The Jaguars took the field in front of a small crowd and without their starting quarterback on Friday evening. The practice marked the official return of MarcedesLewis to the lineup, which was a welcome sight.
The tempo of the practice was extremely laid back, with shells and shorts the attire of choice. The most significant thing about the session was the number of players who were nursing minor injuries and not participating.
Aaron Kampman, Maurice Jones-Drew, Terrence Knighton, Derek Cox, and Chris Prosinskidid not participate in practice. Other notables included Jason Hill, who had a bandaged shin on his left leg. It did not look serious. David Garrard was not on the practice fields for the session.
Matt Turk did dress out and spent the entire session stretching and working on holding for Scobee. He did not attempt to kick the ball at all, leaving those chores to newly acquired camp leg, Durant Brooks. The injury to Turk does not appear to be significant, and it appears the team is going to give him time to recover fully since the job is his.
Cox had his leg heavily wrapped. Kampmandid his usual routine, working with his line group during individual drills, and returning to work with the trainers when the team drills started. Prosinski was working with the trainers on stretching and running. He seemed to be fine. I would suspect he will be back on the field pretty quickly.
Let's get to the drills.
4 x 3:
In a bit of a twist, the team did not start the group drills with the usual 11 x 11, opting for a smaller drill in a much more laid back atmosphere in preparation for the scrimmage Saturday evening.
Gabbert took the snaps with the first team, and kicked things off with a nice mid-range pass along the sideline to Mike Thomas with Michael Hamlin in coverage. The pass was just out in front of coverage so Thomas was the only one with a shot at making the catch.
Luke McCown went 15 yards down field to connect with Zach Miller with Dawan Landry in tight coverage. Again, the pass was thrown in a spot on the crossing route where only Miller had a chance to catch it. Landry had good position, but could not gain the advantage on the play.
Kyle Miller made a nice catch over the top of Terrell Whitehead on a deep sideline pass from Blaine Gabbert. The ball was dropped right into his hands, but Miller had to make an adjustment to haul it in.
Richard Murphy showed uncharacteristic bad hands on a cross where Gabbert hit him squarely in the hands and the ball just bounced off. He appeared to be focused on turning up field instead of making the catch.
11 x 11 (Part 1):
The drill started off with another end around, this time using Mike Thomas as the back. He came around the corner and turned it into a solid 15 yard gain.
Cecil Shorts got an opportunity to run the end around, and again, it went for about 15 yards.
Kyle Miller made a nice jumping catch on a deep crossing route over Don Carey. Luke McCown put the pass in high with coverage, and Miller went up and got it as Carey tried to tip it away.
Tyson Alualu stuffed DuJuan Harris for a loss as he attempted to push the ball up the middle. Alualu had already punched through the line and greeted Harris almost immediately after he took the hand-off.
Montell Owens tried to run the ball up the middle on the next play, but got jammed at the line by Alvin Bowen, who had stepped in to fill the gap.
The drill flipped to a red zone exercise, and on the first play, Gabbert hit Greg Jones on the sideline at the pylon for a quick touchdown to start things off.
Gabbert tried to go to Zach Miller on a slant in the end zone, but Don Carey jumped the route and almost picked the pass off.
Luke McCown tried to connect with Greg Ellingson on a sideline pass, but he was forced out of the pocket by Schiechl and was forced to get rid of the ball too early, and the pass was incomplete.
McCown tried to hit Cecil Shorts in the end zone, but the perfectly delivered pass got into the pads of the receiver and fell incomplete. On the next play, McCown went right back to Shorts on a post route and scored a touchdown over David Jones.
DuJuan Harris punched up the middle on the next play for a touchdown.
Luke McCown took a designed roll right with Richard Murphy trailing him on the goal line. McCown threw a strike into coverage for a touchdown.
Gabbert hit John Matthews on a post with Terrence Wheatley in tight coverage. Matthews had to go up to pull the pass in for a touchdown.
They flipped to a field goal drill where Josh Scobee connected on attempts from 30, 37, 41, 44, and 46 yards.
7 x 7:
Gabbert connected with Marcedes Lewis along the sideline for a nice gain. It was the first grab the newly compensated tight end made during team drills, and it was clear from the start that he is the best of the bunch in the tight end group. You do not really notice the speed he has on the field until you see it in comparison to the other guys.
Gabbert hit Lewis again along the sideline in traffic with David Jones in coverage. Lewis snapped the ball away from Jones before he could pick it or tip it away.
Luke McCown attempted to connect with Montell Owens on a little dump off, but Paul Posluszny jumped in and knocked the pass away.
Gabbert tried to hit Marcedes Lewis deep on a post route with Rod Isaac in coverage. The ball was perfectly delivered over the top of coverage, but Lewis was unable to haul it in.
Gabbert came back on the next play and nailed Tiquan Underwood on a deep sideline pass that went for more than 35 yards. Underwood had a full step on Terrence Wheatley on the play.
11 x 11 (Part 2):
Larry Hart blew up the line and forced Gabbert to pull down and run with it.
Paul Posluszny broke through the line and forced Gabbert to unload his pass early. The deep seam intended for John Matthews wound up sailing over the top incomplete.
Zach Miller made a nice jumping grab over the top of Kyle Bosworth on a deep seam pass from Luke McCown.
Odrick Roy forced McCown to throw the ball away after blowing through the line and getting in his face as McCown dropped back.
Roy came back a few plays later and, with Andrew Lewis, chased Gabbert out of the pocket. With no receivers open, Gabbert threw the ball away, but didn't get it past the line of scrimmage. The NFL refs at practice last night threw an intentional grounding flag on the rookie quarterback.
Gabbert came back and hit Tiquan Underwood on a deep cross for a big gain.
The drill shifted to another time drill with the field goal unit where they started the clock with under 20 seconds left and let the offense either set up a field goal, or score a touchdown. On the first play, Gabbert got bottled up and wound up being sacked before he could get rid of the ball by Jeremy Mincey.
Gabbert tried to connect with Underwood on a quick slant, but the ball popped out on him and fell incomplete.
After a couple of quick hits to John Matthews, Deji Karim busted a 20 yard run up the middle, setting up a field goal attempt that Scobee hit from 47 yards.
After Gabbert finished the full field drill, they stayed put in the red zone. Luke McCown nailed Tommy Gallarda on a post route in the end zone for a touchdown.
He duplicated the effort with Tiquan Underwood on the next play over Terrell Whitehead.
They backed it up and McCown hit Brock Bolen on a quick slant to set up a field goal. Scobee attempted one from 46 yards and missed left on the kick at the end of practice.
This is the last of my reports. My expectations for the team are significantly improved over what I felt prior to training camp. Areas of concern like D'Anthony Smith are well on their way to being resolved, and the receiving corps with the list of no-names is probably not going to be a big issue this year. They have talent on the roster capable of making big plays if their quarterback can find them.
The defense WILL be improved this year, particularly against the run. The new additions in free agency will really help to bolster the run defense, while the returning injured players will give the pass rush a significant lift.
Barring injuries, the team is poised to make significant strides to improve their overall lot. The quarterback situation will be the most interesting thing to monitor. Whether they stick with Garrard for the duration, or Gabbert takes over at some point because of performance or injury, the team should be fine. It is clear that the rookie quarterback has all of the tools you want from a franchise level signal caller. He was a real surprise for how much closer to ready he is than I expected coming into camp. Still, he's not quite there yet, and the longer we can allow him to develop, the better.
More next year!