[Note by River City Rage, 07/26/08 6:35 PM EDT ] Everyone at BCC thanks Tim/FBT from MVN for his fantastic practice reports!
The Jacksonville Jaguars returned to the practice fields to begin the process of preparing for the 2008 season this morning. It was a balmy start for Camp Del Rio 2008 at the practice facility with barely a breeze. The overcast skies kept it from becoming too hot for the players on the field, and the 2,500-3,000 fans in attendance were also grateful.
This was a very light and short practice session by previous camp standards. The entire practice ran about 75 minutes, which is significantly shorter than in years past. It may have been an effort by the coaching staff to ease into this process as the real grind will begin on Monday when the pads are in play.
The first players to work their way on to the field were Josh Scobee and Adam Podlesh. The first non-special teams player to take the field for the first practice session, several minutes ahead of his teammates, was John Broussard. As the players trickled out on to the field, the crowd was somewhat subdued compared to years past, which is probably a good thing. By the time troubled wide receiver Matt Jones took the field, there were fortunately no cat calls or boos from the crowd, averting the first public relations disaster for the team.
The players who did not participate during practice this morning included Mike Walker, who worked with the training staff and did do some individual drills, Chad Nkang, Jeremy Mincey, George Wrighster, Reggie Williams, and Fred Taylor, who was excused for the funeral of Samari Rolle’s father.
Now, let us get right to the drills.
11 x 11 (Part I):
The 11 x 11 drill started off with quite a bit of short passing, either dumps out of the backfield, or simple crossing patterns. David Garrard connected on the first pass play of the day with Greg Jones on a little slant over the middle that went for a decent gain. Jones is looking good early in camp, although it is certainly a little premature to say that he has fully recovered from the knee injury two years ago.
Jones does appear to be back at full speed as witnessed by the nice burst that he displayed this morning. For what he is being paid, the general consensus is that he will have more of a role than simply being the fullback for the Jaguars this year.
Paul Spicer had the first solid defensive play of the day, batting down a Garrard pass at the line of scrimmage on what was intended to be another short pass to the sideline.
Troy Williamson continues to be rock solid. Again, this is a non-contact drill, but in the 11x11 session, he made a terrific falling grab on a deep sideline pass from Cleo Lemon.
Another guy who is having a solid off-season is Dennis Northcutt, who had the best performance of the first session of training camp. Garrard has clearly continued to favor him over the other receivers, and he has consistently made plays. Northcutt is still trying to dial in his timing with Cleo Lemon, who did miss the receiver on a deep seam route where Northcutt was a step behind the deep pass.
Chauncey Washington got an opportunity to carry the ball a few times early in practice. This is a kid that has some decent size, and surprising quickness and burst. He shot through the hole with purpose on one particular running play up the middle, breaking through untouched by the huge hole cleared by the offensive line.
Lavarus Giles also got a chance to show his ability, and compared to the other backs on the roster, it is clear that he has an uphill battle ahead of him. He does not possess the speed or quickness of the other backs, and that leaves him struggling to get out of the backfield at times even in non-contact drills. On one particular play, he wound up running right into the back of one of his blockers three yards deep in the backfield. That’s not a good way to impress the coaching staff.
Maurice Jones-Drew had an opportunity to make a few plays, and he looked as quick as ever. He will be a critical cog in the entire plan for the offense this year, and he appears to be ready to fulfill any and all expectations.
Marcedes Lewis and Greg Estandia both looked solid out there. Neither player appeared to be suffering any lingering effects from their injuries. Richard Angulo was not quite as sharp, and showed significant difficulty in hanging on to passes. In one particular incident during this drill, Todd Bouman hit him squarely in the hands and the ball went right through. This was only the beginning of a rough practice session for Angulo as he fights to earn a roster spot with Wrighster sidelined.
Paul Smith continually struggled with getting the ball to his receivers. His accuracy was almost non-existent at times as he fought to get the ball to his receivers. On one play, he caught the ire of his coach, Mike Shula, after throwing a sideline pass so far behind Jeron Harvey that it almost appeared that it was thrown to someone on the sideline, out of bounds.
Todd Bouman and Cleo Lemon both looked solid in practice this morning. Lemon has clearly improved over what was being reported early in the process. His throws are showing a little more zip, and he is being more accurate with his passes across the board. On the passes that he did miss his mark, it was not by very much. As he continues working with the receivers, his timing will almost certainly improve.
