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Fight to make the team


They are desperate young men whose football careers hang in the balance. Cortez Hankton and Fred Stamps hope to cap strong play in the first week of training camp with an attention-getting performance in Friday night's scrimmage.

"They're fighting to make the team. They've both had real good camps. They catch the ball very well and adjust to it very well. They have to grab your attention," wide receivers coach Steve Walters said.

Hankton is a four-year veteran who is in his restricted free agency year. He is at the nexus of his pro football career. What he does this season will probably determine the direction of the rest of his career.

Stamps is a three-year journeyman who has yet to stick on a roster. He's bounced between the Jaguars' and the Ravens' practice squads. Now, after a solid week in this Jaguars training camp, Stamps hopes he'll get the opportunity to do something special in the preseason that might allow him to stick on an active roster.

"It's tough. It's real tough. You put so much into it, trying to be a team member, then it's time to cut the roster and you're no longer around," Stamps said. "I'm fighting every day. I feel pretty good. I should have a pretty good shot."

Yeah, you'd think he'd have a pretty good shot on a team with an uncertain situation at wide receiver. The only thing the Jaguars know for sure about their wide receivers this year is that Jimmy Smith won't lead them in yards receiving, as he had for 10 consecutive seasons. The mantle will be passed this year to someone. Who that someone is remains unknown.

"Nobody's a proven commodity. We're looking for a guy who can be that guy," Walters said.

The top three wide receivers are Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford, who led the Jaguars in touchdown catches last season and would seem to be having the best camp of all the wide receivers. Jones sustained a sprained ankle earlier this week and may not play in Friday's scrimmage. Williams is off to a slow start.

"We're looking for two of those guys to be starters and we're looking for the remainder of the corps to come out of the rest of those guys. At this point in camp, you don't know who's going to show up," Walters said.

The "rest of those guys" includes Hankton, Stamps, Chad Owens, Troy Edwards, Randy Hymes, Kahlil Hill, Felton Huggins and Charles Sharon. The Jaguars are likely to keep five wide receivers on their active roster, with another spot possible on the practice squad.

Hankton wants more than just a roster spot. He wants "to get on the field," he said. "I feel like once I get the opportunity, I'm going to make something happen. I would love to contribute to the offense."

He has shown flashes of brilliance, but injuries have held him back, particularly last summer, when he missed nearly all of camp with a severe ankle sprain. The Jaguars have kept Hankton around, however, because they believe he has talent. Now it's time for that talent to translate into production.

"Two of my biggest goals are health and consistency. Those are my main focuses of training camp. Every day I'm trying to go out and do something better than I did in the last practice. The main thing is to do your job in an extraordinary way," Hankton said.

How important is Friday's intrasquad scrimmage? Walters said it was a scrimmage that kick-started Titans receiver Drew Bennett's career, when Bennett was an undrafted rookie and Walters was his position coach.

Bennett starred in a scrimmage against the Colts. "He made great play after great play. Then we started playing him in preseason games. If it had not been for the scrimmage, he may have never had the chance," Walters said.

"My goal is to make the team and enjoy being on a team. I've never had that chance," said Stamps, who broke Brandon Stokley's receiving records at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Who will grab Jack Del Rio's attention on Friday night?

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