunity with Kessler and they pounced, and now they’ve got an intriguing and highly – here’s that word again – competitive situation at quarterback behind Carson Wentz that only makes this team better for 2019.

Dawuane Smoot Jersey

Even with the addition of rookie first-round pick Josh Allen, is there still a concern about the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line in terms of its pass rush heading into the 2019 season?

Jacksonville got a gift when the Kentucky standout fell in their lap with the seventh pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. His speed and athleticism should have defensive coordinator Todd Wash salivating. But are he, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue enough to not only keep opposing quarterbacks on the run but to give Jacksonville the kind of dominance on the edge the team enjoyed in 2017?

Allen gives Jacksonville an added dimension they lacked last season. But as you look at the roster on the defensive end position, after those three what else is left?

There is depth behind them, but not enough to strike fear in offensive coordinators should one of the trio suffers an injury or takes a play or two off.Dawuane Smoot, Shane Bowman, and Lyndon Johnson are on the roster. McCray is a solid reserve and special teams player. Smoot is a third-round pick in 2017 who still has not shown much to talk about. Bowman and Johnson are just guys for now.

Jacksonville drafted Taven Bryan in the first round in 2018, but he was miscast as a pass rusher in a defensive tackle’s body. Once the team moved him inside from the big end position, he showed signs of improved play.

There will be plenty of eyes on Bryan this coming season now that the interior of the defensive line has changed. Without Malik Jackson and a rotation that also features Abry Jones and Marcell Dareus, Bryan does not figure to play in place of Campbell as once was hoped.

Also factored into the equation is how the Jaguars plan to use Allen, if at all, from the outside linebacker position. Now that has decided he will not play this coming season, would the coaching staff move him around to play with his hand on the ground and standing up as a linebacker on certain passing downs?

Will Richardson Jersey

Will Richardson lined up in front of a rolled up, T-shaped beach towel on Tuesday morning and stepped hard off his left foot in a run-blocking drill.

It was another test for Richardson to show he’s picking up first-year Jaguars offensive line coach George Warhop’s emphasis on perfecting the fundamentals, especially proper footwork, during organized team activity workouts.

After a humbling rookie season in 2018, during which he never played in a game despite being a fourth-round pick, Richardson has had to refocus.

He’s vowed not to fall behind or become overwhelmed from the demands — issues he experienced last year, beginning with the offseason program.

“The whole offseason I thought about what I could do to get better,” Richardson said. “I came in a few weeks early before we started the first phase of the offseason program, and I worked and worked. Coming out here last year, I got thrown everything at once. I was a little off on certain things.”

Though he is considered to be in the mix with second-round pick Jawaan Taylor and fifth-year veteran Cedric Ogbuehi for the starting right tackle job, Richardson understands his roster spot could be at stake if he underperforms or availability issues arise again.

Taylor should be the frontrunner to win the job. Assuming he does, Richardson will be competing primarily with Ogbuehi and Josh Wells as a swing tackle/depth option.

Richardson, 23, fell behind last year after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason. Injury problems lingered into the regular season, and a knee problem forced him onto injured reserve in October.

The Jaguars drafted Richardson out of N.C. State with the 129th overall pick in 2018 with the idea he would eventually replace right tackle Jermey Parnell. Those plans were put on hold because of injuries.

Going into the second day of OTAs on Thursday, the 6-foot-6, 303-pound Richardson said he feels better than he ever has. He plans to stick to his goal of losing more body fat and strengthen his upper body before the regular season begins in September.

“I have no aches, no turns, no bangs,” Richardson said. “I just feel really good.”

Coach Doug Marrone said it’s a big year for Richardson. Improved production is critical. Availability is, too.

“He’s got to get out there and play,” Marrone said. “We’ve already sat down and told him basically, ‘Last year you were injured. You’ve got to get out there and show us what you can do.’”

The Jaguars’ offensive line was ravaged by injuries last season. That led to Marrone using four different starting left tackles and three starting right tackles.

Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder and Parnell all finished the year on injured reserve. Robinson, who suffered a torn left ACL Week 2 against New England, continues to rehabilitate.

Norwell and Linder were on the field for the start of OTAs. Parnell was released in March.

Following their 5-11 season, Marrone parted ways with offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and hired Warhop to replace him.

Warhop, who began his NFL career as an assistant in St. Louis (1996-97), is known for his focus on fundamentals and developing young players. He’s already made a significant impact on Richardson.

“I feel like all the things we’ve done in the offseason program is going to show up when you have a person in front of you,” Richardson said. “Coach Warhop makes it a lot easier from using our techniques. We’re not really blocking anyone, it has been all footwork.”

DJ Chark Jersey

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook, left, celebrates his touchdown with teammate Keelan Cole, right, in the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

The Jaguars made moderate changes here in recent months, allowing Moncrief and Greene to become free agents and signing the dynamic, athletic Conley from the Chiefs. They opted against selecting the position in the 2019 NFL Draft, but emphasized the position heavily in collegiate free agency.

The Jaguars surprised many observers with their offseason approach to this position, with the only high-profile offseason wide-receiver acquisition being the signing of Conley as an unrestricted free agent. Conley became part of an intriguing group – equal parts talent and uncertainty. While Westbrook showed big-time playmaking ability last season, he must continue those strides. While Cole has potential as he showed in a 700-yard rookie season, he must play much better and more consistently than last season. While Chark has first-round potential, he must improve dramatically in his second NFL season to fulfill it. While Conley has big-time athleticism, he must adapt to a new team after slipping in the Chiefs’ receiving rotation last season. While the team loves Lee’s toughness and leadership, he is returning from a major knee injury and hasn’t played a meaningful game since the AFC Championship Game following the 2017 season. The Jaguars believe strongly in this group, which will get a comparatively clean slate with Nick Foles replacing Blake Bortles as the team’s starting quarterback. Expect this to be a major storyline in the first half of next season. This group must answer a lot of questions positively and quickly for the Jaguars to make the necessary strides in the passing game.

John keeps telling me the Jaguars’ brass is good with the team’s receiving corps, and I guess they are because they hardly touched the position this offseason. Lee, Westbrook, Conley, Chark and Cole have enough combined talent to make the offense go, but individually I have questions. Is Lee’s rebuilt knee ready to stand up to the pounding it will take? It was a significant injury, especially for a guy who wins with his speed, but he tells me every time I see him, he will be back and ready to roll in Week One: Lee is a middle-of-the-field, run-after-the-catch, block-through-the-whistle kind of guy. He needs to be on the field if this group is going to reach its potential. Two: Can Chark play the role of the No. 1 receiver? The first time I laid eyes on Chark it was clear he is what a No. 1 receiver is supposed to look like: tall, long arms, huge hands, a broad frame and electrifying “you-can’t-possibly-stop-this” speed. The word was he was coming on strong in practice until the quad injury in late October and the drop in the end zone in London. Three: Who is Keelan Cole? The third-year wideout was a sensation as an undrafted rookie in 2017 and entirely unaccounted for in 2018 outside of a highlight reel, one-handed catch against New England in September. Is he the guy who rose above his small-school experience and looked like a star during 2017’s playoff run or the guy who wouldn’t talk to the media in London after another key drop that cost the Jaguars bigtime? It’s time to decide. There are enough playmakers in this group for Foles to work with. Perhaps with a higher level of performance from the quarterback, someone among this group will rise to the level of being “the man.”