A torrential downpour delayed practice an hour and 15 minutes, but it didn't dampen the spirits of fans who waited out the rain, nor did the delay force the postponement of Sunday evening's Oklahoma drill. The drill has become a tradition for the first full-pads practice of training camp.
The bleachers were packed with fans when practice began at 8:15 p.m. at the Jaguars' Florida Blue practice fields, and coach Jack Del Rio delighted the crowd with seven spirited Oklahoma matchups. Del Rio even provided an entertaining little-guys match between wide receiver Nate Hughes and safety Reggie Nelson, and Nelson punctuated the drill by slamming the ball-carrier to the ground.
In a game, Nelson would undoubtedly have been penalized. In the Oklahoma, he was showered with cheers.
Bout number one featured offensive tackle Eben Britton vs. defensive end Derrick Harvey. Each scored a clear victory, Britton turning Harvey out of the way for rookie running back Deji Karim to pass, and Harvey following on the next fall by fighting off Britton's block and forcing rookie running back Chad Kackert into the blocking bag.
Guard Uche Nwaneri and rookie defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith split their two falls, each scoring an impressive win, and rookie defensive end Austen Lane claimed a two-out-of-three victory over tight end Zach Potter.
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, who claims to be in the best physical condition of his life, was dominant against rookie defensive end Larry Hart, winning both falls. The Oklahoma, of course, is a run-game drill and Hart was drafted for his pass-rush skills. It must be noted that Hart beat Monroe off the ball in the second fall.
At that point, Del Rio sent Hughes and Nelson into the "ring" for what would turn out to be a best-of-three bout. Hughes clearly won round one, clearing the way for rookie wide receiver Roren Thomas to scoot past Nelson. Round two was judged to have been a draw, but Nelson held his ground on the third try, made a big hit on Thomas and then lifted and slammed Thomas to the ground on his back.
If Del Rio was sending a message to Nelson that he wants his safety to be more physical, Nelson returned the message, at Thomas' expense, of course.
Second-year linebacker Russell Allen made, perhaps, the best thump of the night. After splitting round one against rookie tight end Mike Caussin, Allen shed Caussin's block in the second fall between the two and then thumped rookie running back Deji Karim to the ground.
Center Cecil Newton and rookie undrafted defensive tackle Ko Quaye capped the drill by splitting their two falls. Newton turned Quaye in the first fall, as Quaye appeared to duck Newton's block. In round two, Quaye came off the ball low, hard and first. He moved Newton back and got off the block to drive Kackert into the bag.
The official attendance was 1,982, but there's no telling how many fans were chased away by the rain. Many of them sat in the downpour at the time practice was to begin, but lightning forced them to their cars.
When they returned, they were ready for action and they cheered every pop of the pads.