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Day Seven Takeaways: Excitement around Yeldon


JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from Day Seven of Jaguars 2015 Training Camp Friday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields …

1) A lot to like.We begin Day Seven takeaways with running back T.J. Yeldon, who has drawn considerable attention early in 2015 Training Camp. Yeldon is far from guaranteed to start the season – the rotation early in practice between Yeldon, Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart makes that clear – but it is guaranteed the Jaguars remain ecstatic with the second-round selection from Alabama. He continues to run well and show good vision along with the ability to make defenders miss at the line and in the secondary. He also performed well in a pass-blocking drill Thursday, with offensive coordinator Greg Olson saying Friday, "We liked what we saw there. That was not a question mark for us, but I think people outside questioned whether or not he would be able to step into the National Football League and be good enough as a pass protector. We liked what he brought physically and I thought he attacked the linebackers." Added Olson, "We're excited about him. He's made a couple of very nice runs in the open field and made some people miss. We've been excited about what we've seen so far."

2) Growing into the part.A player who has caught the eye of many early in camp is second-year veteran defensive end Chris Smith. A Leo pass rusher, Smith played seven games as a rookie, but flashed significantly with three sacks. Smith looked quick in organized team activities and again in training camp, and has continued to rush the passer well in one-on-one drills during two padded practices this week. Smith said he has improved his pass-rushing technique significantly since last season, particularly the hand work – and has learned from players such as defensive end Chris Clemons and even defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. "I'm definitely a different guy from last year," he said. "In college, you're pretty much just trying to run around guys. You can't do that here." There has been speculation that players such as Smith, Ryan Davis and/or Andre Branch could move into the starting Leo role with Chris Clemons not practicing at the start of camp. That's not likely to happen, but Smith's progress makes him intriguing to watch as preseason approaches.

3) Looking ahead.The Jaguars will hold a controlled scrimmage at EverBank Field Saturday at 6:15 p.m. It annually is a cool event for fans, with a chance to see the team a week before the preseason opener. The event isn't a true "scrimmage" in the sense of four quarters of all-out hitting and contact; NFL teams don't risk injury of that degree. Rather, the Jaguars likely will run several series of first-team offense versus first-team defense and several series of second- and third-team offense versus second- and third-team defense. The only active player not expected to participate is wide receiver Marqise Lee, who is week-to-week with a hamstring injury. A major emphasis will be on special teams and situational work with the idea of preparing for the preseason. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said he expects perhaps one period of live hitting.

4) Rest for the (un)weary.We'll take an opportunity on a light practice day to address the issue of veteran days off. This is an area where there often is a disconnect between fans and franchises, with fans wondering why professional football players "need" rest days, particularly early in camp. This rarely is a case of players asking for "rest." Rather, it's about teams monitoring players to allow their bodies to make it through a 20-game season as healthy as possible. The Jaguars, for example, "rested" middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and Otto linebacker Dan Skuta Friday, also holding wide receiver Allen Hurns (knee), defensive end Jared Odrick (knee), guard Brandon Linder (knee) and tight end Julius Thomas (back) out of practice. In most of all of the cases, the players could have played, but it is better to give them a day now than to wear their bodies down over the course of a long, grinding season.

5) Keep an eye on … Jermey Parnell.The Jaguars made several offseason moves to address the offensive line, with none as major as the signing of Parnell as an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys. While Parnell wasn't as high-profile of a name as tight end Julius Thomas, he was a priority target and a player the Jaguars believed was as good or better than any right tackle in free agency. So far, Parnell has looked the part. He showed quick feet and impressive athleticism in unpadded offseason work and has packaged that with physicality in padded work during training camp.

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