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A good night's work


As Jack Del Rio sees it, the benefits are obvious.

And all of the benefits a team gets practicing against another – a break from hitting teammates, a chance to test your schemes against those of another and so on – Del Rio said the Jaguars got them in the best possible environment on Wednesday night when they practiced against the Atlanta Falcons outside EverBank Field on the Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields..

"It's good to go up against another team at this point in camp," Del Rio, in his ninth season as the Jaguars' head coach, said following Wednesday evening's session. "It was great. We got some great tape to evaluate. I thought our guys competed well.

"There wasn't a lot of silliness out here. Both teams understand what it's like to work hard against each other and be successful. It was all solid. I was pleased with how the night went."

The Jaguars and the Falcons worked for nearly two hours, with the teams working extensively on pass rush and pass protection, as well as some extensive 9-on-7 work. They closed practice with the respective offensive and defensive units working against one another on adjacent fields.

Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert and David Garrard each worked with the first-team offense during the practice, with Garrard hitting wide receiver Jason Hill for a touchdown in an early session and backup Luke McCown throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Ellingson. Rookie wide receiver Cecil Shorts also continued to look good, catching a touchdown pass from Garrard.

The teams will play one another in a Week 2 preseason game Friday, and also will play each other in a regular-season game December 15 in Atlanta.

Wednesday night's session marked the second consecutive training camp in which the teams have practiced against one another. The teams worked back-to-back days at the Falcons' facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., last year.

"There's been a lot of changes in terms of personnel," Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith said of the Jaguars. "I was very impressed with the way the football team (the Jaguars) looked tonight. There are a lot of young, physical guys. I thought we had a good session with these guys."

Smith, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator from 2003-07, said he was struck by the turnover in the Jaguars' roster.

 "There's probably only about eight or nine guys on the roster who were here when I left," Smith said. "It's a different looking football team, but I really thought they had some good-looking players."

While the teams had two full-scale practices each day last year, because of rules in the new collective bargaining agreement, they could practice with full pads only once Wednesday. That has caused speculation that such dual practices may not be as common in the future.

"We're going to see if we can get a real high-tempo hats morning," Del Rio said, tongue firmly in cheek in reference to shorts/baseball cap walkthroughs to which teams are limited once a day during two-a-days under the new rules.

On a serious note, Del Rio added, "I think there's value in it. I think it will always remain something you want to do. It works out perfectly. They were going to come in anyway. They just come in a day and a half or two days early."

Smith said the future of such dual work may be predicated on the league moving to an 18-game regular-season schedule with two preseason games. Under that scenario dual practices would continue to have value, Smith said.

"I think you want to work with other teams, especially if you go to a two-preseason game schedule," Smith said. "That was one of the reasons last year we wanted to do that."

Del Rio also addressed the continued absence from practice of starting offensive right tackle Eben Britton.

Britton, after starting 22 of 23 possible games in his first season and a half, missed the last nine games of last season with a torn labrum, and has been out of camp practice for more than a week with a back injury. According to reports, he underwent a minor back procedure this week.

"I saw that report," Del Rio said. "He looks great. Those reports were fairly accurate. He's going to be out a little while. He had a little something done there. We feel good about where he is now and where he's going to be as we finish up camp and get into the regular season.

"It was a concern we had. We had it looked at it and evaluated, and whatever was necessary was necessary. Now, we move on. I feel good about the fact that it's behind us and we're going to have him healthy."

It has reported that Britton will play the regular season opener.

"Any time you're dealing with human beings and injuries and diagnoses, who really knows until you see him out there?" Del Rio said. "Everything we've heard is that it's very encouraging and it should be a very quick recovery. Everything went exactly as everyone had hoped, so yeah, it looks good."

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