On Monday, the Jaguars will begin their third session of Offseason Training Activities (OTA), with eight more practices until their Mini-camp on the weekend of June 6th. These OTA sessions are critical in building a cohesive and strong football team because there is so little time in training camp to build relationships and put units on the same page.
Remember, the 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars open their season in Tennessee, and then play the Colts and Texans in the first month of the regular season. Without a strong start, the Jaguars could find themselves hopelessly behind in the critical AFC South division race before Christmas Decorations appear in the Avenues Mall.
Jaguars.com's Vic Ketchman, a writer any Jaguars fan is familiar with, is chafing at the interest in the teams OTA"s, which is terribly off-base. While yes, these are just "underwear" practices, there is a feeling of importance that cannot be brushed aside, as Vic is wont to do:
If I may, I’ll ask that we not take OTA’s too seriously. We really need to keep this in perspective. We lost perspective on Jason Taylor. We lost perspective on Lito Sheppard. Please, let’s not suffer the same fate in OTA’s. They’re really not that big of a deal.
Don't blame the fans, Vic, it's not our fault. Just as you implore us to "not blame the media" for reporting what they're told, you certainly cannot blame the fans for paying attention to events of even the smallest importance. We're all invited to the 24 hour news cycle, the never-ending NFL season, and the renewal of hope that each offseason brings. Of course we want to know how Mike Walker's looking during OTA's, just as we want to know if Drayton Florence is getting beat deep, or why Brian Smith is relegated to standing on the sidelines. The NFL fan of 2008 understands far more the effects of contracts, the perils of labor strife in the league, and how champions are made during the "dead zone". We are far more aware now than ever before, and we expect to know how the practices are going. Even if it's too far to tell if a player can translate perfect practice into practical performance, it's not too much to ask to start knowing the story before it's written.
The Jaguars are going to go deep into the playoffs this year. They've constructed a team with the potential for greatness. In February of 2009, we'll be looking back to these mere OTA practices as our first glance at what should be a fantastic season. I see no harm in trying to measure that progress now.
Enough of that meta-NFL nonsense, let's look at what we've learned:
- Wide Receiver Mike Walker did not practice on Tuesday (5.13), but did take the field on Thursday (5.15). Mike "sky" Walker is one of the most interesting players to watch as we move closer to Training Camp. He showed flashes of brilliance, but ultimately spent the year on Injured Reserve as he slowly worked his knee back toward 100%.
- Fred Taylor, as usual, did not attend the first OTA's. Taylor spends his offseason in South Florida doing his special training regimen, the same one that has him averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He plans on spending some of his time in Jacksonville, so his absence is noted but not noteworthy.
- Safety Jamaal Fudge missed the first OTA's, but for a wonderful reason. Fudge is finishing his classes at Clemson University. With all the talks of holdouts, labor unrest, and Spygate, stories like these tend to slip through the cracks. Jamaal is doing the right thing as he's a good player, but thinking about life after the NFL is critical for players like him
- Injury Report: Marcades Lewis missed OTA's from a Knee Injury that I suspect might have something to do with being one of the few uninjured TE's in Jacksonville right now. Mike Walker missed one, as mentioned before. Tight Ends George Wrightster and Greg Estandia both missed time for injured Knee and Shoulder, respectively. Both are nursing injuries from last season that should be addressed in time for training camp
- DE/LB Brian Smith is still sidelined from his college injury. More to come on this later.
David Garrard: On Jerry Porter:
“I think he’s going to be a great receiver here. He’s a receiver who can make spectacular plays,”
Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter: On Installing the Offense:
“We’re installing about 15 pass plays a day. We’re throwing a lot at them,”
Jack Del Rio on Contract Extensions for Rob Meier and Paul Spicer:
"We're happy to have Rob done," said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio. "We have the possibility of getting something done with Paul at some point. We'll see where that goes."
"From our standpoint, we feel like we've made a fair legitimate proposal to these guys and one guy [Meier] is happy and one guy [Spicer] is out there waiting,".
Linebacker Clint Ingram: On Tackling Fundamentals:
"We want to be fundamentally sound. We want to be better tacklers, better at hustling, all that sense of the game,"
What to Watch For:
Not much, sadly. The Rookies have their first OTA on Monday, though these are all closed to the public and therefore will only learn how they do based on secondary sources.
Which is not to say that Big Cat Country won't have a story or three in the process. I have two interviews planned this week with the possiblity, albeit slim, of one that might knock your socks off.