The Jaguars had their formal opening of training camp tonight in front of 2,800 fans eager to see one person, and they left the practice facilities at Everbank Field very happy campers.
With a fefstival atmosphere leading up to practice, introductions by Brian Sexton, and a motivation speech by new mayor, Alvin Brown, the Jaguars took the field tonight in helmets and shells for the second session of the 2011 training camp, and they did so with all of their draft picks signed, sealed, and delivered.
Aaron Kampman, Maurice Jones-Drew, and VInce Manuwai were the notable exclusions due to injury in practice this evening. All three spent a good portion of practice working with the training staff.
The biggest moment of the evening was after practice had already gotten underway. All of the draft picks including Will Rackley were on the field, participating in drills. Rackley was actually running with the first team for a majority of practice with Manuwai sidelined.
As practice was moving on, a final player was being escorted from the stadium to the practice field, cleats in hand. Number 11, Blaine Gabbert entered the practice facility to a welcoming ovation from the nearly three thousand fans in attendance. He spent the majority of practice playing spectator, but was able to get in a few snaps during drills later in practice.
Now, let's get to the drills.
All four quarterbacks looked sharp this evening in individual drills. Even Scott Riddle seemed to be more in tune with his receivers as they worked through the standard route tree with a healthy dose of slants, posts, and corner routes.
Blaine Gabbert was able to get on the field and at least throw one pass during individual drills, and he hit Tiquan Underwood on a nice sideline pass to complete his first unofficial pass as a quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
11x11 (Part 1):
This practice session was pretty much the Brock Bolen show as he was all over the place making catches and turning them into plays. He was hauling in anything thrown in his direction whether it was on target or not. If it was a catchable ball, he pulled it in. It is clear he has decided he is going to give Greg Jones a run for his money.
Austen Lane was showing some nice footwork and technique in getting into the backfield and being disruptive. He looks the part. If he can continue this when the pads go on, and then again when the lights go on, the concerns at defensive end may not be as dire as we have been thinking it might be. He was in the backfield quite a bit, and with contact, he would have logged at least a couple of sacks, and an equal number of hurries.
In the running game, RashadJennings is clearly the top of the depth chart behind Maurice Jones-Drew. He is consistent with his catches, and a pounderin the running game. He ran with more authority tonight in practice, hitting the hole quickly and muscling his way into the secondary. He still has a tendency to get a little high with his running style, but that may just be rust that needs to be shaken off. When they start hitting, it will certainly cure him.
Deji Karim and DuJuanHarris could almost be the same guy. Deji is a little more slightly buitl, and faster, but it is difficult to distinguish between the two when they are on the field because they have similar running styles. Karim has the advantage in speed and cutting ability, and the odds of Harris making this roster are long, but it is interesting to see how alike these players are.
Mike Thomas showed once again that he has no fear of going over the middle and putting his body out there to make a catch. He went over the middle on a pass from David Garrard that was a bit leading and a little low. Thomas was able to get to the ball and haul it in as he hit the ground.
John Matthews made a nifty grab in double coverage finding the seam and setting it up perfectly. Luke McCown delivered a rope that Matthews was able to haul in as he was about to be put down.
Zach Miller seemed to be struggling to haul in passes during this drill. On two occasions, he had balls hit him cleanly that he was unable to haul in. WIth Marcedes not in camp, this is a great opportunity for Miller to establish his role in the offense as a weapon, and dropping routine passes is not going to help his cause. Hopefully, this is just a matter of scraping off the rust.
Dontrelle Inman had one of those moments that an undrafted rookie probably would prefer to avoid if his goal is to make a roster. On a perfectly delivered pass from Scott Riddle, Inman allowed the ball to get into his body. It bounced off his numbers, went straight up, and was intercepted by another undrafted rookie free agent who had one of those moments that most would prefer to see more often. Linebacker, Eric Gordon, went up and pulled the pass in and took the ball back the other way.
Rashean Mathis had a good practice session. He was a source of frustration for Zach Miller on a couple of the passes he dropped. On one in particular, Mathis was on Miller like a cheap suit in coverage and was able to rattle the tight end enough to force an incomplete pass. If real contact was allowed, I think Mathis would have been more aggressive in going after the ball to get the pick.
Cecil Shorts got in on the action hauling in a nicely thrown pass by Luke McCown on a deep crossing route in coverage.
11x11 (Part 2):
Zach Miller once again showed he was struggling to catch the ball. On a well placed pass from David Garrard along the sideline, Miller was unable to hold on and almost allowed the pass to be intercepted by Rod Isaac.
Rashad Jennings had a nice run up the middle that almost ended badly for David Jones. As he stepped in to stop Jennings, he wound up on the wrong side of the battle when Jennings continued to run through him. He would up flipping Jones, and for a brief moment it appeared that he had actually injured the cornerback. It appeared he had the wind knocked out of him when he landed squarely on his back after the hit, and he was eventually able to get up and trot off the field.
Luke McCown had a great play where he rolled out to the right away from the pass rush. He bought enough time for Tiquan Underwood to break off down the sideline, then dropped a deep pass right into the receivers hands over coverage for a big gain. He showed no signs of issues with the knee, but seeing him rolling out and thinking about running was one of those cringe moments.
We were waiting to see which quarterback would blink first and make a mistake. David Garrard won that contest. On a crossing pattern, Garrard threw an errant pass behind Zach Miller. Rashean Mathis jumped the route and picked the pass off taking it back for a big return.
At the end of this drill, Blaine Gabbert was finally given the nod to get in there and run the offense. The first play was under center. He was able to handle it without issue, handing the ball off to DuJuan Harris who turned it into a short gain.
The coaching staff must have thought they would have some fun with the fans because after that play they put in Scott Riddle. He was in for a play, threw an incomplete pass, and then was replaced by Gabbert again.
Lining up in the shotgun, Gabbert dropped back, rolled to the right, spotted Brock Bolen downfield along the sideline in double coverage. With Matt Estrada and Chris Prosinski in perfect over/under coverage, Gabbert dropped a pass just perfectly into a tight window and Bolen hauled in the play of the night, much to the satisfaction of all in attendance.
This practice session was still very laid back in comparison to past training camps. Getting any sense for how good the lines are will have to wait until we see the pads go on this weekend. Until then , it is more of a low impact dance for these guys as they work on technique and timing.
One thing that is for sure. When the crowd cheered the arrival of their future quarterback, the current starter probably suffered a little bit of a blow to his ego. Still, when Gabbert finally made it out on the field, the first person there to shake his hand and greet him was....Luke McCown. Garrard came over after Riddle to greet the rookie.