The breeze returned to the Florida Blue practice facility at EverBank Field for the evening practice session. It carried with it a buzz almost as palpable as the first night of contact drills. The crowd was outstanding this evening, most of whom came to see the newly signed first rounder, Tyson Alualu.
He did not disappoint the fans.
The Jaguars continued to hold out some veterans to allow them to rest. There were also those injured players who were dealing with dings. The players who did not participate this evening included Maurice Jones-Drew, Jarett Dillard, Eben Britton, Aaron Kampman, Daryl Smith, Vince Manuwai, and D’Anthony Smith.
Austen Lane had his right knee wrapped up and the training staff made some adjustments during practice. I am not clear if this is something he has been doing at all practices, or if he had some minor issue requiring a wrap. He did not appear to be dealing with any issues during practice, so it is probably nothing to be concerned about.
Kampman had his left knee heavily iced late in practice to counter any swelling resulting from the aggravation he caused during practice last night. He seemed upbeat, and spent the majority of practice following the defensive line around instead of working with the trainers. Hopefully this is only a minor setback.
Now, let’s get to the drills.
Individual Drills (Round 1):
Special teams took center stage as they started practice working on punt return drills. Scotty McGee, Mike Thomas, and Nate Hughes were used in these drills. All three did fine with handling the punts.
The one incident of note was when the rookie, McGee, was leveled by Don Carey before the ball was anywhere close to being hauled in. Carey came over and shook McGee’s hand after they were done to make sure there were no hard feelings for being turned into road kill.
The receivers had a better night in individual drills, and the quarterbacks were more accurate than they have been in previous practice sessions. The only notable areas where there were missteps were muffed receptions by Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker, and one bad pass Trevor Harris launched at the feet of Roren Thomas.
9 X 9 (Running Drills):
There were a couple of observations about the rushing attack with Jones-Drew on the sideline worth mentioning.
Deji Karim is a guy who has nice cutting ability, decent speed, and solid burst through the line. What he showed tonight was a pounder mentality. The guy was punching through the defense like a pinball when he carried the ball.
Rashad Jennings had a relatively quiet practice, but he does continue to show marked improvement in how quickly he is hitting the hole. His indecisiveness as a rookie appears to be a thing of the past.
Chad Kackert also showed impressive speed as he ran a couple of stretch plays. He is an interesting prospect to watch because he has good hands coming out of the backfield, and better than expected speed. On a team where the offense is going to be focused on running the ball, he is making enough noise to warrant some consideration. He is certainly a long shot to make the roster, but he could find himself on the practice squad as a developmental guy.
2 X 1:
The receivers were working on a lot of 10 and 20 yard hooks and crossing routes, and for the most part, the quarterbacks were hitting their guys with terrific accuracy.
Trevor Harris struggled early to find his guys, mostly on the deeper passes. After overthrowing Clarence Denmark on a pass down the sideline, he was intercepted by Anthony Smith on a 20 yard curl intended for Roren Thomas.
David Garrard was spot on most of his passes, but when he missed, it was usually a breakdown in communication where the receiver curled in when he should have been turning the other way. It was easy to pick up because the guys were getting hammered by Todd Monken when they ran the wrong route.
Once David was warmed up, he was money on his passes. That does not mean his receivers were always hauling them in though. On one particular play, Kassim Osgood was running a slant with Michael Coe in coverage. The ball was delivered perfectly over the shoulder to Osgood, but he bobbled the pass. He tried to recover, but Coe was hand checking him and the ball wound up hitting the turf.
Luke McCown launched a 25 yard corner pass that was out in front of his intended receiver, John Matthews. Matthews made a great fingertip grab to haul in the ball for a solid gain with Scotty McGee in tight coverage.
Mike Thomas embarrassed William Middleton on a post pattern where the receiver gave a little juke move in his route. When he made the cut, Thomas got decent separation from Middleton, and the defensive back was never able to recover.
Pass Rush Drills (Linebackers vs. Running Backs, Tight Ends, and Fullbacks):
I would not normally mention these drills, but they were quite entertaining this evening as the two sides really stepped up their efforts. In the end, the offensive players came out on top, but there were a few notable exceptions.
Some of the matchups were fun to watch, including Kirk Morrison going up against Greg Jones twice. Morrison never had a chance as Jones showed why the Jaguars have coveted his services for all these years. He stymied Morrison on two attempts, never letting him get anywhere near the quarterback.
Morrison was also victimized by Marcedes Lewis who was able to prevent the veteran linebacker from reaching his target. Lewis also flattened Jacob Cutera on another attempt.
11 X 11 (Round 1):
David Garrard went to work hitting Mike Sims-Walker on a 30 yard post pattern with Don Carey in tow. The ball was on the mark and Sims-Walker made it look routine pulling down the pass with Carey wrapped around his waist.
Garrard nailed Troy Williamson on a 65 yard post pattern that was probably one of his best throws of training camp. He dropped the pass over Derek Cox into Williamson’s hands without breaking his stride. The pitch and catch got the crowd into the practice on that end of the field as Williamson took it to the end zone.
On the other end of the field, the fans were just as thrilled because Tyson Alualu had made his presence known by blowing up Kevin Haslam. If contact was allowed, it would have been a sack for Alualu. He was literally standing there playing spectator when Garrard launched the pass.
