There was a nice crowd down at the practice fields of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium to see the 2010 Jaguars take the field for the first time since the end of last season. It was good to see the team back at it, and for them to have a relatively active practice by mini camp standards.
Once again, the fans were on temporary bleachers sitting on the field turf practice surface. For the size of the crowd, this was not really a great set up. For those who have been attending these practices for several years, the lower sitting bleachers leave much to be desired in being able to watch a play develop.
The Jaguars took the field with an almost complete roster. During the practice, Greg Jones and Aaron Kampman were the two injury holdouts. All indications were that the newly signed defensive end was walking without a limp, and appeared to be well on the road to recovery.
This team is loaded with young players, and in reviewing the current roster, there are more than 20 rookies running around during practice.
Most of these guys obviously will wind up back at the Piggly Wiggly or elsewhere making a living once the football season begins. There were a few players of note from the late or undrafted ranks, including Trevor Harris.
Harris is an interesting project to watch because he has decent enough mechanics, and throws a nice ball with a tight spiral. He is a hair slow on getting the ball out, but that could be attributed to this being the first practice with a new playbook and personnel, but he showed potential as a guy the team might want to put on the practice squad to develop.
He was also a bit off on his timing with receivers, but again, being the first practice probably had a lot to do with the errant passes. He will have plenty of time to work on that between now and training camp.
Tyson Alualu is not nearly as big as I expected him to be based on film. He’s thick through the legs in much the same way as Maurice Jones-Drew.
There was not a lot of contact obviously, but there was an opportunity to watch him working in traffic, and there was no real standout moment during the practice. That is not a cause for concern as it was the first in what will be many practices for the rookie to develop. He just appeared to get somewhat swallowed up in traffic at times, but he was not the only one.
D’Anthony Smith is another guy who is smaller than expected, but looked fit and quick out there on the field. Again, it is difficult to get a real sense for what the team has with this kid, but those answers will come later this summer when the pads go on and the contact begins.
Deji Karim looks like another interesting prospect. He showed some nifty footwork during practice, but how those spins and such would translate when the pads are on remains to be seen.
Austen Lane has the physical attributes to look like a guy who might have an impact. He had a few opportunities to get pressure on the quarterback during practice, and he did fine. But, how much of that was his ability, and how much of it was just a non-padded practice with no contact? Stay tuned. He looks like a player though, with good size, speed, and long reach. He did show a couple of moves including a spin and swim move, which is more than Derrick Harvey has shown in two seasons.
Clearly, the rookies had to be wide-eyed and practically drowning with everything being thrown at them in the first practice, but they held their own pretty well considering.
Moving on to the veterans, not much has changed.
Maurice Jones-Drew looks even thicker than last year. It might have been the long pants and undergarments he was sporting, but he did look as if he had thickened up a bit during off season conditioning. He still runs exceptionally well, so if he has bulked up, it has not impacted his ability at all.
David Garrard looks a bit thinner, but pretty much the same as always. For now, he appears to be the most ‘game ready’ quarterback on the roster, but Luke McCown looked relatively solid today as well.
Mike Sims-Walker looks poised to take over the top spot among the receivers. Who assumes the role of the starter opposite him remains to be seen, but he had a good practice this afternoon, hauling in several difficult grabs during the course of the day.
Kassim Osgood is going to be interesting to watch. He is another guy who just does not appear to be as big as advertised. He is listed as 6’5” on the roster, but he is not a guy that plays as big as he looks. He showed nice hands, but his route running is not the most precise of the group.
Mike Thomas was a little sloppy at times, both with his route running and his hands. To his credit, he was working in traffic quite a bit, but there were some passes that he should have handled which simply found their way to the ground.
Newly acquired linebacker, Kirk Morrison, assumed the starting role with the first team in the initial drills of the day, and that is where he spent the bulk of the practice working with Daryl Smith and Justin Durant. He showed nice quickness during the practice working from sideline to sideline. He looks like a nice acquisition for the team early on in the process.
Reggie Nelson appears to have started off right where he ended the 2009 season, lost and confused. There were a couple of plays during the practice where he was completely beaten in coverage, giving up a huge cushion to receivers who probably are not accustomed to having so much space.
Now, let’s get to some of the drills and highlights of the practice.
Nate Hughes got off to a shaky start, dropping quite a few passes thrown his way on target. He improved as the practice wore on, but he did not start out well, and wound up being pulled aside by his position coach because of it for some individual mentoring.
The quarterbacks were all struggling to find their target throughout practice. Each one had the occasional success in delivering a strike, but for the most part they were errant with their passes, forcing the receivers to work hard for their money very early on in the process.
