The Jaguars took to the Florida Blue Health & Wellness practice fields for their first live practice of Training Camp 2012, in a scalding heat that left even those standing in the shade, sweating through their clothes and the players likely happy they were only in helmets, jersey, and shorts.
Though the team opened practices without it's star running back, the more visible loss throughout Day 1, was that of first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon, who remained unsigned as the team began their camp routine.
After two open mini-camp practices that saw the passing attack look night and day improved from those of the past few seasons, Friday's afternoon practice looked a lot more like the 2011 version of the offense than what fans saw in June. Though there were some glaring tough spots for the team, it was countered by some nice plays and a couple of surprise players looking to rise to the occasion.
First and foremost, the team practiced in the afternoon without some key players as TE Zach Miller, OL Uche Nwaneri, DT Terrance Knighton, and Clint Session have begun camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Miller could be seen walking the practice fields with a rather large wrap around his right thigh. Also among the inactives were DE John Chick and OT Cam Bradfield, who also were placed on the PUP list.
Subbing in for the above mentioned players, from best I could tell at my vantage point, were Colin Cloherty for Miller; CJ Mosely for Knighton; Russell Allen for Session; Dan Baldridge for Bradfield, Jason Spitz for Nwaneri; and Ryan Davis for Chick.
The team opened up practice with it's usual routine of stretches, followed by the players breaking off into position specific drills for a good 10-15 minutes. The offense donned teal jerseys, with the defense in white for today's practice. After about 30 minutes of stretching and half-speed individual drills, the meat and potatoes began with the first 7 v 7 drill.
7 on 7 Drill #1 Highlights:
- Gabbert attempts deep pass to Laurent Robinson, slightly underthrown, knocked away by Cox.
- Second Gabbert deep attempt to who I believe is Robinson, again slightly off though Robinson could've made a play on the ball but appeared to lose sight of it at the end.
- Henne follows with two dump passes of about 5 yards a piece to Cecil Shorts and Lee Evans.
- Gabbert with pass to Chastin West that bounces off West's chest and incomplete.
- Gabbert follows West drop with the highlight catch of the day by QB turned WR Mike Brown, who went around and over CB Kevin Rutland on a pretty back shoulder pass to make the catch, for what would've been about a 25 yard gain.
- Blaine finishes his portion of the drill with two soild completions down field, one to Mike Thomas the other to a streaking Kevin Elliot who blew by Rutland for what would have been a walk in touchdown on the near sideline. Gabbert's best deep pass of the practice.
- Henne finishes drill with throw to Evans on a slant for decent gain, and an out throw dropped by Brian Robiskie.
The team moved into it's only full team drill of the practice, following the first 7 v 7. The offense rotated the personnel out about every two plays.
11 on 11 Drill Highlights:
- Gabbert pass intended for Evans on about a 10 yard stop, broken up by CB Aaron Ross.
- Blaine follows up with a strike to Robinson on an out route, that Robinson catches then proceeds to "fumble" into the hands of LB Paul Posluzny who runs down field with it.
- Henne begins his drill with a short pass to Shorts for about 5 yards.
- Next Henne pass intended for Shorts on the far sideline, skirts the ground at Shorts' feet. Combination of bad throw and apparent route mistake by Shorts, as he got an earful from Jerry Sullivan.
- Nate Enderle with a connection to Robiskie for about 15 yards. Followed by a shorter pass to Brown for a decent gain.
- Second Gabbert drive, hits FB Brock Bolen on a short swing pass after not finding receiver down field.
- Gabbert's next throw to Robinson over the middle is tipped by Robinson over his head, and subsequently intercepted by FS Dwight Lowery. Who proceeds to lateral the ball to his defensive team mates as they run it back.
- Henne finds Shorts for another short gain, (Yes, Henne doesn't like to go deep). Follows with a wobbly pass down the seam to Colin Cloherty who drops it.
- Jordan Palmer sets up what would be a great kill in beach volleyball, with a floating pass to Elliot for a short gain, that took a sun dial to time.
- Gabbert finishes drill with another deep attempt to Robinson, who had over/under coverage on him by what appeared to be Rutland and Lowery. Pass falls incomplete after Robinson fails to bring it in. Ball was placed in a pretty good spot though.
The team then broke for about a five minute water break, before returning for their second set of 7 on 7s.
7 on 7 Drill #2 Highlights:
- Gabbert's first pass caught over the middle by Cloherty, then knocked out of his hands by Ross.
- Next pass dumped on a screen to Jennings, followed by an overthrown pass to Thomas down the near sideline. Mathis in coverage.
- Henne completes back to back 10 yard throws to Evans, follows with slant to Shorts for about 10 yards.
- Palmer throws to the vicinity of the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
- Enderle completes pass to Elliot, followed by bad drop by Brown.
- Gabbert's next go around opens with consecutive drops by Cloherty.
- Strike by Gabbert over the middle to Thomas in coverage for a 10-15 yard gain, next pass dumped to Jennings.
- Henne's second turn begins with a screen to FB Montell Owens, followed by nice out pass to Evans and a dump pass to RB Richard Murphy.
- Gabbert takes the helm again, with another dump off to Murphy. SS Dawan Landry slow to get up, walks off the field after being tended to by the medical staff. Appears to have been a cramp or some minor leg injury.
- Gabbert finishes drill with another completion to Thomas over the middle, in traffic.
The players then proceeded to a special teams oriented kick return drill, before wrapping up the practice.
Overall, it was likely what to be expected of the opening full speed practice of training camp, after a month off from football for the players. It was both sloppy and impressive at times, though for the most part the receivers and secondary each had several rough moments.
Both Gabbert and Henne were plagued by drops and mistimed throws. Though the uptempo practice that we saw in mini-camp was still prevalent in the opening practice. It's also worth noting that at one point in the practice, Coach Mularkey stopped the team for a moment and appeared to give them a bit of a talking to, to get both sides to step their play up. Another reason to believe this camp will be far different than the somewhat dragging practices of the Del Rio era.
It was hard to gauge the two lines as there were once again no pads on, and very little contact. We'll find out much more about the two groups next week when the real hitting begins.
As for the absences of Jones-Drew and Blackmon, as I stated in the beginning, the more noticeable piece missing was Blackmon, especially if you came out to see mini-camp. It's clear, even after just one day, that Gabbert needs that second guy on the other side of Robinson to really make this new offense click. Though one guy to keep an eye on in Blackmon's absence is rookie UDFA Kevin Elliot. The FAMU product caught everything I saw thrown, including the nice deep pass from Gabbert noted above. He's got the tools to perhaps be a hidden camp gem, though the pre-season games will ultimately determine his fate.
The running backs held their own despite MJD's absence, with the rotating group of Jennings, Murphy, and DaJuan Harris each flashing some decent moments.
Hopefully Day 2 will look much smoother, but for the first day of practice, the team certainly flashed the promise shown in the off-season.
QB Watch (Unofficial Count):
Palmer- Should be released.
The Good: For the most part, Gabbert looked OK in his first actual camp practice of the new offense. The new mechanics and footwork were again evident as they were in June's mini-camp, as was his impressive control of the new scheme. He was plagued by several drops that would've upped his numbers a bit, and he still needs work on his deep throws, but all in all it was a solid Day 1 for the second-year QB.
The Bad: The receivers and corners were both showing their rust today. Way too many bad drops by the receivers and tight ends alike, and more blown coverages than we saw in mini-camp. If it wasn't perfectly clear last season that Mike Thomas can not play outside on deep routes, it became very apparent today.
The Ugly: Alfie's eye, you really should've seen it.