Jacksonville Jaguars OTAs: Latest Player Reports and Analysis
The Jacksonville Jaguars' second week of OTAs is in the books as training camp slowly approaches on the horizon.
Although the weather didn't cooperate with the Jaguars, the team still continued to build toward the 2013 season with another week of practices.
Many of the biggest stories of the week revolved around the defensive line, as it is a unit in the midst of a massive transition. Returning players are being shuffled around to find new homes on the line, while fresh faces are attempting to make an impact on the team.
We're at the halfway point between the beginning of OTAs and the end of the mandatory minicamp, so now is a perfect time to take a look at who is making the most news thus far.
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After a rough first week of OTAs, linebacker Geno Hayes responded with a much-improved second week of workouts.
Coach Bradley said, via John Oehser of Jaguars.com:
Geno has picked it up the last couple of practices. That’s what we challenged him on and I know today he flashed a couple of plays. I will be really interested to see what kind of tape he put out today, but I did see where it jumped out at me where I saw him doing some things, so that’s a good sign.
That's good news for Hayes, as he's competing in a "wide-open derby" for the starting outside linebacker spot, Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union reports.
He is competing against second-year player Julian Stanford and undrafted rookies Jeremiah Green and LaRoy Reynolds for the spot. Hayes' experience should give him the edge, but he can't afford too many more practices where he doesn't look superior to his competition.
Hayes has played under Jacksonville's head coach Gus Bradley in Tampa Bay during his rookie year, while playing for defensive coordinator Todd Babich in Chicago last season. He brings a familiarity with the coaching staff and schemes, which should give him an advantage over the other players.
Still, there is no real favorite for the starting role just yet, so Hayes has to continue having showings like he did last week to solidify himself in the starting lineup.
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Jason Babin returned to the field after missing the first week of OTAs with a knee injury.
He is beginning to settle into the "Leo" position in Jacksonville's defense, which is a position designed for an explosive pass-rusher who can use his speed to pressure the quarterback.
The position plays to his strengths as a player, and defensive line coach Todd Wash said it would allow Babin to do a lot of the things that made him successful in Philadelphia, according to John Oehser of Jaguars.com.
Babin is feeling comfortable in the new role and likes playing the position, Oehser reports:
It’s the same style, the same rules, for me personally. It fits me well.
This is welcome news to the Jaguars, as the team has been searching for a dominant pass-rusher for years. If Babin continues to cement himself as the player at the Leo position, Jacksonville's search could be over.
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Babin isn't the only player along the defensive line taking on a new role, as Tyson Alualu will move to defensive end after playing defensive tackle in his first three seasons in the league.
Alualu could be poised to have a breakout year in 2013.
He is playing a similar position to the one he played during his collegiate career. He played well enough at defensive end during his collegiate career for the Jaguars to take him with the No. 10 pick in the 2010 draft.
Coach Bradley said Alualu looks comfortable at the position, per Oehser:
We feel it’s a good fit. He’s all in favor of it. He feels like it’s a better fit for him.
In addition to the position change, Alualu is also healthy for the first time in his NFL career. He started every game during his first three seasons despite having knee issues, which didn't allow him to play to his full potential.
Now that the knee problems are a thing of the past, Alualu can start a new chapter of his career at defensive end and live up to his high draft status.
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The Jaguars claimed Kyle Love off waivers prior to the second week of OTAs after he was released from the New England Patriots after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
The coaches met with the team's medical staff before adding Love and "felt good" about the situation, according to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union. He has altered his diet since being diagnosed and has cut out all sweets, per the report.
Diabetes hasn't affected Love's weight too much, as he said he's only lost 5-10 pounds, per O'Halloran.
He started 24 games over the past two seasons and was a run-stuffing defender, and he will try to carve the same niche for himself among the 17 defensive linemen currently on the roster. He already seems to be impressing head coach Gus Bradley, according to O'Halloran.
The Jaguars may have gotten a huge steal by claiming Love if he's able to overcome diabetes, which he is determined to do. He has shown he can be a very good player during his tenure with the Patriots, and he could anchor the interior of Jacksonville's revamped defensive line.
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For the second year in a row, the biggest story of the offseason may be Maurice Jones-Drew's absence from offseason workouts.
Unlike last season when he held out in hopes of getting a new contract, he's missing several weeks of OTAs this year to rehabilitate from surgery to repair the Lisfranc injury he suffered last year.
Coach Bradley wanted the starting running back present at OTAs until the offense was installed before allowing him to train with Bommarito, per Stellino's report.
Jones-Drew will not participate with the Jaguars until the mandatory minicamp, AP's Mark Long reports.
This is a giant step in the right direction in his recovery. His absence isn't the distraction that it was last year as he's trying to prepare himself physically for the upcoming season. If Jones-Drew continues to recover at the rate he has been, he will once again be one of the league's top running backs.