JACKSONVILLE – First things first, Gus Bradley said this was a good start.
And on an early August night that was in a very real sense his first on-field experience as the Jaguars' head coach, Bradley said getting a start was a big part of the process.
Quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne each got work with the starters and backups, with each having productive stretches – though all in all, probably not much could be determined on any permanent basis from the Jaguars' scrimmage at EverBank Field Saturday.
Still, Bradley said he liked a lot about what he saw.
"Being out here, and seeing the crowd for this kind of scrimmage that we had today was awesome," Bradley said shortly after an hour-and-half scrimmage Saturday night in front of about 19,000 fans at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
"It's only going to get better, and I appreciated all the fans."
Gabbert, who sustained a right ankle sprain on Monday, started the scrimmage with the first-team unit, and said while he wasn't yet 100 percent, he felt close.
"He felt pretty good," Bradley said.
Gabbert started four for four in the scrimmage, finishing the night 7 of 15 for 40 yards and two touchdowns. His 20-yard touchdown to Mohamed Massaquoi was one of the night's highlights.
"I'm getting back to it," Gabbert said. "I felt great out here. We'll look at the film, learn from it and move on."
Henne completed 7 of 13 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
"We're getting better," Henne said. "We still have five weeks to go."
Bradley said the plan before the scrimmage was to work Henne and Gabbert with the first and second unit. Veteran Mike Kafka and rookie Matt Scott each got a series at the end of practice.
Bradley said he liked how the Jaguars competed, and that he thought there was good communication. He also praised rookies Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders, as well as veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis. Sanders was perhaps the night's standout player, showing the playmaking ability he had showed throughout the first week of training camp.
Bradley also said while there were few mental errors, there were some that caused sacks and incomplete passes.
"Overall, I was pleased with our overall effort," he said. "It was all what we needed as a team."
Safety Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) remained on the reserve Non-Football Injury List. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon (groin), wide receiver Taylor Price (foot) and offensive guard Stephane Milhim (knee) remained on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Running back Justin Forsett missed the scrimmage with a sprained toe, and cornerback Lionel Smith also missed the scrimmage.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey missed with a head contusion sustained in practice Thursday.
PLAY OF THE DAY
There might not be just one play that stood out from Sanders on Saturday.
But if there was a player who made consistent plays – and a player who excited the crowd at EverBank – it may have been the rookie receiver from South Carolina.
Sanders, who is expected to return punts and play receiver for the Jaguars, has been one of the standout players of training camp, and he continued that trend during the team's scrimmage on Saturday.
"He's really a competitor," Bradley said. "He showcased that tonight. Ace showed some of his capabilities."
Sanders caught two passes from Gabbert on the opening drive, and then caught an 18-yarder later from Henne. He also had a punt return of about 15 yards that he appeared close to breaking for a long return. There was no live tackling in the scrimmage.
"I was really pumped up," Sanders said. "It felt awesome, I wanted to come out here, show I knew my stuff and do the best I can. This is valuable to me. I came out and tried to give it my all every play."
Said Gabbert, "He's a little guy who plays big. He's getting better every day. That's all you can ask from a rookie."
- Robinson broke free for a long kickoff return in a kickoff drill, a play that excited the crowd but that realistically might have been a short return had the action been live. Still, Robinson showed his impressive speed on the play.
- Gabbert started the night looking accurate, completing 4 of 4 passes to start the scrimmage. Gabbert later threw two touchdown passes in goal line, one to Massaquoi and one to tight end Brett Brackett.
- Henne had an impressive drive in two-minute offense, and also had a touchdown pass in goal line to Marcedes Lewis.
- Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, running with the first team, made back-to-back plays against the first-team offense, sacking Gabbert and knocking down a pass.
- Cecil Shorts III scored on a two-point conversion reception and also had a sideline catch for a short gain early in the scrimmage.
- Tight end Allen Reisner had a 15-yard reception from Henne in two-minute.
- Defensive end Jason Babin also had a sack.
- Bradley: "I thought there was some good pressure for the defense. Looking at the execution, some of the techniques we're teaching, you see flashes."
- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew: "We just have to keep executing a little better and I think we'll be all right. We made some corrections by ourselves, which is a good thing. We moved the ball pretty well. We just have to be able to finish."
- Bradley: "The special teams, I thought, did a nice job."
- Henne: "There were some things me miscued and there were some screw-ups, but overall, we did some good things."
- Gabbert (during post-game): "These fireworks are loud."
LOOKING ON . . .
*The pass protection struggled at times Saturday, particularly the second team. Henne was under pressure throughout, and was sacked twice by defensive end Pannel Egboh and once on a blitz by linebacker Brandon Marshall.
*The scrimmage not unexpectedly produced nothing definitive in the quarterback battle. Gabbert looked good on the Jaguars' first series, and had an impressive touchdown to Massaquoi later. His touchdown to Brackett also showed impressive touch. Henne was under pressure a lot, and got the offense started in a two-minute drill. He also produced a touchdown with a jump-ball pass to Lewis in goal line.
*NFL officials met with media shortly before the scrimmage, reviewing new rules in place for the upcoming season. A key talking point was the new crown-of-the helmet rule, under which running backs and defenders will be penalized 15 yards for hitting with the crown of the helmet. Officials emphasized that the penalty will be called only if three criteria are in place: 1, the player must "line up" the other player; 2, the player must drop his head; 3, the player must lead with the crown of the helmet. Officials also said there may be situations in which a flag is dropped then picked up because someone saw something other than what the official saw who threw the flag.