When Jaguars assistant strength coach Cedric Scott sounded his air horn three times at 12:10 p.m. Thursday to signal the end of practice, the reaction was instant, loud and positive.
The veterans are done until they report to training camp July 24.
The rookies will be on vacation starting next Wednesday.
And the coaching staff will scatter around the country (and beyond) over the next month.
In the books are 12 on-field practices that involved offense-vs.-defense drills, no major injuries and what coach Gus Bradley hopes is a sustainable foundation.
“I see high performance from our players,” he said. “But that’s not what we’re after — we’re after football excellence and there’s a big difference. Excellent football is seeing a high standard of play every once in a while. Football excellence is a consistent high standard of play.
“I do think we showed signs of excellent football; we just need [more] consistency. I feel like we’re a more mature team than we were last year so we expect greater strides in training camp.”
The Jaguars hope those greater training strides produce greater September-October results compared to last year, when they started 0-8 and were outscored 264-86.
Here are four takeaways from the last four weeks:
1. The injured Jaguars receivers have plenty of catch-up work to do.
Marqise Lee/Allen Robinson each missed 10 practices, Cecil Shorts/Tandon Doss eight apiece and Mike Brown/Ace Sanders four apiece. (Roster long shot Lamaar Thomas (knee injury) missed all 12 workouts.
Bradley said all of the players are expected for camp, but for different reasons, the Jaguars should be semi-worried.
Lee/Robinson: When the Jaguars drafted them in the second round on May 9, it was with the expectation they would quickly transition to the NFL game. But with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively, it’s only natural they’ll be trailing — especially at such a technical position like receiver — when they do return.
Shorts: He’s well aware of his injury history (concussion in 2012, groin in 2013) and contract status (free agent next March). He sat out this month with a calf injury, the same kind of problem that derailed him last preseason. Shorts needs to be on the field.
Doss: The thought here when he signed as a free agent was he had a firm grip on a roster spot as a reserve receiver and/or possible punt returner. But his calf injury means he may need a big August to make the team.
2. The Jaguars aren’t concerned about their outside linebacker spots … maybe they should be.
The defensive improvement will be defined by how much better the Jaguars stop the run (enter Red Bryant) and rush the passer (enter Chris Clemons). But their situation at outside linebacker bears monitoring.
Dekoda Watson, signed from Tampa Bay to play the newly-created Otto spot, hurt his groin in mid-May and didn’t see the field again.
“We’ve got to figure it out with him and see where he is in training camp,” Bradley said.
“We’re really pleased with LaRoy [Reynolds] and the progress he’s made,” Bradley said. “He showed flashes.”
The Jaguars want their linebackers to learn two positions, but the plan — perhaps acknowledging Watson’s status — is to keep Reynolds at the Otto.
At the Will spot, Geno Hayes (knee) was managed by the staff, getting four practices off and J.T. Thomas took over his snaps. Hayes wore a bulky brace throughout the offseason.
3. Forget playing in sub packages, Demetrius McCray may contend for a starting cornerback spot.
McCray played significantly on defense in only one game last year — at Seattle when Alan Ball was injured. But his improvement in practice combined with his physical skills (6-foot, 185 pounds) has impressed the coaches.
“There’s still room to grow, but overall, it’s been pretty good,” McCray said. “I’m a completely different guy [compared to last year]. I have a better understanding of the game, the defense and the speed of the game.”
The Jaguars figure to start Ball and Dwayne Gratz, but could McCray wedge his way into the Week 1 starting lineup?
“There’s always that possibility. I’m not going to put it past me,” McCray said. “That’s a goal of mine.”
It’s a realistic goal and not a knock on Ball or Gratz. It would give the Jaguars weekly competition and more options in terms of how to use their improved secondary depth.
4. A few undrafted rookies took advantage of the offseason program.
Marcel Jensen, the tight end from Fresno State, showed a knack for winning 50-50 passes by using his 6-foot-6 frame to go up high and his 270 pounds to outmuscle defenders.
Allen Hurns, the receiver from Miami, came out of nowhere. Remember, this is a guy whose college career was full of injuries, although he did play a full senior year. He showed consistent hands and sharp route-running skills.
Cornerback Rashaad Reynolds (5-foot-11, 187) will get a chance to win a roster spot in training camp and his ability to play special teams will key.
And along the defensive front, don’t count out 315-pound tackle DeAndre Coleman from making the roster if the Jaguars decide to keep 10 linemen.
Ryan O’Halloran: (904) 359-4401