The 6-2, 202-pound Jackson, selected 36th overall and yet to even sign his rookie contract, is well aware of the urgency. "Right now as a rookie they are looking for me to come in and make big plays and step up, be a team leader and be one of those go-to guys," Jackson said summing up the expectations that face him this fall.
Meanwhile, TE Benjamin Watson was Tom Brady's favorite target throughout the team's three-day June mini-camp. After missing most of his rookie season with a knee injury in 2004 the former first-round pick caught 29 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Brady has already said he expects a breakout season from his ultra-athletic tight end, and if the recent camp action is any indication the duo is already building a very strong relationship heading into the new season.
"It's one of those things where you have to spend time with him," Watson said of his ever improving relationship with his two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. "He has to have confidence in you that you are going to be where he wants you to be. Tom knows where everybody is supposed to be at all times. If he expects you to be somewhere you better be there if you want the ball. So I'm just getting used to doing those things."
After the 2008 season, escalating salaries and cap numbers in Steve McNair's contract will probably force the Ravens to either restructure his deal or release him. According to figures obtained from the NFL Players Association, McNair will earn $1 million in base salary this year. After he receives a $1 million option bonus next spring, his salaries jump to $3 million in 2007 and $4 million in 2008. The total payout for those first three years is $20 million. As a result, his cap numbers over that time are manageable ($3.2 million in 2006, $5.45 million in 2007 and $6.45 million 2008).
His contract likely needs to be addressed after the 2008 season, when his salary rises to $6 million for the final two years of his deal. The Ravens probably won't be able to handle his $8.45 million cap figure in 2009 and 2010, which means they will have to rework his deal or release him.
Jaguars WR Ernest Wilford, who was promoted to a starting wide receiver job after Reggie Williams suffered a concussion last year, is back working with the second team behind Williams in the offseason. But Wilford, who wound up leading the team with seven touchdown catches, plans to compete for the starting job in training camp.
"I'll use that (playing on the second team) as motivation. I've got supreme confidence that the right players will be playing in the first game of the season," he said.
Unless Williams gets hurt again, Wilford will likely have to settle for fighting for the third wide receiver job with Cortez Hankton and Chad Owens. The Jaguars have too much invested in Williams, the ninth pick in the 2004 draft, not to give him a chance to make a comeback this year.
San Francisco QB Alex Smith did not name names, but he made it clear he likes the additions to the club's offensive lineup - as well as at least one of the deletions.
"Take the receiving corps, for example," Smith told the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat. "The top four or five guys, yeah, they're more talented than the guys last year. But they're also so much more mature and so much more competitive. "They want to be great. It's not like it was last year, for whatever reason. You don't want to call anyone out, but it was different last year. It wasn't like that."
Smith had a dismal rookie season, as the 49ers finished with a 4-12 record. But Smith finished on a strong note, winning his last two starts.