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Boselli defends line's performance against Saints


Tony Boselli bristled at the suggestion that the New Orleans Saints defensive front was more physical than the Jaguars offensive line in this morning's combined practice.

"I disagree. If you watched 9-on-7, there were some big runs up inside, and you don't do that if you're not physical," Boselli said.

Boselli did not participate in the practice, which immediately put the Jaguars offensive line at a disadvantage against one of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL. It is a defensive line that features tackles Norman Hand and La'Roi Glover.

Today's combined practices at the Jaguars' Alltel Stadium practice facility conclude the Jaguars' first full week of training camp. It has been a week judged to have included fewer full-contact drills than in past years.

"We haven't been in pads as much as we have been in the past. The quantity is down, but once we're out there, the intensity is fine. We hit. It's just not 100 minutes of 9-on-7," Boselli said.

"Do you have to kill each other in camp to prove how tough you are? And then you can't play on Sept. 9. We have a veteran ballclub with guys who know how to hit. Any time there are holes, you're doing something right," the five-time Pro-Bowler said.

The Jaguars' first-unit offensive line had Jeff Smith at center, Brad Meester and Aaron Koch at the guards, and Gannon Shepherd and rookie Maurice Williams at the tackles.

Williams got off to a slow start and drew coach Tom Coughlin's ire on one particular play in which Williams whiffed on his block. "We can't possibly be that bad," Coughlin shouted.

Coughlin described the Saints defense as "the top opportunistic defense in the league last year; a tough, physical team.

"Some of the young kids don't even know who the defensive line of the Saints is," Coughlin added, referring to his young offensive line, of which Smith was the only player with more than two years of experience.

Veteran guard/tackle Zach Wiegert also did not participate in the practice, as he continues to be limited in his comeback from last season's knee surgery.

"I thought the tempo was good on both sides," Saints second-year coach Jim Haslett said when asked to assess the two teams' physical play. "I don't know who won the physical part. I know we play physical," he added.

The big play on offense for the Jaguars came from wide receiver Alvis Whitted, who caught a long pass from Jonathan Quinn after Whitted had beaten undrafted rookie cornerback Jahi Henley.

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Randal Williams continued his sparkling camp performance by making a catch of significant yardage over the middle, then impressively getting his feet down in bounds after making a clean reception near the sideline.

Meanwhile, second-string quarterback Jamie Martin appeared to struggle with his throws. Starting quarterback Mark Brunell threw with accuracy and zip, though the Saints secondary's coverage was especially sharp.

"It's still early. It's not a game where you know who's the better football team," Brunell said of the practice.

The overall performance of the Saints defense was punctuated by its penchant for more contact than you would expect in a training camp practice. Linebacker Phil Clarke, who knocked Whitted out on a play over the middle in last year's combined practice, was back at it again this morning. Clarke belted Jaguars backup running backs Stacey Mack and Shyrone Stith to the ground on separate occasions, and rookie safety Richard Newsome left Stith in a groggy state on the ground after a vicious hit.

"They got some boys up front who can really do it. That's the strength of their team," said Jaguars wide receiver Sean Dawkins, who played for the Saints in 1998.

The two teams are to practice again this afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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