The Jaguars tuned up this morning for tomorrow's combined practices with the New Orleans Saints with the longest practice of their training camp to date.
Starting quarterback Mark Brunell sat out the session due to soreness in his left shoulder, and that left backup quarterbacks David Garrard, Roderick Robinson and Quinn Gray to run the show. Coach Tom Coughlin said he expects Brunell will participate in tomorrow's work.
The 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. practices with the Saints will provide Coughlin with his first true barometer of his team's progress, though there would seem to be several positives through the first seven days of camp to which Coughlin could point.
Second-year free safety James Boyd's performance has been nothing short of sensational. This morning, Boyd stepped in front of wide receiver Damon Gibson and intercepted a Gray pass, which means Boyd has intercepted at least one pass in every practice of this camp. A few plays later, Boyd dropped what appeared to be an easy interception.
"His progress was slow at first and picked up late in the season," Coughlin said of Boyd's rookie performance. "He's right on schedule."
The third-round draft choice from Penn State was an interception machine in last summer's training camp, too, but didn't get any significant playing time until late in the season when the Jaguars faced a desperate situation in their secondary. In Cleveland, he made the game-saving play that caused Browns fans to rain bottles down onto the field.
"Big players make big plays. We've never (gotten enough) turnovers here," Coughlin said of his defense. "To see somebody consistently be in the right place; that's what the game is all about."
Nevertheless, Boyd finds himself behind second-year man Marlon McCree.
First-round draft picks Marcus Stroud and John Henderson were also impressive this morning, in a practice that concluded with a controlled scrimmage.
"They're big, strong men. When they get it cranked, they're capable of dominating a practice, which is what they did," Coughlin said of the two defensive tackles. The two have yet to play together on the same front, but Coughlin said: "It'll come."
Coughlin also praised running back Fred Taylor's first-week work. "He's focused. He's running it up in there really well. In every practice he's done some good things," Coughlin said.
On the down side, star wide receiver Jimmy Smith is in the eighth day of his contract holdout, and no news is bad news.
"I haven't heard anything and I know there has been no contact," Coughlin said of Smith's situation. "I start to get concerned."
Then he turned his attention to tomorrow's practices.
"We're on schedule. Let's take a look tomorrow and see how these two fronts play. Let's see how our offensive line comes off the ball, which is my main concern," Coughlin said. "I want to see good fundamental play tomorrow. I want to see the physical part of the game. I want to see progress and people make plays."