*Training camp is quickly approaching, which means it's time to preview the most exciting part of the summer. Over the next month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr will break down all 32 teams and give us something to look for in late July. *
Training camp report dates: Rookies: July 25; Veterans: July 27
Training camp location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Player to watch: Linebacker Myles Jack. Due to the NFL's graduation rule, Jack missed a significant portion of the team's offseason workouts. With so much curiosity looming, Jack could do little but tread water during his first minicamp and acclimate to the little things -- like the Florida sun. Jack kept the right attitude, hustling to every corner of the field if all else failed. His sideline-to-sideline athleticism might have made him a top-five draft selection had it not been for the noise surrounding his knee issue, which, according to renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, does not require surgery. Traits that made Jack special during his college career, like his ball-hawking instinct and physicality, will be tough to gage in training camp. However, we will see exactly what coach Gus Bradley plans on doing with Jack and if he projects him as a middle linebacker in his rangy 4-3 defense. Bradley's OTTO or hybrid SAM position doesn't seem to make much sense, as he has bigger bodies elsewhere, and placing Jack in the middle will force him to learn the defense quicker. He is expected to be the type of player that never leaves the field, but that is up to him this August to prove he can be trusted that way.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS:
Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that protecting the quarterback from the backfield was a big reason why the Jaguars picked up Chris Ivory this offseason -- more than the enticing draw of a three-headed monster at running back. We'll get a more definitive look at the offensive rotation during camp, but our best guess is a mix of Ivory on early downs with Yeldon squeezed in on third. That leads us to a second question on Ivory, who is a phenomenal power back in bursts, but is 28 and is coming off seasons where he carried the ball 198 and 247 times, respectively. Camp can also give us a window into how the backs will be managed physically, and whether or not Ivory will be entitled to some veteran days off.
2. Do any of Jacksonville's former first-round fliers take hold?
The Jaguars made a splash in free agency, but they also took some of the smarter risks when it comes to low-cost, high-upside talent. Prince Amukamara was an ascending corner in New York despite injuries and Björn Werner was played woefully out of position for a number of seasons in Indianapolis. This team has been built the right way -- core, drafted talent followed by top-end free agent purchases -- but playoff-bound franchises also have to get lucky and strike it rich from time to time. We would love to see Amukamara give Jalen Ramsey a run for his money early in camp even if Ramsey will get all the chances he needs to be successful with the Jaguars.
Unfortunately, we don't have an All or Nothing or Hard Knocks to gain an all-access window into the Jaguars (and we don't expect to unless the team makes a run deep into the playoffs). Blake Bortles is doing something right -- he smashed franchise records for completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns in a single season and has developed the kind of relationship with budding star wideouts Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns that most coaches can only hope for. Sadly, we don't get to see much of the why. By all accounts, Bortles has the makeup of a franchise quarterback and is a season away from being paid handsomely like one. If he can rally the troops this August, we would not be surprised to see this team in the playoffs.
Way-too-early season prediction: All the planning, all the patience and all the saving has led to this moment. Fans of good football should root for the Jaguars because if they succeed, more owners will take notice and realize that there is a light at the end of the patience and process tunnel. For that to work, the team needs to win at least nine games and push for a wild-card spot. We think that will happen, despite the fact that Jacksonville has had five straight seasons with five or fewer wins.