David Garrard has assumed the role of the man. There is no pressure on him to keep his job at this point, and that confidence is clear when he takes the field. Compared to this time last year, Garrard is light years ahead of his normal preseason pace, throwing with decent accuracy and power. On two deep passes that he did attempt, he was on target and hit his receivers in stride.
7 x 7:
Garrard connected with running backs and tight ends for most of this session. The team is trying to incorporate these positions more into the passing game to get their playmakers in space where they can do their thing.
Garrard started the drill by hitting Maurice Jones-Drew in stride on a quick crossing route that the running back turned into a big gain.
David and Marcedes ALMOST hooked up on the play of the day during the drill. Lewis had gotten open in the seam and was running a post route when Garrard spotted him and launched a deep ball in his direction. The pass was a little high, but Lewis got his hands on it but was unable to haul it in. It would have been a spectacular play had he been able to bring the ball in.
Anthony Cottone was getting a good bit of action during practice this morning as well. On thee separate plays from three different quarterbacks, the fullback was targeted during the drills. In each case, they were simple quick outs that he made solid plays on.
Charles Davis, the tight end from Purdue also saw some limited action running short slant and out patterns. On one play, he made a nice catch in traffic going over the middle on a seven yard crossing pattern, showing good concentration in bringing the ball in. He has decent size and hands. He will be an interesting player to watch to see how he develops with the tight end competition as wide open as it appears to be right now.
Richard Angulo redeemed himself by getting open on a deep crossing pattern that he made a great catch over the middle in traffic.
Jeron Harvey struggled a bit with hanging on to the ball, dropping a couple of passes during the middle drills including a quick out from Todd Bouman that just bounced off of his hands and fell incomplete.
Dennis Northcutt and Matt Jones both made terrific grabs during the drill. Northcutt made a leaping grab over Rashean Mathis on a deep sideline pass from Paul Smith, and Matt Jones showed how his height advantage could be used as a weapon on a well delivered fade over the top of Drayton Florence where Jones went up and fully extended to haul in the pass. It was one of the better highlights of the early session, and got the crowd involved in what was otherwise an almost non-eventful practice.
John Broussard, not wanting to be outdone, made a wonderful catch on a post pattern deep down the middle. Garrard put the ball over the top and Broussard had to go up to make the play, which he did effortlessly without breaking stride.
11 x 11 (Part II):
In the final session of the shortened practice, the offense started to tease the fans with some more vertical passing plays.
The highlight of the entire practice session was a deep sideline touchdown over Rashean Mathis on a pass from David Garrard to Dennis Northcutt, who had the cornerback beaten by a full step on the play.
Charles Davis continued to show that he is in this to make the roster, pulling down a difficult catch over the middle in between four defenders. The Cleo Lemon pass was slightly tipped, but on target. Davis showed great concentration in making the catch in stride knowing that he was in the middle of a pack of head hunters.
Meanwhile, Richard Angulo took a pass off the chest from Paul Smith. The pass was on the mark as it was a simple dump off, but Angulo simply let the ball hit him in the pads, making it difficult to hang on to. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground. Angulo will need to refocus his efforts in order to avoid having this become a trend.
Lavarus Giles, who was having a rough first practice to begin with, ended it in the same manner by allowing a pass from Cleo Lemon that was perfectly delivered to bounce off of his hands and fall incomplete on a short crossing pattern.
Final First Impressions:
For a first practice, it was relatively sharp for the top tier players. There was nobody on defense that really stood out in the early practice session. David Garrard has fully assumed the role of the man on the offense, and it appears that Cleo Lemon is coming up to speed on the playbook quite nicely. Neither player suffered any major gaffes that would be cause for any concern over the quarterback situation.
The tight end situation is wide open. Other than Marcedes, it appears that they will let the competition sort out the depth chart at this position. Angulo took a step back this morning, but it is still very early in the process. Estandia looked solid in his pass catching, so we will have to see how improved his blocking is when the pads go on next week.
John Henderson appears to have shed much of the weight that he had visibly packed on when we last saw him at mini-camp. Tony McDaniel continues to look more and more like Marcus Stroud physically. Once the pads go on next week, we will get an opportunity to see if the appearance is more than skin deep.
All in all, it was a quiet opening to what should prove to be a very interesting training camp.