The fog had barely lifted from the Florida Blues practice facility when the team took the field for the first padded practice of training camp. The fog kept the temperatures down, and a breeze provided some respite from the humidity already cranking up at 8:30 in the morning.
There were a few notables who did not participate in practice today, including Eugene Monroe, who had his left knee wrapped and iced, and spent the bulk of the practice on the exercise bikes. Brad Meester was also sitting this session out, giving John Estes a good number of reps with the first team during practice.
There were quite a few guys who wound up injured, and as a result, by the end of the session, the only starting offensive lineman still standing was Eben Britton, who looks good out there coming back from his injuries in 2011.
It’s becoming a point of concern with the receivers with Justin Blackmon still sitting out. He is hurting his own development, and leaving his unit to struggle without him.
With Maurice Jones-Drew out of the picture, we are getting a good look at the running backs who are willing to work under their current contracts, and while they may not have the star power he possesses, they can certainly get the job done in a pinch.
Let’s get to the drills.
11 x 11 (Round 1):
The team shuffled up the routine a bit today, getting into more of a traditional mode Jaguar fans are familiar with where they mixed team drills in with unit drills. Because the guys were in full pads, there were quite a few more opportunities to enjoy the team aspect in 11 x 11 and 9 x 7 drills.
After starting the drill with a scramble by Gabbert and a run by Jalen Parmele, Jordan Palmer connected with Taylor Price going over the middle of the field with Rod Isaac in tight coverage. Price was able to wrestle the pass away from coverage for a nice gain.
Aaron Morgan stepped up on a sweep left by DuJuan Harris, greeting the back as he attempted to turn the corner after running outside of the left tackle. The run didn’t extend beyond the line of scrimmage as a result.
Richard Murphy showed unexpected burst to the outside on a dump pass from Blaine Gabbert to the right side. He got to the sideline and turned it into a 20 yard gain. Gabbert hooked up with Murphy on the next play with a toss sweep to the left side of the offense. They were not quite as successful as Murphy struggled to get back to the line before being knocked out of bounds by Courtney Greene.
Jordan Palmer rolled out to the left side to avoid the pass rush when he saw Colin Cloherty open on a cross trailing him. He threw the pass a touch high, and it bounced off Cloherty’s hands, and into the waiting arms of Jeremiah Brown, who happily took the interception.
Taylor Price seemed to be fighting the ball in individual drills. Coach Sullivan worked with him more than once to help with his technique.
Kevin Elliott also struggled to hang on to passes, with multiple drops in individual drills where he could not get his body into the correct position to make plays on more than one occasion, again causing Sullivan to do a little one-on-one coaching with the receiver.
They worked with the Tight Ends on going up for the ball in the back of the end zone. The quarterbacks were having a difficult time putting it up initially, but once they started to get into a rhythm, they started connecting before the drill ended. With the size of some of the guys we have, we need to put more of an emphasis on creating mismatches where they can go up and make plays.
11 x 11 (Round 2):
This started out as nothing more than a running drill where the backs got an opportunity to carry the ball between the tackles. It was unremarkable for the most part until Montell Owens added a little stutter step that froze the defender, allowing him to bolt out of the backfield and turn what should have been a stuffed run into a 9 yard gain.
He came back a couple of plays later and got stuffed at the line, but bounced it outside and put up another nice gain of nearly 10 yards.
Corvey Irvin got his highlight for the day on a Richard Murphy run. Murphy hit the hole pretty quickly only to see it close as Irvin filled the gap and stuffed Murphy at the line for no gain.
They flipped to a red zone drill at that point for a few plays. Murphy showed nice explosiveness through the line, finding the hole and getting into the secondary before anyone laid a hand on him.
DuJuan Harris bounced an inside run to the outside and turned a blown play into a 15 yard gain before being forced out of bounds.
2 x 1:
The quarterbacks struggled initially to connect with their receivers.
Nathan Enderle started the drill with a well delivered pass that bounced off Mike Brown’s hands. He came back and threw behind Charles Gilbert incomplete. He finally connected on a deep sideline pass to Kevin Elliott over the top of William Middleton.
Enderle came back and hit Chastin West on a quick out under Derek Cox. The pass was thrown behind the receiver so he had to come back for it, getting separation from coverage in the process.
Enderle attempted to connect with Kevin Elliott on a deep corner route, but overthrew his intended target, missing badly.
Charles Gilbert made a great falling grab with Dwight Lowery in coverage on a curl. He had to make a difficult adjustment to get the ball with tight coverage.
7 x 7:
This was strictly a running drill, pounding the ball up the middle. The running backs all looked solid in their effort.
While this drill was happening, they were doing blocking drills with the Defensive Backs and the Wide Receivers. For the most part, the receivers were hardly a match in these drills, but Taylor Price showed some nice blocking skills during the drill, including a pancake block on one defender in the process.
11 x 11 (Round 3 – Red Zone):
Gabbert went to Laurent Robinson on a short crossing route. However, he was apparently targeting the ground about 3 feet in front of the receiver, and the ball hit THAT target instead of the receiver everyone expected to see hauling it in.