Garrard came back and quickly hit Mike Thomas on a dump pass to avoid Larry Hart, who had gotten into the backfield and was headed for a sack. Garrard showed good pocket presence sensing the rush and getting the ball to his outlet quickly.
Deji Karim found the running difficult as he tried to take one off the left side. He was stuffed for a loss by Freddy Keiaho.
Garrard nailed Chad Kackert for a 20 yard gain along the sideline. Kackert made a nice falling grab with Kirk Morrison standing over him. Similar to the bomb Garrard dropped on Williamson earlier, this was another instance where the play probably would have wound up a sack. Both Larry Hart and Jeremy Mincey were in the backfield and had to pull evasive maneuvers to avoid sacking the quarterback.
Garrard hit Kassim Osgood on a 20 yard slant on the next play. Again, Mincey and Hart had blown up the left side of the offensive line going right by Eugene Monroe and going hands-up to avoid actually tackling the quarterback.
Luke McCown hit Deji Karim on a dump off to avoid Julius Williams and Atiyyah Ellison roaming free in the backfield.
McCown came back and hit Troy Williamson on a cross, barely avoiding Julius Williams, who had run right by Daniel Baldridge. The play wound up a 20 yard gain, but again it could have been a sack just as easily.
Field Goal Drills:
Josh Scobee was rock solid during practice tonight, hitting on field goal attempts of 33, 40, 42, 44, and 46 yards. What was more impressive was he hit the camera platform from 42 and 44 yards.
They also pulled a nifty fake field goal from 48 yards where Adam Podlesh took the snap and immediately flipped it over his head to Scobee, who was streaking to the outside on the play, catching the defense completely off guard.
7 X 7:
David Garrard attempted to go deep down the sideline to Nate Hughes with Sean Considine in coverage. The ball was on target, but Hughes could not pull it down despite beating Considine on the play.
Luke McCown hit Mike Caussin on a little dump off that would have gone for a short gain. The impressive part of the play was how Caussin just ran right over poor William Middleton on the play, demonstrating the bug on the windshield theory for the defensive back.
Zach Potter continued to do his best Kyle Brady impersonation, taking a pass out of the backfield from Luke McCown and stone-handing it as he turned to run after the catch.
David Garrard connected with Chad Kackert on the sideline with Gerald Alexander in tight coverage. Kackert showed great concentration after initially bobbling the pass. He was able to pull it in despite the fact that Alexander was doing everything he could to shake the ball free.
11 X 11 (Round 2):
David Garrard tried to go down the field to Mike Sims-Walker on a deep crossing route. The ball was slightly overthrown, but Walker made a great effort to try to catch the ball going up and getting a hand on it. Unfortunately, he was unable to control the pass. Garrard’s pass sailed on him because Aaron Morgan had broken into the backfield and was in his face as he launched the ball.
Garrard came back and hit Walker on a 20 yard sideline pass, again while having to contend with Aaron Morgan in his face.
Clarence Denmark made a nice catch on a Luke McCown pass right before getting hammered by Anthony Smith on a deep cross. The reception went for 25 yards, and even after he was hit, he did not go down getting additional yardage on the play.
Reggie Nelson had a nice highlight in the practice tonight. Trevor Harris attempted to go deep down the sideline for Tiquan Underwood, but Nelson cut in front of Underwood and picked the ball off. It was a great jumping grab by Nelson taking the ball away from Underwood with acrobatic style.
Del Rio stopped the drill and brought the team together briefly to lecture them. When he finished, they resumed the drill, but set the clock to 18 seconds and gave the offense a chance to get the ball into field goal range.
On the first attempt, Garrard hit Marcedes Lewis on a short cross, getting the offense into range. Josh Scobee nailed the 44 yard field goal.
On the second attempt, Garrard hit Troy Williamson on a crossing pattern after throwing the first pass away to stop the clock. He got the ball in range, and Scobee hit from 39 yards.
Garrard hit Zach Miller on a short slant, and then spiked the ball to stop the clock. Scobee came in and sealed the deal with a 47 yard field goal.
They updated the clock to 48 seconds, moved the ball back to midfield, and started again. On the first attempt, Garrard missed Kassim Osgood on a sideline pass. He came back and tried to hit Clarence Denmark on a deep post pattern. However, the ball was thrown too deep and behind Denmark, and was almost intercepted by Sean Considine. If Considine had hands, the drill would have ended there.
Garrard connected with Marcedes Lewis but Del Rio ruled it a sack by Scott Starks. Del Rio gave Garrard some grief about taking the sack and letting the clock run down to where they had one play left.
Because they were outside of field goal range, Garrard attempted to go deep to Tiquan Underwood. The 20 yard pass down the sideline was not enough to get them into field goal range, and the clock ran out on the offense.
In the limited exposure we had to Tyson Alualu tonight, he was impressive. They did not let him participate too extensively in the fully squad drills outside of the first set of 11 X 11, but when he was on the field it was clear the guy has a motor that does not stop. He is going to be fun to watch as he develops.
There are some real concerns about our offensive line. Not only are we thin on depth, but the starters on the left side of the line were completely ineffective tonight. The backups filling in for Britton were no better, looking more like a turnstile than offensive tackles.
If the plan is to keep Garrard upright and healthy for the entire season, the line needs to get better quickly.