Behind Enemy Lines: Jaguars Camp Highlights

How's Byron Leftwich look so far in training camp? ... How are the new wide receivers faring? ... With the loss of both starting safeties, who is stepping up to fill the gaps? ... Find out what's been going on this week in the Jaguars camp from our network's Jacksonville team expert, Charlie Bernstein.

In each of the 32 cities in which training camp opened up this past week, cynicism has been replaced, or at least put off to the side in favor of optimism. During the last week of July/ first week of August, everyone is undefeated, and each team and their fans think this is their year. Jacksonville is no different than any of those other cities as camp opened this week, and Jaguars fans have had a lot of highlights, and only one significant setback.

Some of the highlights of the first week in camp for the Jaguars have been the return of starting quarterback Byron Leftwich and the upgraded passing game under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Leftwich is easily having the finest training camp of his young career, as he has been extremely accurate. New quarterbacks coach Mike Shula has been working with Leftwich on his footwork, and we've seen some dramatic improvements, although Leftwich still has somewhat of an elongated release.

The wide receiving corps for the Jaguars has more talent than in recent years, led by the off-season additions of Dennis Northcutt, Mike Walker, and John Broussard. All three players represent deep threats, and all three have shown good hands throughout the first week of camp. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is starting to look like the player the Jaguars had envisioned when they made him a first round pick in 2006, and a new pass-catching threat has emerged in the form of Greg Estandia, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound target.

Rookie safety Reggie Nelson
(Getty Images)
Defensively, there are a lot of questions about the Jaguars safeties since they let Deon Grant leave in free agency and released veteran Donovin Darius. Reggie Nelson and Gerald Sensabaugh haven't disappointed as of yet as the pair have great sideline-to-sideline coverage skills, and both possess hitting abilities that will intimidate opposing receivers.

The Jaguars linebacker corps features the return of Mike Peterson, who is having an excellent camp and who shows no signs of age or injury. Clint Ingram, Daryl Smith, and Justin Durant are all very fast, hard-hitting linebackers that have been making plays all over the football field.

Perhaps the best sign for Jaguars fans early on has been the play of the defensive line. Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud appears healthy, John Henderson is the monster that he's always been, and the Jaguars return defensive end Reggie Hayward. Brent Hawkins seems unblockable early on, and James Wyche has opened some eyes at the opposite end.

Special teams seems dramatically improved, as the Jaguars fourth-round pick, punter Adam Podlesh has not disappointed, as he is consistently hitting booming punts toward the sidelines. New special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has been a major change of pace in the coverage department with his "enthusiastic" (maniacal) approach to special teams.

The only real setback of camp thus far for the Jaguars has been the ankle injury to center Brad Meester that required surgery this week. Meester is expected to miss anywhere from 8-10 weeks, which would likely bring him back for the Jaguars fourth regular season game at Kansas City. Meester's replacement is Dennis Norman, who has filled in before, both at center and left tackle.

Charlie Bernstein, our Jaguars team expert at Scout.com, is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.


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