Head coach Jack Del Rio painted a bright picture of his team's situation at defensive end, even though Tony Brackens' future has been clouded by another injury.
Brackens has sustained a muscle tear behind his right knee and Del Rio said Brackens will "probably be down for a minimum of a week, possibly more." The veteran defensive end was just beginning to ease into the training camp regimen when the injury occurred. He began camp slowly as he continued his recovery from offseason knee surgery.
Del Rio and the Jaguars could find themselves facing a difficult decision on Brackens. They had cut him in March for the purpose of expiring his remaining amortization on this year's salary cap, then signed him in late-spring to a new deal that paid Brackens a $300,000 signing bonus that was, in effect, a training camp tryout fee.
Brackens is guaranteed $1.025 million this season if he makes the team's final roster. This training camp was to be used to gather information on Brackens, so the team could decide if he was recovered enough to warrant that kind of financial commitment. The problem now is that with only two weeks of training camp remaining, the Jaguars may have difficulty getting the information they need on Brackens.
So where do the Jaguars stand at defensive end without Brackens?
"Paul Spicer has done a nice job solidifying our beliefs that he can be our left defensive end, especially in earlier downs," Del Rio said. "Hugh (Douglas) has come (to camp) in better shape; much more dedicated. He should be an every-downs end for us. Brandon Green is a guy who's emerging for us. Then we have a lot of competition," Del Rio added, referring to Lionel Barnes, Courtland Bullard and seventh-round draft choice Bobby McCray.
"We're looking for someone to emerge. I think Brandon has done that. Has the question about defensive been solved? No, but we hope to do that before we go to Buffalo," Del Rio said. He added that "there are no saviors on the waiver wire."
The defensive end position in general and the pass-rush in particular are great sources of concern for the Jaguars, who had only 24 sacks last season. That was the fourth-worst total in the league. Brackens led the Jaguars with six sacks, but the Jaguars' all-time leading sacks-maker is playing on bad knees and borrowed time. The question now is: Has Brackens run out of time? Answering that question will provide what could become the major drama of this training camp.
But Brackens wasn't the only player of news importance this morning. Del Rio said incumbent kicker Seth Marler will be waived injured for the purpose of re-signing Marler and assigning him to the injured reserve list. Marler suffered a recurrence last week of the right quad muscle pull that dogged him throughout spring practices.
The kicking job is now left in the hands of rookie Josh Scobee and journeyman Jeff Chandler. Scobee, a fifth-round pick from Louisiana Tech, has the early lead on Chandler. If Scobee wins the job, it would mark the third consecutive year the Jaguars would go into the regular season with a rookie kicker.
A punter, local product Jesse Stein of Florida State, was added to the training camp roster, but only to take the workload off Chris Hanson's left leg.
Del Rio also addressed his team's situation at defensive tackle, where depth behind Marcus Stroud and John Henderson is an issue.
"Rob Meier has had a terrific camp. Rob has increased his game above what we saw last year," Del Rio said of the fifth-year pro.
Fourth-round pick Anthony Maddox and veterans Willie Blade and Derrick Ransom are "all battling, jockeying for a spot," Del Rio added.
The injury report shows running back LaBrandon Toefield out with a high-ankle sprain Del Rio classified as "mild." Henderson was added to the injury list with a groin pull he sustained in Monday night's practice. Rookie linebacker Jorge Cordova remains sidelined by a quad pull and second-year running back Joe Smith with an ankle injury. Jimmy Smith is expected to practice tonight after missing yesterday's work with a sore back.