The second training camp in the Jack Del Rio era of Jaguars football is in the books. How will history record it? Will it have been the springboard to something big, or just another step in the right direction?
Only time will tell, of course, but the Jaguars left the field this morning with the belief their training camp was a success and the team is on track to match its fans' high expectations.
"I believe we're where we need to be to be competitive for the start of the season," quarterback Byron Leftwich said.
Del Rio also put his stamp of approval on the three-and-a-half weeks of work.
"I think we feel like we'll be a better football team. I'm not worried about the highs and lows. Our approach will be to remain steady. Our focus has been good," Del Rio said.
A year ago on this day, Del Rio left the field a rookie head coach with a roster that would undergo major reconstruction throughout the season. In a little over a month of closing camp, the Jaguars had moved out of the Mark Brunell era and into the Leftwich era at quarterback. By season's end, the team would also undergo a major personality change, finishing the season as one of the best run-the-ball/stop-the-run teams in the NFL.
It is clearly their personality now, and they embraced it throughout this training camp, right down to the camp-ending red-zone drill that was dominated by the defense. There were no scores.
"Much more productive camp this year. Much more aware of what's ahead for the rest of the season," Del Rio said in comparing this summer to last year's version.
Del Rio left the field this morning with only a few major issues to be addressed. He needs to find a kicker; he absolutely must find a kicker because teams built on defense and field position rely heavily on their kickers.
The Jaguars also need to find a pass-rush, and they need to identify some depth at certain positions.
Now add one more major need: They need to get running back Fred Taylor healthy.
Taylor missed his second day of practice, the result of a sprained foot. All indications are the injury is minor, but it must be considered a source of concern because Taylor is of critical importance to the team's hopes, and also because Taylor has a history of being a slow healer.
"The prognosis for Fred is we will rest it this week and re-evaluate him next week," Del Rio said, referring to this Friday's preseason game against the visiting Green Bay Packers. The Jaguars will conclude their preseason at New England on Thur., Sept. 2, so the possibility exists Taylor will not play again until the regular season opener in Buffalo.
"It's more of a rest than anything," Leftwich said of Taylor's time off. "Believe me, I'd be real worried if it was anything more than that. I'd prefer he not play any more. I want him to play when it counts."
The Jaguars broke camp today with a running back corps that is clearly the worse for the wear. Taylor is joined on the shelf by Marc Edwards (knee), Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (foot) and LaBrandon Toefield (ankle). Those injuries caused the Jaguars to sign Robert Gillespie and Frank Moreau on Monday, so that the team had enough backs to be able to conduct practice.
"I know the running back group is ready to break camp. I definitely feel it's time to be out of double-days. We're right on track. These guys are ready for one-a-days," Del Rio said.
In time, we'll know how ready.