JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With the Jaguars having an off day for the first time this training camp, it’s time to take stock of their first four practices:
One guy quietly having a good camp is tight end Marcedes Lewis. He said during the spring that this has been his best offseason and he feels the best he has in a long time. That has shown up so far in training camp. He’s catching pretty much everything and it looks like the Jaguars are going to keep him involved in the offense the way he was during the last month of the 2013 season, when he caught 16 passes (four TDs) in the final five games. He remains one of the league’s top blocking tight ends.
We won’t know for sure until the Jaguars get into full pads on Wednesday and see how things play out in the preseason, but it looks like GM David Caldwell may have pulled off one of the better moves in free agency by signing running back Toby Gerhart. He doesn’t exactly match up when you compare him to Adrian Peterson, whom he backed up the past four years, but he’s got the look of a guy who can be a workhorse back for the Jaguars. He’s a big (6-foot, 231 pounds) and physical runner, but he has surprised some defensive players with his speed and he has very good hands and will be a factor in the passing game. The player he replaces, Maurice Jones-Drew, was one of the best in the league at picking up blitzes and helping in pass protection, but the coaches are saying Gerhart is pretty good in that aspect, too.
Another free-agent signing that appears to be working out well is defensive end Red Bryant. The 6-4, 323-pounder is a load and the offensive line has been having a hard time keeping him out of the backfield. Bryant had some issues with the heat during the spring -- not to be unexpected since he came from Seattle -- but seems to have adjusted to the even hotter temperatures during training camp. Bryant is the perfect fit for the end spot opposite the LEO. He’s hard to move, gets consistent penetration and sets the edge.
There has been a lot of talk about safety Johnathan Cyprien after linebacker Paul Posluszny said Cyprien could become the best safety in the league. Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley won’t go that far but they have said Cyprien is certainly talented enough to reach that level if he continues to work hard. The Jaguars drafted him to be a box safety but he turned out to be better in coverage than they thought and Bradley said he has improved even more.
There have been relatively few injuries during the four practices, but two have been key players: receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) and tight end Clay Harbor (calf). Shorts may still be out for another two weeks or more and it’s unsure how long Harbor will be out. The development of rookie receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson has helped ease the loss of Shorts somewhat, but he is by far the Jaguars’ most experienced receiver and not having him during the regular season will impact the offense. Harbor is the Jaguars’ flex tight end and the only other one on the roster besides Lewis who has caught a pass in a game.