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Gibson provides punch in practice with Saints


The smallest player on the Jaguars roster provided the most punch. Coach Tom Coughlin wished it had come from his offensive line.

Wide receiver/punt returner Damon Gibson, 5-9, 183, wrestled New Orleans Saints linebacker Roger Knight to the ground and landed two punches to Knight's facemask, in an altercation during the morning session of today's combined practices between the Jaguars and the Saints at the Jaguars' Alltel Stadium practice facility.

Then, Gibson followed his fisticuffs victory by catching a deep pass in stride from rookie quarterback David Garrard. Gibson beat Saints cornerback Michael Hawthorne, from whom Gibson ran away at the goal line.

Gibson's one-two "punch" left him the star of this morning's session. Other Jaguars who showed well on the offensive side of the ball are wide receiver Jimmy Redmond, who made twisting catches of deep passes from Garrard and Roderick Robinson; undrafted rookie wide receiver Corey Parchman, who made an acrobatic, juggling snare of a rather poorly thrown deep ball by Robinson; and Stacey Mack, who was the most effective of the Jaguars running backs. The Jaguars defense worked against the Saints offense in the middle field, which was blocked from the view of media and fans.

Coughlin was upbeat emotionally in assessing his team's performance, but he clearly expected a better effort from his offensive line in today's afternoon session.

"It didn't appear right away to be what we wanted it to be; improving, is what I mean. It was a good morning, but I think it can get better," Coughlin said.

Coughlin's specific irritation was his offensive line, which was held at bay by the Saints' impressive defensive front, led by defensive tackle Norman Hand.

"It wasn't as good as it can and should be," Coughlin said of his offensive line's performance. "I think we can come off the ball a lot better than that; on the other field (defense), too. The fronts are something we're very concerned about."

Haslett wasn't satisfied by his offense's performance, either. "I thought both offenses had trouble moving the ball inside," Haslett said.

Quarterback Mark Brunell didn't have his best practice. At one point he had thrown six consecutive incompletions and had been intercepted.

"I didn't think our accuracy was good. I think our skill performance needs to be better this afternoon," Coughlin said.

Of course, the Jaguars were without star wide receiver Jimmy Smith, whose contract holdout is in its ninth day. Bobby Shaw continued his strong training camp showing, and Patrick Johnson's performance continued to lag behind, which would seem to have put Shaw in the driver's seat in the competition for the "Z" wide receiver job.

"Shaw has made more plays of late. I'm still counting on both of them," Coughlin said.

Garrard continued his strong bid this week to persuade Coughlin not to sign a veteran backup. Garrard appeared to be on top of his game this morning, against one of the NFL's better defenses.

"It's a great feeling," Garrard said of his long completion to Gibson, "because you go through so much trying to learn the offense, and because it's against another NFL team.

"After a week, I feel I can compete. Can I make all the right decisions? That's the question. Things are pretty decent right now," he added.

Brunell cast his support for Garrard. "He doesn't lose his confidence. He shows all the signs of being a player with a future," Brunell said.

The Jaguars' star quarterback also maintained his support for Smith. "Right now, I'm very pleased with our receivers, but, do we need Jimmy? Gosh, he's our best player. We have to have him," Brunell said.

This morning's practice was running back Fred Taylor's first action against another team since he suffered a season-ending groin injury in the first half of the second game of last season. Taylor's performance this morning was not up to his previous standards, but, of course, he didn't get a lot of help from his offensive line.

"It was a start," said Taylor, who was asked if he's back to "Old Fred" status yet. "Not necessarily, but I'm working on it," he said.

"Coming off that left leg, exploding through the hole off my left leg, it's coming back. I can feel it," Taylor added.

Middle linebacker Wali Rainer was not satisfied by the defense's performance. "I think we have to pick up the pace in the second practice. I think we played below our standards," Rainer said.

Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud suffered a mild ankle sprain in the morning session, but Stroud said he expected to be in uniform this afternoon.

First-round draft choice John Henderson, who is expected to team with Stroud in the middle of the Jaguars' defensive line this year, was said to have made a couple of plays.

"He was a kid we really liked on tape," Haslett said of Henderson. "He's probably not as athletic as (Albert) Haynesworth, but he gives 100 percent all of the time."

Today marked the third consecutive year the Saints have practiced in Jacksonville. Haslett said a lack of locker room facilities is the reason the Jaguars haven't practiced at the Saints camp.

In other news, Coughlin said rookie offensive tackle Mike Pearson (ankle) is expected to be back at practice on Sunday, and wide receiver Micah Ross (knee) will undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage on Monday.

Afternoon practice

Coughlin gave his team a thumbs-up for its improved effort in this afternoon's practice with the Saints.

"The intensity level was up. This morning wasn't as intense as I'd like, but this afternoon was," Coughlin said.

Especially gratifying for Coughlin was the work of his defense, which was led by Henderson in his spirited battle against Saints rookie guard LeCharles Bentley.

"They were pretty stout," Coughlin said of his defense. "They were getting after it. Both fronts were better this afternoon."

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