Jaguars add former RB Denard Robinson to coaching staff

The Jacksonville Jaguars have hired Tony Gilbert as the team’s assistant linebackers coach and Denard Robinson as the team’s offensive quality control coach, the club announced today.

Both Gilbert and Robinson competed in Jacksonville during their playing careers. Gilbert played LB in Jacksonville from 2003-06 after being drafted by Arizona in the 2003 draft. Since he retired in 2010, the former Georgia Bulldog has held various positions coaching in the collegiate ranks, including stints at Georgia, Auburn, East Mississippi Community College, Georgia Military College, John Milledge Academy, North Carolina and UCF. Gilbert, along with Linebackers Coach Mark Collins, will oversee the team’s linebacking corps.  

Robinson played RB for the Jaguars from 2013-16, totaling 263 rushes for 1,058 yards and five TDs. The Deerfield Beach native and University of Michigan product will assist Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden and the coaching staff in all areas of practice and game preparation.  

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Jaguars’ Minshew: ‘I think we do have a lot to prove’

 The expectations are not very high for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020. This is a team that lost a lot of talent over the past few seasons. Jacksonville traded away CB Jalen Ramsey to the Rams during the 2019 season. Also, they traded Pro Bowl DE Calais Campbell to the Ravens and moved QB Nick Foles to the Bears this offseason, so on some level, there is a youth movement in Jacksonville.

The quarterback that will lead this team will be second-year player Gardner Minshew. The former sixth-round pick will have every opportunity to be the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville, and unlike last season, Minshew will be the guy from day one, which he believes will be an advantage.

“I think you get to build those relationships, get a lot more timing with those guys,” Minshew said during a conference call on Thursday. “You can get to know what they like, and they kind of get to know what I like and build that trust there. I’m very excited for that. And even just now, being able to have those conversations with them — them being the receivers, tight ends, running backs, and linemen — I think that’s already given us a leg up from last year.”

Last season, as a rookie, Minshew threw 21 touchdowns and was 6-6 as a starter, and he is hoping to be even better in 2020.

“I’ve been trying to [improve] really every asset – bigger, faster, stronger,” Minshew said. “Really putting an emphasis on trying to figure out the best weight for me to have as much arm strength as possible, while maintaining as much speed.”

Minshew will also be learning a new offense this season, as the Jaguars brought in former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. A new offensive coordinator means a new offense, and because of COVID-19, Minshew has to learn the offense virtually.

“Yeah, it’s different,” he said about learning the offense virtually. “When I was at Washington State, this was kind of the similar thing because I wasn’t there for the spring, so I had to a lot of it on my own, as well, but we’ve been fortunate. We’re meeting every day with Coach [Ben] McAdoo, Coach [Jay] Gruden and the other guys in the QB room and we’re all just helping each other and getting as good of work as we can, and I think you have to take ownership on our own, as well.”

While the expectations for the Jaguars might not be too high in 2020, Minshew hopes to use the low expectations to fuel him this season.

“I think it should put a chip on everybody’s shoulder on our team, know being kind of counted out like that,” he said. “I think we do have a lot to prove, prove that we are not what anybody says about us, the only people that really know, the only peoples whose opinions matter is who is in that huddle, who is on that team and I think we are going to set those expectations for ourselves and not worry about what anybody else has to say about us.”

No matter what happens with Minshew and Jacksonville, Minshew should be exciting, and if he and the team are successful, “Minshew Mania” will be in full effect. 

Jaguars’ Thompson:  ‘I am excited to get back in my home state’

Jaguars RB Chris Thompson is coming home. Thompson signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville earlier this month. The Greenville, Florida native spent the first six seasons of his career with the Redskins. Thompson also went to college in Florida(Florida State).

The seven-year veteran is excited about the opportunity to play in front of family and friends.

‘That is one thing that I am super excited about, just to be back in my home state and be a lot closer to what I would say is my fanbase that has been there for years, even back to people that watched me play in high school,” Thompson recently said via a video conference call. “I am super excited about that, and then my family is an hour-and-a-half away now, so they will be able to come and watch me play and be able to spend some more time with me than they have been able to the past seven years. I think it will be good. I missed a lot of time, I missed a lot of holidays, and I will be able to make that time up. I am super excited about that. I just had a daughter, too. She is four months old, so I am happy about that and for my parents to be able to spend some time with her.”