Most of the rookie free agents had issues with catching the ball consistently. This was partly the fault of the quarterbacks and their misguided throws, but also because they simply struggled finding the handle.
For a rookie like Rocky Ross, the drops came early, but he did find his balance during the drills and made a few nice grabs. Whether that allows him to stick around through training camp remains to be seen, but with the receiving corps loaded with youngsters, it seems likely he will at least get a chance.
The receivers started to get in sync with their quarterbacks during these drills, and for the veterans, it was a chance to step up and give the rookies a little demonstration.
Mike Sims-Walker showed great hands on a sideline grab over the top from David Garrard. With good coverage in tow by Don Carey, the ball was delivered over the top and slightly high. Walker was able to go up and catch the ball with one hand, stick the landing, and complete the catch.
The Russian judge gave him a 9.5 for the acrobatic effort displayed, and it was a crowd pleaser since it happened right in front of the bleachers.
Kirk Morrison showed some decent coverage skills trailing Rashad Jennings, who had rolled out of the backfield and was working across the middle on a middle post route. Trevor Harris delivered a strike to Jennings, but Morrison was able to get in and knock the ball away.
David Garrard nailed Mike Sims-Walker along the far sideline on a deep pass over Don Carey, who was tight in coverage. The ball was slightly overthrown by design allowing Walker to go after it and make the grab for a big gain.
Not to be outdone on the deep routes, Troy Williamson hooked up with Garrard on a deep slant pattern, beating Tyron Brackenridge for a long reception down the field. It was good to see Williamson back and running at full speed. There were a couple of drops, but those can be chalked up to rust.
Garrard connected on another deep pass, spreading the ball around to another receiver, Jarett Dillard on a deep post route. Scotty McGee was a step off the ball when the catch was made, but did a decent job of keeping up with Dillard on the play.
Zach Potter almost made a great impression hauling in a difficult grab deep over the middle from Trevor Harris in traffic. He had Courtney Greene tight in coverage, and was able to make the catch. Unfortunately, Greene batted the ball away a few steps later, forcing a fumble.
Ernest Wilford had an uncharacteristic drop on a routine pass from Trevor Harris. The ball was delivered on target on a post route, but bounced right off his hands in stride. It will be a tough competition for the Tight Ends this year, and Wilford needs to make the most of every opportunity.
11 x 11:
Maurice Jones-Drew looks to be fully recovered from his bruising 2009 campaign. On each of his carries, his signature follow through to the goal line were prevalent during practice, as was his burst to daylight that was somewhat lacking late in the season.
Mike Sims-Walker continued to have a solid practice session, making two tough grabs, one along the sideline for a deep grab, and another on a deep post route where Walker got the angle on Josh Gordy going over the middle and made the catch. Both passes were delivered by Luke McCown. McCown shows nice touch on the middle to deep range passes. He and Walker were clearly on the same page during the practice.
Walker also made another grab along the sideline on a Garrard pass that was somewhat overthrown, but he was able to get his hands up and snatch it quickly.
Ernest Wilford found some redemption by making two extremely tricky catches in traffic going over the middle. On one of these grabs, Wilford had to go down after a slightly underthrown pass from McCown, but still managed to haul it in and not break stride.
Marcedes Lewis appeared to have made a terrific catch on a deep cross delivered by David Garrard. The ball was on target, and Lewis made the catch, but Terrell Whitehead made a nice defensive play, batting the ball free before Lewis could maintain possession.
Zach Potter showed the ability to find a hole in coverage, slipping into the seam and finding a gap in the zone. McCown found him and turned it into a big gain with a well delivered pass splitting the defenders.
Tiquan Underwood took Reggie Nelson to the woodshed, blazing over the middle on a crossing route and leaving Nelson in the dust when he made a juke move and froze the safety briefly. Underwood was able to easily catch the pass from McCown with a five yard cushion.
Montell Owens showed the same hands that make him an asset to this team, catching a couple of passes out of the backfield, then turning and making big plays out of both of them. He looks to be somewhat trimmed down from last season, so maybe there are plans to get him more involved in the scheme.
The practice ended on a high note as McCown hit Ernest Wilford in the seam with a nicely thrown pass over the top of Keiaho who was in decent position on the play. The pass could not have been thrown any better.
Final first impression:
There were some shining moments, but the general sense was that this was a typical first practice for the team with a lot of miscues and mistakes. But, it was actually a more active initial practice than in years past. Perhaps Jack is going to put the pressure on these players to step it up now and keep that level of energy up through camp.
The rookies looked okay. None of them really stood out, but that was to be expected considering where the draft picks were spent. It will be interesting to see how things progress once they get integrated into the system and the pads go on.