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Camp competition begins


The Jaguars' major emphasis to improve their passing game and, in the process, return to the playoffs, began with third-round draft choice Mike Walker leading the way. Walker made a leaping, two-handed grab of a pass along the sideline, which earned the loudest cheer of Saturday morning's opening practice of training camp.

Is it too much to expect of a rookie that he put the Jaguars' beleaguered passing attack over the top? Might Walker, in fact, be the missing link?

"I'd hate to put something like that on any one person," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "We saw a guy who could run and caught the ball easily. He'll have to show how he fits, where he belongs."

It would seem Walker will have plenty of opportunity to display his wares because, based on the first-day order at wide receiver, Del Rio would seem to have opened the positions up to competition.

Free-agent acquisition Dennis Northcutt, who was signed for the purpose of being the team's number three receiver, and spring sensation Charles Sharon ran with the first offense. Incumbent starting wide receivers Reggie Williams and Matt Jones ran with quarterback David Garrard and the second offense.

"We really don't have a depth chart right now," Del Rio said.

"It was a good start," the coach said of the performance of his team's passing game in Saturday morning's practice. "I've made many statements about wanting to have an explosive offense."

Del Rio, of course, reconstructed his offensive coaching staff following last season's meltdown in the final three weeks, and he might be of the same frame of mind regarding his passing game's personnel.

"As coach says, you gotta be tough, give effort, no excuses and finish," Sharon said. "It means a lot to me just to be on the football team. I wasn't drafted. I'm just happy to be here."

That's Sharon's mindset as he attempts to unseat one of two former first-round picks – Williams and Jones – and claim a starting job no one thought he had a chance of winning, until he turned in the top performance of this past spring.

Change was all around starting quarterback Byron Leftwich on Saturday morning. He has a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterbacks coach and two new wide receivers coaches, and two new receivers in his number one offense. Leftwich is the constant.

"It's a producing league. I know I'm here for a reason. If they didn't think I was the guy for the team, I wouldn't be here," Leftwich said.

"I have a new appreciation for football from having it taken away from me. When I'm out there, I'm going to be having fun. You're not going to see many frowns on my face," he added.

This was also a "new" day for defensive end Reggie Hayward, who was cleared medically this week to begin practicing. Hayward is recovering from Achilles surgery that ended his 2006 season following an injury in the season-opener.

"They tried to smooth me in; not rush me," Hayward said of his participation in practice. "It's one of those injuries that you have to pace yourself."

Hayward said there's as much concern for his other Achilles as there is for the one he ruptured and had repaired.

"I blew out the good one. The other one is coming along. That's the one we've been focusing on," Hayward said.

Del Rio had a full squad in attendance; no hold-outs, no no-shows.

"I'm pleased to open camp with everybody here and on time. It's good to start out that way," Del Rio said.

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