For Thompson, playing in Jacksonville will reunite him with Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who was Thompson’s head coach in Washington from 2014-2019. Thompson believes that Gruden’s belief in him helped his career.

“He is one of the biggest reasons I was able to have the success that I had in Washington and to be able to stick around there,” Thompson said. “The first year he got there, I was on the practice squad. I ended up being cut and put on the practice squad, but he talked to me afterwards for a while after the last preseason game and told me what the situation was. He let me know from day one – [he said] ‘I know this is going to be a hard year for you. You are probably mad and upset at everybody because you got cut, but I want you to come back here because I know the type of player you can be. I know you are going to play a bigger part in the future here with Washington, and I know you will be able to have a great impact on this team and on the players on this team.’ He had that talk with me, and I really appreciated that. That was one reason why I ended up coming back and spending that practice squad year with Washington. It was tough, but having him and knowing that he had my back, it really meant a lot. Throughout this whole process and all my time there in Washington, he believed in me. He gave me every single opportunity that he possibly could. Me coming here to Jacksonville with him being one of, I guess, two guys — with [Tyler] Eifert also — being familiar with his offense. It is good for me and him to be able to help the younger guys be able to grasp this offense and know what Jay is expecting from his playmakers.”

The 29-year-old Thompson is a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield, and in 2017, Thompson had career-highs in receiving yards(510) and touchdowns(4). He has had over 40 receptions three times in his career, so expect Thompson to continue his pass-catching ways with the Jaguars in 2020.

 

Jags’ Eifert on Minshew: ‘He seems like a guy that the offense wants to rally behind’

If it were not clear before, it’s obvious now that the Jacksonville Jaguars are giving Gardner Minshew every opportunity to become the team’s franchise quarterback. That became pretty clear when the team traded Nick Foles to the Bears, did not go after Cam Newton, and signed Mike Glennon to backup Minshew. 

To help Minshew, the Jaguars signed former Bengals TE Tyler Eifert in March, and while Eifert has not seen a lot of the second-year quarterback, he was impressed by what he saw.  

“I have not watched a lot of tape on him, but obviously I saw last year with the mania going on,” Eifert said via a video conference call on Thursday. “He seems like a guy that the offense wants to rally behind. He seems like he is kind of a fearless leader, and you need that when you are on the field, and the bullets are flying, and things are not going your way. You need that kind of guy that is going to take charge of the huddle and be like, ‘We got this.’ I think it will be fun to see his growth from Year 1 to Year 2, and I’m excited to get to work with him.”

Eifert is correct. It did appear that the team rallied around Minshew, as evident by his three game-winning drives in 2019. Also, the team was .500 with Minshew, who went 6-6 as a starter last season. 

Ultimately, If Minshew wants ‘the mania” to go beyond this year, he will have to play just as good, if not better, than he played as a rookie. Otherwise, the Jaguars will probably go in a different direction. 

Jags’ Schobert: ‘I want to be able to change the culture into a traditional winning culture’

Winning has not always come easy for Jaguars LB Joe Schobert. In his first four seasons in the league, all with the Cleveland Browns, Schobert has not made the playoffs, but he hopes that will all change in Jacksonville.

Back in March, the 26-year-old Schobert signed a five-year, $53.75 million deal with the Jaguars, which included $21 million in guaranteed money. Although he did not win in Cleveland, Schobert aims to be apart of a winning tradition with the Jaguars. 

“I come from a franchise where I didn’t play in the playoffs,” Schobert said via a conference call on Tuesday. “I was 1-31 my first two seasons; that was my record. I just want to prove that I can be a part of a winning franchise, a winning organization. In 2017, the Jaguars went to the AFC Championship game, but I want to be able to change the culture into a traditional winning culture to be a team that can go to the playoffs year after year and become one of the more successful franchises in the AFC, competing for titles every year.”

With the addition of Schobert, who is expected to be the Jaguars starting middle linebacker in 2020, Myles Jack will move to the outside, which Schobert believes benefits Jack.

