The NFL may have the shortest calendar year of any of the three major sports, but with the mania that accompanies free agency, then the draft, followed by OTA's and mini-camps, there truly is no offseason. The Jaguars began their OTA's later than usual, a few weeks ago, and Thursday is their final practice before they have to report back to training camp on July 26th.
With America's ever-rising fever for football, the public perception of non-contact OTA's and mini-camps is usually pretty distorted, as many believe that jobs are won and lost in May and June. This just isn't the case.
Every year the Jaguars have camp superstars that look like the second coming of Jerry Rice in May, and when the pads are on, their games tend to shrink. Troy Williamson, D'Juan Woods, and Mike Walker are trying to become real fixtures on the Jaguars roster, not just others in the long line of camp stars that include Cortez Hankton and Charles Sharon.
Woods has been impressive this spring, but he's been in this position before. He was very good at this time last year, and it only equated to an August release.
"Rejection has a tendency to make you a little tougher," said Woods. "Once you get that out of your system you begin to work on things that make you a better person, and a better receiver."
Troy Williamson is in a bit of a different position, as he has undeniable physical skills, but has been a first-round bust at his previous stop in Minnesota. He certainly seems happy to have another opportunity in Jacksonville.
"I feel like (there's) more of a family here (in Jacksonville)," said Williamson. "I feel more welcomed and I really like it down here, as far as the coaches and everybody.
"I'm just going to play my role. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do. If that's special teams, if that's lining up at wide receiver, or running down and covering kickoff, it doesn't matter. I'm here and I just want to have fun playing football."
Last but not least is former third-round draft choice Mike Walker (2007). Walker was the talk of the Jaguars mini-camp a year ago as he ran effortless routes to perfection, and caught nearly everything thrown his way. The final result was a regression in training camp which led to his eventual placement on the injured reserve. Walker is back this year, and he's trying to prove that he can be durable when it counts.
"My goal is to get that endurance so I won't have to worry about the every day so I'll be 100% and there won't be any questions, so I can practice twice a day, three times a day, so there won't be any problems," said Walker.
There are only a certain amount of roster positions available at wide receiver for the Jaguars, and it would be considered a pretty major upset if Woods, Williamson and Walker each earned spots on the 53-man roster. If each or any is to make the final roster they must prove that they can be good receivers not only in touch football in shorts and tees, but also when the other team is allowed to bump and tackle.
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