FLOWERY BRANCH, GA—They were dueling quarterbacks on adjacent fields, and David Garrard and Matt Ryan were matching each other throw for throw.
On field number one, Garrard pitched a 50-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis. On field number two, Ryan found wide receiver Roddy White wide open for a touchdown on a flea-flicker play.
Back and forth the action went, as spectators between the two fields turned to their right to watch Ryan's next pass, then turned left to see Garrard's response. Ryan hit White with a deep sideline throw; Garrard pitched a strike deep down the seam to tight end Zach Miller.
It was a morning for offense in day two of combined practices between the Jaguars and Falcons on Tuesday. It was not a good morning, thank you, for either defense.
"Glad to hear that," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said when informed that Garrard and the offense had their way with the Falcons defense. "I didn't get a look over there. We were spending a lot of time over here dealing with Matt Ryan."
Ryan is considered to be on the verge of becoming one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks, in just his third season in the league. Garrard is in pursuit of the elite level. Both were elite in their performances on Tuesday, which left the defensive coaches to bark at their charges.
"You can't say 'me' six points later. It doesn't work," Falcons Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder barked at one of his defensive backs.
"He's on fire," Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith remarked of Garrard.
On a blistering hot day, the action was even hotter. It began with spirited nine-on-seven drills in which the Jaguars defense was largely ineffective.
"We did not put our best foot forward on defense this morning," Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker said. "We need to come out with a better effort this afternoon."
The Falcons creased the Jaguars defense for a couple of touchdown runs to start the nine-on-seven period. That's never a good way to open practice.
"We misfit some runs early. The period got better. Overall, we need to bring more focus and energy to the practice field. We can't ease into it. It was not our best day," Tucker added.
Linebacker Kirk Morrison salvaged some pride for the Jaguars defense by making a resounding tackle for a loss on a run wide to the Jaguars' right. Rookie defensive end Larry Hart also made a tackle for a loss, but highlights on defense were few and far between.
In skeleton, linebacker Freddie Keiaho slipped and fell in coverage against tight end Justin Peele, and the safety play was subpar. The best play in pass-coverage was made by cornerback Derek Cox, who broke on the ball to whack the receiver and knock the ball away.
Garrard's play, however, was strong enough to give the Jaguars an overall good feeling as they left the Falcons' practice facility. He was especially sharp in red-zone drills, completing a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Mike Thomas for a touchdown, a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, and dump passes to Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings that scored. The one to Jones-Drew was a nifty underhand shovel pass. Garrard did not throw an incompletion in the red-zone drill.
Meanwhile, Ryan would've been perfect, too, in skeleton, had it not been for two drops by White. The second clang job was on a would-be touchdown bomb.
"When we were in our team periods, it was great. The offensive line was blocking for me. If I keep putting the ball in there for my receivers – they call it their zip codes – they'll make plays for me," Garrard said.
The Jaguars rush-offense did not perform as well in nine-on-seven drills.