“I came in at the same time as Myles Jack, and I remember in college watching UCLA stuff when he was playing running back and linebacker, running all over the field and making plays all the time,’ Schobert said. “I think the 2017 (AFC) championship game against the Patriots if you watched that game, you just see the talent he possesses, how fluid he is as an athlete, and how sudden he can be and explosive.

“My goal for me coming in here is to just take things off of the plate, being able to set the defenses, make the calls, make the checks and their adjustments and let Myles just go be an athlete out there and wreck the game which he has the ability to when he doesn’t have to be caught up in trying to get other people lined up and be responsible for all that communication.”

Jacksonville is hoping to get their defense back to what they were in 2017, which ended with the Jaguars making it to the AFC title game. The Jaguars invested two first-round picks in this year’s draft on defense(CB C.J. Henderson, LB K’Lavon Chaisson), so if Schobert plays well in the middle and Jack gets it done on at the outside linebacker spot, that will go a long way to getting the defense right in 2020.

Jags’ Shenault: ‘Definitely had first round hopes, but, I mean, at the end of the day it is what it is’

The Jacksonville Jaguars added another weapon for QB Gardner Minshew when they selected Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr. with the 42nd overall pick in the second round on Friday night.

In 32 games, Shenault had eight 100-yard receiving games. The eight 100-yard receiving games were the fifth-most in school history. The 21-year-old Shenault left Colorado after his junior season. He struggled mightily during the combine and ran a disappointing 4.58 40, which could have been one of the reasons Shenault dropped to the second round.

After the selection, Shenault addressed the media via a conference call.

Here is what he had to say:

(On his thoughts about being drafted in the second round)

Shenault: “Definitely had first round hopes, but, I mean, at the end of the day it is what it is. I understand everything happens for a reason, but I’m just ready to work, to be honest. That’s really all there is to that.”

(On his physicality on the field)

Shenault: “That’s how I live my life, being tough and I take it to the field. So anytime you see me you see it’s being tough.”

(On why he likes to be known as a football player rather than just a wide receiver)

Shenault: “I think I’m an athlete. I think I can move around everywhere and do anything that’s at task, you know, and dominate in different places, do what everyone loves.”

(On why he describes himself as a mix of Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones)

Shenault: “I said Jarvis Landry because everyone knows he plays with that dog mindset and that dog mentality and he says it and he makes it known. He’s not a big receiver at all, it’s not about the size, it’s about the attitude he plays with and how aggressive he plays, and I think I do the same thing. Larry Fitzgerald, he’s just like a business person. When he gets on the field you already know he’s strictly about business and he’s gonna get the job done. Julio Jones, he’s just a freak and he can do anything; do everything. We’ve seen him do everything so that’s just that can-do-everything type of athlete and I think I can do the same thing.”

(On how he feels about playing with Gardner Minshew II)

Shenault: “I’m excited, I can’t wait. Just ready to get that bond together and it all starts with the bond and I can’t wait to definitely, definitely get on the field.”

(On if he kept track of Minshew Magic)

Shenault: “I didn’t, not as much, but I know when he started playing he definitely made a mark, but I didn’t keep that much attention towards it.”

(On whether his father passing is his motivation and if there’s any correlation with his dreadlocks)

Shenault: “I think it’s just part of my motivation. I think I have a couple of motivation things that’s the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing. And my dreadlocks, when my dad died I just decided not to cut them no more and I like them, of course. It’s my fashion.”

(On what it means to be drafted to the NFL)

Shenault: “I think it’s just another door open, just another level unlocked. There’s plenty more levels to it so I’m not stopping right now, and just gonna keep on leveling up. It’s all actions.”

(On how scoring six rushing touchdowns as a sophomore at the University of Colorado will translate to the NFL.)

Shenault: “Most definitely. I love getting the ball anywhere I can create mismatches. I love getting the ball in my hands when its right off the snap too. That’s just what I like to do. I like to gain those yards. It doesn’t have to be easy, it can be hard. But I definitely like to get the ball to me quick and get those hard yards and those red zone yards. So, yeah I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

(On how scouting reports mention his lack of speed from his 40-yard time, but that does not equate to his proven speed for breakaway plays on the football field.)

Shenault: “First off, my 40 time, I ran that while needing surgery. So that was the hard thing, just not being able to put in all the work I wanted to because it was mostly rehab and rest the whole time prepping for the combine. So that was the bad thing about that.”

