The Jaguars are back on the practice field starting Tuesday opening their three-day mandatory minicamp with as much uncertainty, as hope for this season.
It’s a critical year, in particular for Coach Doug Marrone, as his team floundered badly in 2018 and needs to rebound. This is especially, after owner Shad Khan spent a massive amount of money to bring an eagle Super Bowl hero quarterback Nick Foles through free agency to fix their constantly underachieving offense.
But Foles’ arrival is not the only story line in the second week in June
As we learned Monday, Jacksonville’s most effective pass rusher of the past three seasons, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, has decided to skip these workouts, as a message to the team that he wants a new contract. Ngakoue is woefully underpaid buy NFL elite pass-rusher standards. The top five averages over $15 million per season and Ngakoue is scheduled to make just $2 million in the final year of his rookie deal.
There had been hope from the team that Ngakoue would continue to participate, while the contract was being worked out between his representatives and VP of football Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell. Obviously, Ngakoue didn’t believe there was meaningful and sincere progress towards his new deal. And, the only leverage he has, for now, is to not play until he gets one.
The next huge question mark is also on the defensive side of the ball. And, that is: what happens in the absence of linebacker Telvin Smith?
Smith has been AWOL for over a month after announcing that he would not play football this season. No one knows for certain what the reasons are, and if they do, no one is saying. It’s obviously still possible that Smith good rejoin the Jaguars for training camp and preseason in August etc., but for now they must prepare to go without their former Pro Bowl captain and leading tackler the last three seasons.
As expected, the team got good news when star corner Jalen Ramsey reported to minicamp Tuesday Morning.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 11, 2019
The two time Pro Bowler is in the final year of his rookie deal, but the team has also picked up his fifth year option for 2020. Ramsey has made it a habit of skipping all the offseason workouts except the mandatory ones. And, that has drawn the ire of Coughlin, in particular, who spoke out about it earlier this Spring and then got rebuked by Ramsey’s representatives and the NFLPA, too.
Another off-field headache has been in the status of running back Leonard Fournette.
After a tremendous breakout rookie year that help Jacksonville make the playoffs, Fournette was a flop, just as the team was, all last season. He was injured and also disciplined for his behavior in the finale against the Texans. That’s when he and former teammate T.J. Yeldon were shown completely disinterested in whether the Jaguars could come back and win the game while sitting on the sidelines and not playing.
Add to that, Fournette was arrested by Jacksonville police on outstanding traffic warrant charges earlier this offseason, but fortunately, that case has now been plead out without Fournette receiving any jail time.
He has been working out heavily on his own and including with the University of Wyoming football program and the former LSU assistant strength coach that is now there with the Cowboys. Now, we will see if that hard work and the off-field headaches are behind the former first-round pick for a fresh start in 2019.
And finally there’s the pressure on Marrone, having fired offensive coordinator to Nate Hackett last season and hiring John DeFillippo, who is the former Eagles quarterback coach with Foles. Marrone is obviously out of excuses on having the offense fixed. Further, a strong argument can be made that the struggles with team off the field , with discipline,, behavior and culture are going to be blamed on him, if the Jaguars continue to lose
So the head coach, his team and everyone everyone involved is trying to put the last 15 months behind them to focus in and have the Jags last meaningful practices in June before training camp in late July.
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