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A really big thing?


Yeah, sportswriters are often guilty of sensationalizing the news for the sake of a catchy headline or a juicy lead, and coaches hate it when one of the ink-stained wretches covering their team actually takes the liberty to suggest something exciting may have actually happened on the practice field. Well, sorry, coach, but something exciting actually did happen yesterday afternoon.

What was it? A dramatic touchdown pass? A dazzling run? The "Heckler" made a comeback?

No, it was much more dramatic than any of those.

In a corner of a field that was adjacent to an area where the Jaguars were conducting passing drills that had everyone's attention, possibly the most dramatic and important event of this training camp occurred. Should what happened prove to be an indicator of what lies ahead, then yesterday will become a point of reference for this reporter.

What happened was that in a rather innocuous pass-rush drill, Hugh Douglas flashed skills we all feared were gone forever. In a two-down effort against Mike Pearson, Douglas scored a 2-0 victory.

On his first try, Douglas took Pearson to the quarterback (a blocking bag) and was judged to have collapsed the pocket. On his second try, Douglas blew by Pearson and sacked the QB.

Why do these two moments, totaling probably no more than five or six seconds of the entire practice, warrant such dramatic acclaim? Because the Jaguars are desperate to find a pass-rush, and they need it to come from an every-downs defensive end, and Douglas may be the only every-downs candidate they have.

Douglas is of enormous importance to this team. He is to the defense what Byron Leftwich is to the offense.

Tuesday, Douglas was very candid in criticizing his performance in 2003. Douglas told reporters, "I got into a funk and I never got out of it until the end of the season." Basically, Douglas admitted he "stunk up the joint" last year, when he produced only three-and-a-half sacks, after the Jaguars dug deep to sign him in free agency.

All right, that's nice. Introspection is a good thing. There's nothing wrong with words, as long as they are supported by fact. What Douglas was saying on Tuesday was that he was dedicating himself to a better effort in 2004. What he did on Wednesday was back up those words.

Yeah, sportswriters are often guilty of getting out ahead of the story, but their concerns for Douglas in last year's training camp proved to be prophetic, so maybe this overly dramatic report of Douglas' two-down victory yesterday afternoon will offer a portend for this season.

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