(On what would be a true 40 time if he was perfectly healthy.)

Shenault: “If I was perfectly healthy, I really think anywhere between 4.39-4.44.”

(On why he chose to attend University of Colorado over schools like LSU and Alabama.)

Shenault: “Making this decision was really more of what feels right. Also, Colorado used to be a team that was very good. If you watch the 30 for 30’s you see how aggressive they play and how good they were. I just wanted to try to bring that back as much as possible.”

(On how much he met with the Jaguars prior to the draft, how those conversations went and what the Jaguars said they liked about him.)

Shenault: “I think I did meet with them at the combine and I had just a lot of talks with the receivers coach [Keenan McCardell]. He said he just liked me overall, he likes me as a player, and he likes how I can move around everywhere and just dominate in every position. We didn’t spend that much time together though; it wasn’t like a lot of time. It was kind of shocking to be honest.”

(On how excited he is to play for his new wide receiver coach, Keenan McCardell.)

Shenault; “Very excited. It’s always good to be under somebody who has a lot of experience. I’m just ready to get over there to learn and just get better every day.”

(On plans to shave off the dreads for the NFL.)

Shenault: “No.”

Jaguars’ Taylor: ‘Gardner(Minshew) came in with a lot of energy, and he was a great leader’

Finding a quarterback in the NFL is never easy, and for Jacksonville Jaguars, finding a franchise quarterback has been a struggle. Last season, the Jaguars thought they found it when they signed Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles, but that did not work out. Foles would be injured in the first game of the season, came back, and struggled.

From there, the Jaguars turned to an unlikely player, which was sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew, and Jacksonville was so impressed by his play, that they traded Foles away to the Bears for a fourth-round pick this offseason. Minshew, who was 6-6 as a starter in 2019, has an opportunity to establish himself as the team’s franchise quarterback, and according to RT Jawaan Taylor, the team is looking forward to seeing Minshew lead the way.

“Gardner came in with a lot of energy, and he was a great leader,” Taylor said via a conference call or Tuesday. “Once he came in, we all rallied around him and supported him all the way through the season. He made a lot of great plays for us, and we are looking forward to seeing what he will do for us in the future. As a young offense, we all just practice hard and play together. We are getting better, and we are just building right now.”

Minshew will have even more success in 2020 if the Jaguars’ offensive line plays well, and Taylor feels that will happen.

“We just keep pushing forward and getting better as a unit,” Taylor said. [Offensive Line] Coach “[George] Warhop is doing a great job with us, [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone and all the other coaches around. They are doing a great job with us. We are just building. I love the guys around me. They helped me have a great rookie year. I learned a lot from them, just coming in under all the vets’ wings and learning the game of football at a higher standpoint. Right now, we are just building and getting better every single day.”

Minshew is a mobile guy, but every quarterback needs protection, so if the offensive line gets it done, Minshew has an opportunity to take that next step.

Jags’ Herndon: ‘I think those guys [Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye] did a great job mentoring me’

In 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars had a big-time defense. That defense, along with a solid running game, and decent play from the quarterback position, got the Jaguars to the AFC title game. Jacksonville’s defense was one the best in football that season and were ranked 2nd in total defense.  

Many members of that defense have since departed, especially in the secondary. The whole starting secondary in 2017 are gone, including corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and after the trade of Ramsey during the middle of last season, second-year cornerback Tre Herndon stepped up, and according to Herndon, he learned a lot from Ramsey and Bouye. 

“I think those guys [Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye] did a great job mentoring me while I was there,” Herndon said via a conference call on Wednesday. “Jalen was my locker mate my entire rookie year and the whole time before he was traded. That was a time for me to learn from him and grow from him during the times he was sitting out and I was playing his role. He kept giving me tips, study habits, those kinds of things. A.J., we kind of have the same story with being undrafted guys. He’s always been a motivation for me. Out here in Georgia, I train with A.J. every other day, so I’m still getting those tips from him. He’s been in that big brother role.”

