By John Reid, GateHouse Florida
JACKSONVILLE — Jaguars rookie offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor has not only had to prove himself on the field in training camp.
But off it, too.
On Tuesday night, the second-round pick out of Florida, like the rest of the team’s rookies, had to stand in front of the entire team and sing.
So what was Taylor’s song of choice?
“I sung ‘Lean on Me’ and the whole team clapped and I got a standing ovation,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know every word of the song, so that’s why I told the team to sing along with me.”
In the NFL, it doesn’t matter if a rookie is a high draft pick or undrafted, it’s the rite of passage for veteran players to humiliate them.
Despite practicing for three hours Wednesday in 90-degree heat, Taylor not only had to carry his own helmet and shoulder pads off the field to the locker room, but was tugging Brandon Thomas’ shoulder pads, too, during his walk from the practice fields to the locker room
Not far behind Taylor was first-round pick Josh Allen, who was carrying a teammate’s helmet and shoulder pads, along with his own.
During organized team activity workouts and minicamp, Taylor said he didn’t get any requests from veterans.
In April, they were courted as draft prospects, showered with phrase over their skill sets and potential.
Now, they’re at the bottom of the pecking order.
In his offensive line meetings, Taylor said he’s been asked to stand in front of his teammates on a few occasions to sing the Florida Gators fight song. He’s also been asked to stand up and tell a few jokes like a comedian does on stage to liven up things before they get back to playbook and film study.
“It just feels like I’m a freshman all over again in college,” Taylor said laughing. “I’m one of the youngest (21), so I have to do stuff. It’s all fun to me.”
Coach Doug Marrone said he never wants young players to feel comfortable in training camp.
In 2017, it took nearly until the end of training camp for running back Leonard Fournette to get first-team reps, though he was the fourth overall pick and clearly the projected rookie starter.
The Jaguars traded up three spots to select Taylor 35th overall during this past April’s draft. They drafted him to become a starter, but Marrone is not going to hand him the job. He’s going have to earn it and Cedric Ogbuehi has been providing stiff competition.
Ogbuehi, who had four disappointing seasons with Cincinnati before signing with the Jaguars in March, is still drawing more snaps with the first-team offense than Taylor.
“I never want them (rookies) to think, ‘Oh hey, I’m coming from college, I was running with the twos now I’m with the ones, I’ve arrived.’ You don’t want people to feel that way because they’re going to be challenged during the season on a week-to-week basis, which is probably a little bit different in college,” Marrone said. “Even if you’re in some of the tougher divisions where you’re facing guys week-to-week, it’s not like the NFL.”
Taylor was a three-year starter at Florida and was considered to be the top offensive tackle in the draft. So far, he’s shown quick feet, good upper body strength and leg drive.
But a bigger test for Taylor comes on Friday for the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage, and then it’s on to Baltimore for two joint practices before playing the Ravens in the preseason opener on Aug. 8 at M&T Bank Field.
“I’m going against the best defense in the NFL every day in practice,” Taylor said. “The next phase is definitely going up against other guys, but I’m definitely feel I’m getting prepared.”