Camping with FBT: 07/28/07 - AM Session

The opening of training camp for 2007 saw some slight changes with the format, and a more laid back approach to how they handle practice. While these adjustments are subtle, it is slightly different from past training camps.

The team opened training camp in shorts and shirts, with the defense sporting teal tops and the offense in their white jerseys. The majority of the players, including injured players returning from last season, participated in some form during the morning session. The crowd on hand to watch the opening of training camp was ready for some football with an estimated 2,500 – 3,000 in attendance filling the majority of the bleachers at the practice facility.

Now, let's look at the injured players because that is going to be a particular focus this year. Reggie Hayward was on the field and did participate in the individual drills with the defensive line unit. He does appear to be moving well and shows no signs of problems with his Achilles. He has decent push and mobility. The real test will come when he has to start working on rushing the passer. He did not participate in the majority of the team drills, but that was to be expected based on Coach Del Rio's comments indicating that they were going to ease him back into action while his conditioning improved.

Marcus Stroud looked to be well on his way to full recovery returning from ankle surgery. Like Hayward , he did not appear to be suffering any lingering effects from his injury, and is being eased back into the rotation.

Mike Peterson was participating in drills throughout practice, so the assumption is that he is back 100% from the torn pectoral.

Unlike spring practice, Greg Jones was walking and participating in practice without any noticeable limp. He looked to be in great shape, and ready for camp. The test for him will come after each practice session as they monitor that knee to see how it responds to the increased activity.

George Wrighster did not participate in drills as he continues to rehabilitate the shoulder injury that he had surgery to repair this off season. He did work with the training staff throughout the practice session on his conditioning, doing extra stretching and running.

Quinn Gray walked out on the field wearing a boot on his mysteriously sprained ankle. He did remove it at some point during the practice, but did not participate beyond following the quarterbacks around the field.

Byron Leftwich, returning from his ankle surgery, showed no signs of problems with mobility or footwork during practice, appearing to be fully recovered. There was a real emphasis during this practice on his footwork as new quarterbacks coach, Mike Shula, was working with the unit on improving their drops and roll outs.

As is normally the case with the first practice of training camp, the action was very limited, with few highlights to document. The first player to walk on to the field for the start of training camp was a backup punter, Tony Yelk. I guess he was eager to get ready to stand around.

Now, let's get to the practice session.

The team went through some individual drills right out of the gate, working with their position coaches and getting warmed up. When the team was called together to stretch after about fifteen minutes, they apparently did not come to the gathering with enough enthusiasm, prompting Coach Del Rio to send them away and blow the horn again. It turned out to be the comic relief of the day as the team certainly responded with a bit more gusto on their second attempt.

During individual drills, the quarterbacks were working with Mike Shula on rolling out and getting rid of the ball. Leftwich was getting lots of attention to see how he handled moving around the pocket, then sliding to the outside. While he is never going to fool anyone into thinking he has Michael Vick mobility, he looked fine with the footwork. He appears to be more sure-footed this year which is hopefully a byproduct of the ankle being healthy for the first time.

One note on the quarterbacks is that Lester Ricard throws a nice pass. During individual drills, they were working on making plays like deep outs and seam routes and Ricard was making the passes without any problems. He has decent accuracy and nice touch on his passes. He should be interesting to watch during camp, especially with Quinn Gray sidelined.

During the position drills, the receivers were up and down. Reggie Williams has clearly been working hard on his route running as he is getting in and out of his cuts more quickly than in years past. Still, he does not have the breakaway speed that most would like to see, but during the team drills, I think we got a glimpse of what to expect from Williams if all things come together as expected this year. More on that later.

During the position drills, Reggie made a few very nice catches, but also had a couple of drops, one of which was a very catchable ball from Garrard. One thing about Williams that he clearly has worked on this year is that he is going out and getting the ball rather than waiting for it to come to him. This may be the cause of some of his drops as he is reaching out to make the play and possibly loses concentration at times. We will see if this becomes a trend, although it should not be a cause for concern at this point. It could just be a case of rust that he needs to shake off. One of the nicer catches that Williams made during practice was a sideline grab on the outside on a pass from Byron that was slightly overthrown. Williams was covered nicely, but used his body to go up and snap the ball out of the air, showing something that we have not seen from Williams in the past with his vertical leap.

Charles Sharon made a very nice catch on a deep sideline pass from Garrard that would have been beyond the reach of most receivers. He managed to catch the back of the ball in stride without losing concentration, making one of the better plays of the practice session in the process.

