He was dropping passes, which is exactly what he never did in college, but one part of Jarett Dillard's game remained the same: The kid can flat out jump.
The Jaguars selected Dillard in the fifth round of last year's draft on the strength of his sure-handed career at Rice. He flashed those pass-catching skills in OTA practices last spring but, in training camp, Dillard all of a sudden got a case of the drops.
"Things were just moving so fast. I had a bad case of the drops. I just focused on them so much. Every receiver gets them. They just came at a bad time for me," Dillard said as he looked back on his rookie season, which was cut short by a broken ankle he sustained in the ninth game of the season.
At the time, Dillard was beginning to work his way into the offense. He had made a 33-yard catch against the Chiefs in the previous game, which followed a 23-yard reception on a third-and-20 play in Tennessee.
The broken ankle occurred along the sideline in Giants Stadium, following a catch for a short gain. The Jaguars won the game, arguably the team's signature win of the season, but lost Dillard for the rest of the year.
"As I was about to turn up field, a defender landed right on the sweet spot of the ankle. You realize it's part of the game. I'm a hundred percent full go now," he said.
The Jaguars' offseason conditioning program signals the start of a new season. Dillard's rookie year is behind him. He's ready to take his game to a higher level and he'll be counting on his sure hands and a 42-inch vertical leap to take him higher.
"Have the game slow down, be calm and play the game I enjoy," he said. "My weight is at 190 and is a good weight for me to play at. I'm working on routes being crisper, hands can always get stronger, and on that connection with Dave (Garrard)."
It was said he never dropped a pass at Rice. His moniker coming into the draft was of a prospect a little on the small and slow side, but as a guy who played higher than he was tall and, of course, caught everything. He wants that to remain his reputation.
"If it's thrown my way, I'm going to catch it. That's the type of receiver I was at Rice. If it's in my area, I'm going to catch it," Dillard said.
In 2009, Mike Sims-Walker emerged as a big-play receiver and Mike Thomas, last year's fourth-round pick, surfaced as a utility pass-catcher. Dillard will have to battle for playing time.
"We're pushing each other to the max. It's a good competition. We all want to compete. We all want to get better," Dillard said.
He'll have the experience of his rookie season to guide him.
"I felt overwhelmed in a couple of aspects. There's no room for mistakes. I'm such a perfectionist that when I would make a mistake it would bring me down. It's who can bounce back from a mistake the fastest. Later in the season, I was able to cope with them better," he added. "I want to run precise routes, be in the right spot for Dave and catch the ball."