Gabbert hit Marcedes Lewis on a short cross. Lewis is still working on his hands, and it was one of his typical double catches. He hauled the ball in for a short gain, but had the defender been closer, that little hitch in his catch would have caused either an incomplete pass or an interception.
Gabbert tried to go back to Robinson on a corner, but the receiver wasn’t open, and he was forced to just throw it away.
He came back and hit Cecil Shorts just inside the pylon along the sideline. Shorts made a diving catch to haul it in.
Branch came back on the next play, doing a nice spin move against Lee Barbiasz that left the big tackle frozen, and put Gabbert on the run, forcing him from the pocket. Gabbert was able to throw the ball away to avoid a sack, but Branch showed some nice moves and speed on the play. Disruptive!
Later in the drill, Branch showed some versatility, rolling inside on Barbiasz and stuffing a run by Jalen Parmele at the line of scrimmage.
If contact was allowed, Aaron Morgan would have registered a sack against Chad Henne. The quarterback was able to continue the play and connect with Brian Robiskie on a little dump off pass.
Henne tried to go back to Robiskie a few plays later, but the receiver fell down on his cut, and couldn’t recover quickly enough to make the play.
Jordan Palmer showed some nice throwing on the run ability as he rolled right and found Brock Bolen trailing him over the middle.
Brandon Marshall ended the drill tipping away a pass from Nathan Enderle intended for Matt Veldman on a post route.
9 x 7:
Gabbert struggled to connect with Colin Cloherty on a short pass over the middle, once again going low on the pass. It wound up getting him some coaching as he struggled with this last year. After a quick chat, he was back under center and nailed Mike Thomas on a mid ranged out pattern along the sideline in front of Mike Harris.
Henne peppered the field with a handful of short passes to Brock Bolen, Zach Potter, and Mike Brown for short gains.
Gabbert stepped back in and hit Mike Thomas on the left hash in double coverage tightly applied by Derek Cox and Russell Allen. Thomas was able to find enough of a gap, and Gabbert was on target on the play.
I guess Gabbert thought he was on a roll, so he went back to Thomas on a deep out. The ball was short of the intended target, and clearly showed that they are still not in synch with their timing. Gabbert delivered the pass to a spot before Thomas made his cut, and it looked like Mike may have gone a step too far in the process. Still, that has to get better.
Jordan Palmer connected with Taylor Price on a deep post route with Antwon Blake trailing the receiver.
Gabbert went deep to the sideline targeting Laurent Robinson. The pass was well thrown, and on target. Aaron Ross played it perfectly, batting the pass away just as the receiver was hauling it in.
Cecil Shorts showed nice adjustment after the ball was in the air on a pass from Chad Henne. The pass was thrown a little short, and he was able to shed coverage by Dawan Landry well enough to make the catch, keep his footing, and then turn up field and turn a decent play into a big gain.
They ran about 7 plays from scrimmage with live punting and a full rush. Our rookie punter, the beloved Bryan Anger, has what can only be described as a huge leg. The reports about the sound he generates with his kicks are accurate. The thud is pretty unique.
On 7 punts, Anger averaged over 53 yards per punt (That is from the line of scrimmage. Add an additional 10 yards from where he was punting.), and almost 5 seconds per punt. If he is able to do that when the lights are on, he could very well be a game changer for this team. He was consistently flipping the field from our 30 to their 15-20 yard line. We just need to make sure he does not out kick his coverage team.
11 x 11 (Round 4):
Gabbert hit Laurent Robinson coming deep over the middle for a 25 yard gain with Derek Cox and Mike Harris tightly contesting the play.
Montell Owens showed nice recovery bouncing off the left tackle and turning outside for a 10 yard gain.
Andre Branch continued to be disruptive in the pass attack, forcing Gabbert out of the backfield and assuring he could not set up to pass effectively.
During the red zone portion of the drill, D’ Anthony Smith once again flashed, blowing up the middle of the offensive line and stuffing DuJuan Harris as he hit what appeared to be a hole.
Jeremy Mincey and George Selvie collapsed the line and pinched Gabbert into a sack. He tried to step up into the hole, but the middle of the line had enough penetration to prevent him from doing so, leaving him no option but to tuck the ball and take the sack. Last year, he may have tried to throw the ball out of there.
It was not a sharp practice, specifically for the offense. The defense is clearly ahead of their counterparts in the development process, obviously because they are still working in Mel Tucker’s system. But, the offense is struggling to get any sense of timing or chemistry between the quarterback and receivers.
There are times when things look okay, and others where they are downright ugly. This is certainly not unusual early in the process, so I don’t see need to panic, but things are really appearing to be out of synch with Blackmon and Jones-Drew both missing practices. The offense is not, and won’t be complete until both show up.
The receivers do get open, but not as much as they should, and the quarterbacks are struggling to hit their targets, but only when they are getting open. It’s a vicious cycle. Hopefully, as camp progresses, the timing will get better. Right now it’s simply non-existent with so many receivers and so few reps for the quarterbacks thus far. Carrying 4 guys may seem like a logical thing, but it does impact the ability of the guys who will be on the roster on opening day to get the necessary reps to develop the chemistry needed to be successful.
It was great to see the Khan boys on the field, particularly the new owner who happily signed autographs and took in the sights at training camp for the first time.