Matt   Jones was inconsistent during practice this morning. There were a couple of times during practice where he dropped very catchable passes from Leftwich and Garrard, but then he would come back and make a nice move and get beyond coverage to make a decent reception. The good news is that he does not appear to be suffering from any type of injury issues at this point.

11x11 (Part I):
The majority of the team drills during the morning session focused on the short passing game, particularly over the middle, or to the sideline. The Jaguars did not attempt to stretch the field in the practice session, opting to target the short to intermediate passing game instead. One thing is absolutely certain about the new offense right out of the box; the Tight End is going to get a lot of action with Dirk Koetter calling the plays. At least a third of all the passes thrown today during practice were directed at one of the Tight Ends on the field.

The drill was kicked off with a nice seam route of the slot by Dennis Northcutt, who ran a very sharp route to shed coverage, then made a catch in traffic on a Leftwich bullet. It would have gone for a significant gain, and clearly shows how the Jaguars want to use Northcutt in this offense.

The quarterbacks were employing a lot of rollouts, particularly to the right side. Byron looked good moving to his right and delivering a pass to Jermaine Wiggins in the seam. It appears that the Koetter offense is going to push quarterbacks to move the pocket at times, and Leftwich is being prodded by his coordinator and position coach on ways to improve in this area.

Wiggins made a handful of nice plays during this session, but also had a couple of drops that were suspect. In both cases, the ball was in his hands. On one of them, it appeared that he lost concentration when he went to turn up field. On the second one, he just dropped it all together. That drop put the Tight Ends coach, Mike Tice, in his ear hole when he returned to the group. He did not drop another ball thrown in his direction the rest of practice.

Montell Owens showed outstanding speed and hands on a couple of receptions out of the backfield, including one touch pass from David Garrard that was overthrown a bit, but Owens was able to haul in and turn into a decent gain.

There was one play where Garrard tried to force a pass into triple coverage for intended receiver, Matt Jones. Luckily, the ball fell incomplete when Jones inexplicably tripped over his own feet just as the ball was getting there.

Alvin Pearman must be feeling the target on his back because he made a couple of nifty plays out of the backfield, showing some real speed and wiggle as he took two dump offs and turned them into nice gains.

Gerald Sensabaugh almost got the first pick of the day on a pass from Byron Leftwich intended for Maurice Drew. The sideline pass was a little behind the intended target. Sensabaugh broke in to pick it off, but a heads up play by Drew forced the pass to fall incomplete.

John Broussard continued to show nice deep speed on a reception from David Garrard on a deep out. Broussard got separation from Scott Starks, who actually stumbled when he bit on a move that Broussard put on him, and hauled in the pass while being mindful of the fact that he was on the sideline. He managed to get both feet down before going out of bounds, making a heads up reception. Hopefully, what has been seen so far with shorts and shirts transitions to padded practices because this kid has the potential to be a real play maker for the offense.

Greg Estandia made several nice catches. He has great hands dropping only one pass thrown in his direction today, and he is a huge target for the quarterback. What is most entertaining about him is that, much like Kyle Brady, he is going to punish guys that try to bring him down. While this was a non-contact drill, Estandia almost steam rolled Josh Gattis on one reception as the safety tried to go at his midsection.

Mike Walker has also continued to shine. This rookie really does run great routes, and his hands are tremendous. His ability to stop on a dime on little curl routes was quite impressive to watch. He also had a couple of receptions where he made perfect adjustments when the ball was in the air in order to make the play work. Like Broussard, the hope is that this game translates to pads and contact later this week.

11x11 (Part II):
Reggie Williams went diving for a deep out from Byron Leftwich, making a wonderful grab on the sideline and showing terrific concentration in coverage.

John Broussard showed that he is not afraid to go over the middle to make a play, snatching a would-be interception away from Pat Thomas on a deep crossing route.

Mike Walker showed his consistency again, making a jumping catch on a deep sideline pass from David Garrard, going over the top of Dee Webb to make the play.

Final Thoughts:
All in all, the practice was what you would expect from a first session of training camp. There was clearly some rust for some of the guys, and not a lot of action from the defense. The word came down that the morning practices are going to be more laid back this year, leaving more of the real action for the evening sessions. That being said, there was still plenty to look at to evaluate where the team is at and where they are headed.

Clearly, the hottest competition in training camp is going to be the battle for the wide receiving roster spots. It appears that each individual locked in this battle understands that they are fighting for a limited number of spaces, and that someone is going to get cut. They are all making every effort to make sure that when the Turk starts the cutting, he does not have their name on his list. This competition will make training camp very entertaining for 2007.

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