Veteran Sean Considine took a significant step toward winning a starting safety job, as Considine stole the show in Friday night's scrimmage with a three-play outburst that, had it been a real game, would've resulted in two touchdowns for the defense.
You should've seen it. Really, you should've.
It was newly-named EverBank Field's inaugural event and Considine defined it early in the scrimmage with a three-play flurry that began with an interception of a David Garrard pass, an interception of a Luke McCown pass that was deflected by the rush, and a classy pass-defensed. All of a sudden, a safety job coach Jack Del Rio emphatically said is "wide open" had a leading candidate.
"He was a rocket up that points board tonight," Del Rio said of Considine's rise up a production chart the Jaguars use to keep score of plays made in practice. "We weigh it more than a practice," Del Rio added of Friday's scrimmage. "It's not quite like a regular-season game but it's more game-like. We're looking for those shining lights that are on all the time. We're not looking for those blinking lights."
The safety play for the Jaguars last year was a steady blinking light. Whatever hope the Jaguars have of improvement on defense this season surely involves improved play at the two safety positions. It's thought Considine joined Gerald Alexander as the leaders for the two safety spots, heading into Monday's and Tuesday's combined practices with the Atlanta Falcons.
"He finished," Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker said of Considine. "He was in position to make plays and he made them. It's his second year with us. He should improve."
"We're going to tackle well this year. We're going to play the guys that can get it done for us," Del Rio said.
Considine is in the prime of his career. He's been around long enough to know how to play, yet, he's young enough to run and hit. This, it would seem, is his year to shine.
"I want to be known as a guy who knows exactly what he's doing. Every once in a while the quarterback is going to make a mistake," Considine said.
Garrard made the mistake of allowing Considine to read the quarterback's eyes. Considine broke on the ball as Garrard released a soft pass downfield for wide receiver Troy Williamson. It was a poor throw on a night when Garrard authored several good-looking completions, including a bomb to wide receiver Mike Thomas on the first play from scrimmage.
"I told Mike Thomas I love seeing him start the scrimmage with an explosive play like that," Del Rio said. "He had some really nice (throws)," the coach added of Garrard. "He showed you the best at what he can do, but then there were a couple of times he took sacks and I don't want him to do that, to take that abuse. That's the next step in his growth for him to become an elite player for us."
Considine's next step is a place in the starting lineup. He started last season as a starter, but struggled through injuries and eventually fell out of the lineup. He's competing, it would seem, with Reggie Nelson and Anthony Smith for a spot next to Alexander.
"It's time for me to put everything together. If I can go through a year healthy, that's what I need to do to be the player I envision," Considine said.
Del Rio provided capsule evaluation of the first full week of training camp, beginning with praise for tight end Marcedes Lewis as having been the best player in camp through the first eight days. "He's been absolutely sensational," Del Rio said of Lewis.
Young running backs Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim were also singled out for praise. "I thought the backs ran hard. Those two young men put themselves in position to get some carries," Del Rio said.
Karim, a rookie sixth-round pick, pulled in a 39-yard pass down the sideline from Garrard to score late in the scrimmage. The offense claimed a 47-15 win, courtesy of an innovative scoring system that should be discounted as an indicator of the action, largely because the action was semi-live. It's hard to win on defense when hard tackling is discouraged.
"We're a little lean. We've got some guys on the mend," Del Rio said in understatement. First-round draft pick Tyson Alualu, for example, did not participate in the scrimmage due to a muscle strain in his calf. Several players were out of action due to similar hurts.
"Not as much contact as in the past; do what we have to do to be ready for the season. It's a good, solid start to camp," Del Rio said.
Undrafted rookie quarterback Trevor Harris completed a pass of some length to Kassim Osgood and fullback Brock Bolen followed that play with a one-yard touchdown run that capped the scoring.
A crowd of 12,482 attended what was an event limited to season-ticket holders only. Owner Wayne Weaver addressed the crowd before the scrimmage began.
"These are the best fans in the NFL," said Weaver, who then broke into a sales pitch for the final 4,000 or so general-bowl tickets the Jaguars need to sell to guarantee the 2010 season will be blackout-free. "We're in the red zone in our ticket drive. We have two more weeks to sell out the stadium and make sure we have a sold out stadium for every game this season," Weaver added.
The combined practices with the Falcons on Monday and Tuesday will be a better indicator of the Jaguars' level of proficiency at this stage of the preseason. Falcons coach Mike Smith, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator from 2003-07, has a playoff-caliber team some believe is a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
"They're a good football team, a great squad to compete against. We're looking forward to the competition," Del Rio said.