NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--In the last two weeks, Del Rio has gone to the University of Southern California to work out quarterback Carson Palmer and was in attendance for Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich's session in Florida, leading to speculation that the Jaguars could use their first-round pick on a quarterback.
The cross-country trip to see Palmer raised eyebrows because he's expected to be the No. 1 overall pick and the Jaguars have the eighth selection. Leftwich could easily be available at No. 8, but the Jaguars appear to have bigger needs at wide receiver, cornerback and in the offensive line.
However, the Jaguars are still trying to negotiate a contract extension for starting quarterback Mark Brunell, who turns 33 in September. Del Rio didn't rule out the possibility of drafting a quarterback.
"We've done our work on everybody (projected to be in the top 10 of the draft)," said Del Rio. "You never know what may develop. There may be a fire sale at the top [of the draft]. We may want to go up. There may be a tremendous offer to go down. I think it's imperative that we go in as prepared as possible to handle all those situations.
"Seeing a guy like Carson Palmer and going back out to USC, where I happened to play football, wasn't a bad idea in my mind." --Cornerback Fernando Bryant, who skipped the first two weeks of the Jaguars' voluntary off-season training program, returned to Alltel Stadium for workouts, though Del Rio was evasive about why Bryant initially declined to show up.
Bryant is entering the last year of his contract and was reportedly upset over the Jaguars picking up his 2003 option, leaving him unable to become an unrestricted free agent.
"Whatever the problem is that players have, we just want to know what it might be," said Del Rio. "I haven't spoken directly to [Bryant], but from what I've heard, our coaches said he's in good spirits and looking forward to getting on with the off-season."
The Jaguars were allowed to hold a mini-camp over the weekend because this is Del Rio's first season and Bryant did participate.
--After two productive seasons with the New England Patriots, fullback Marc Edwards thought he'd still be playing there, but he's looking forward to playing in the Jaguars' West coast offense, which Edwards experienced when he began his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 6-0, 245-pound Edwards will have a much bigger role in this offense than any fullback had during Tom Coughlin's coaching regime when that position was just a glorified blocker. Last season, Patrick Washington had no carries and just one reception for five yards. While Edwards should put up decent numbers, he knows his primary responsibility is to open holes for Fred Taylor.
"You're talking about one of the top running backs in the league when he's healthy, and I definitely feel responsible now for keeping him healthy," said Edwards. "He's the type of guy who can take it the distance any time he touches the ball. That's a great weapon to have if we can keep Freddy T on his feet." Del Rio wanted to get some competition for place-kicker Danny Boyd and he made his first move toward that when the Jaguars signed former Washington Redskin's place-kicker James Tuthill. The 27-year-old Tuthill converted 10 of 16 field goal attempts in 11 games with the Redskins last season. He had been released by the Houston Texans before signing with the Redskins.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nobody in Jacksonville is against that. People around the league aren't going to like it because quarterbacks will be in trouble. We like that." -- Coach Jack Del Rio, on whether he envisions Hugh Douglas and Tony Brackens being on the field at the same time despite them playing the same position and having just signed Douglas to a $27 million contract.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: WR -- Jimmy Smith, now 34, struggled last year for the first time in his Jaguars' career as it became harder to make the big plays without Keenan McCardell on the other side. Mark Brunell clearly needs another target for Bill Musgrave's West Coast offense and it's hard to imagine the Jaguars not taking a receiver somewhere in the first three rounds. Unless Michigan State's Charles Rogers or Johnson are surprisingly available at No. 8, the Jaguars might be better off waiting until the second round in this receiver-rich draft.
CB -- This has suddenly become a big concern because Fernando Bryant's contract is up after the 2003 season and he has been a no-show so far for the start of the off-season training program. On the other side, Jason Craft wasn't as good as the Jaguars hoped he'd be in his first season as a starter. A shutdown corner is a major void on this defense and the drop-off at this position appears significant once you get past Newman and Trufant.
OL -- The Jaguars lost two starters and a backup to free agency, so they need immediate help in a couple areas. A starting center or guard will be needed to replace John Wade, but there's some flexibility here because guard Brad Meester could be moved to center. The loss of Zach Wiegert won't be damaging as long as Mike Pearson is the answer at left tackle, but the Jaguars still need depth at tackle with Todd Fordham gone.
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