Unfortunately, with COVID-19 shutting down society, and all of the sports, which probably will include OTAs and mini-camps. Teams could have a hard time coming together, but Herndon believes Jacksonville’s secondary will be prepared

“As far as missing this time, of course, we can’t get together face to face and sit down and talk playbook-wise, X’s and O’s,” he said. “It could work against us kind of, but I feel like everyone in the D.B. room has a veteran kind of mindset. I know guys like Ronnie Harrison, J-Dub [Jarrod Wilson] – we are all tapped into film trying to clean up the things that may have been missed during the season and just going over the playbook just to keep a fresh mind. Whenever we do get a date and when we do return, we will be on top of it. I do not think it is affecting too many people as far as playbook stuff. I feel like everyone has the mindset that we want to come in ready to go when the time is.”  

Ramsey and Bouye are two very good corners, and some believe Ramsey is the best corner in the NFL, so you can learn a lot from them. Last season, in 16 games, Herndon had three interceptions for the Jaguars, and hopefully, the 24-year-old Herndon will continue to grow as a player for Jacksonville in 2020.

Jaguars release Swaim; tender Cole, Calitro

The Jacksonville Jaguars have applied a second-round restricted free agent tender on WR Keelan Cole and applied an exclusive rights tender on fourth-year LB Austin Calitro, the club announced today.

The club also released fifth-year TE Geoff Swaim. In 2019, Swaim caught 13 passes for 65 yards.

Cole, 6-1, 194, signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie in 2017 and has played in 48 games with 18 starts. He has caught 104 passes for 1,600 yards and seven TDs in his three seasons in Jacksonville, including 24 receptions for 361 yards and three TDs in 2019. Among players with 100 receptions, Cole’s 15.4 career yards-per-catch average is the highest in Jaguars history.

In 2017, Cole caught a career-high 42 receptions for 748 yards, registering the most receiving yards by an undrafted rookie in franchise history. A native of Louisville, KY, Cole was a first-team All-American at Kentucky Wesleyan after turning in 198.1 all-purpose yards per game as a senior. He attended Central (Ky.) High School, where he was a four-year letter winner and two-year starter at DB, WR and QB.

Calitro, 6-0, 240, has played in 29 games with nine starts during his three-year (2017-19) NFL career. He initially entered the league as an undrafted rookie with the New York Jets in 2017, and also spent time with San Francisco, Seattle and Cleveland. The Danbury, Conn. native joined the Jaguars prior to the start of the 2019 season and played in 13 games and started at WLB for the team’s final three contests. The Villanova product tallied 38 tackles (28 solo), including four tackles for loss and 1.0 sack, last season.

Marrone: ‘I think Leonard(Fournette) did everything that we wanted him to do’

There were not many bright spots for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019. The team suffered its second straight losing season, but one guy who played well in 2019 was RB Leonard Fournette.

The third-year running back set career-highs in rushing yards(1,152 yards), yard per carry(4.3), receptions(76), and receiving yards(522) in 2019. But, he only had three rushing touchdowns last season.

However, according to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, Fournette did everything the Jaguars needed him to do last season. 

“I think Leonard did everything that we wanted him to do – you talk about a workhorse,” Marrone said on Tuesday at the NFL Combine. “A guy that carried the load, a guy that had a ton of receptions. He did a lot of great things for us coming out of the backfield; his protection was probably one of the things he did a heck of a job on this year.

“Unfortunately it was not just Leonard [who didn’t score a lot], I think it was everyone, we didn’t get into the end zone enough. I think as we get better around ourselves and the players and we get better in the year coming … I think we have to do a better job coaching-wise situationally in the red zone to score those touchdowns, and I think they will come.”

The Jaguars will have a decision to make about Fournette’s contract. The 25-year-old Fournette, who was fourth overall pick in 2017 NFL Draft, is eligible for a fifth-year option, which would add an extra year to his four-year contract, or maybe they can sign him to an extension. Regarding that fifth-year option, Jacksonville won’t have to make that decision until May.

According to Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell, the team had not even thought about what they are going to do with Fournette.

“I think our vision right now is we have free agency, we have the draft, and we have the fifth-year option,” Caldwell said. “Any extensions and stuff like that with other players, I think, will take place whether it is after the draft or when we decide that. I think one step at a time right now, and that is free agency.”

It should be interesting to see what Jacksonville will do, but one thing for sure, Fournette will probably be a big part of Jacksonville’s success in 2020.