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Good evaluation crucial


The exacts and particulars have yet to be determined.

But as Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio looks ahead to the final week of training camp and second game of the 2011 preseason, he said he does know a few things about the preseason home opener Friday against the Atlanta Falcons.

He wants to see improved play throughout the game.

He's going to see the front-line players playing a bit more than they did a week ago.

But when it comes to the preseason, it's still very much about evaluation more than winning, and that will remain the case this week.

"The first groups will continue to play a bit more this week," Del Rio said Monday between a pair of Jaguars 2011 Training Camp practices. "I think that's been pretty solid throughout camp with those guys, but we're just trying to bring up to speed some of those back-end guys who are fighting for roster spots.

"We're just trying to make sure we're putting them in position to do some things they can do so we can get a good evaluation. That part of it will continue.

"In the end, it's important we select the right 53 guys for this roster."

Del Rio on Wednesday reiterated that while running back Maurice Jones-Drew and defensive end Aaron Kampman are working increased repetitions in practice, they will not play against Atlanta. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, after missing the preseason opener, is expected to play Friday.

Del Rio, who said he believes starting quarterback David Garrard will play Friday after missing the preseason opener with a back injury, also said offensive tackle Eben Britton remains out with a back injury, but that there currently is no further update.

Rookie guard Will Rackley, who sustained a dislocated finger Sunday night, practiced Monday morning, and Del Rio said he believed Rackley would continue working.

"If you're asking me to guess, I'd assume that an offensive lineman with a sore finger would continue to practice," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars' two-a-day practices conclude Wednesday with a night practice against the Atlanta Falcons that is closed to the public.

"We practiced last year against them," Del Rio said. "It was very professional. We went after them pretty good, and it was under control, competitive and respectful. I think we expect more of the same."

The Jaguars lost to the New England Patriots, 47-12, in the preseason opener last Thursday. While the lopsided score concerned some observers, Del Rio has said the Jaguars liked a lot about what the team saw during the game from the front-line units. In particular, the coaching staff likes the progress of the defensive line, and the offensive line for the most part played well.

The team also got good early performances from a defense that is focused on creating turnovers this season, as well as a solid half from rookie first-round quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who played the first half in his first NFL start.

"As a football team, we want to continue to improve, and namely, improve on playing fast – offensively, defensively and on special teams," Del Rio said. "The idea of understanding where you belong, getting there with urgency, but under control so you can make the plays that present themselves – I think that's the bottom line in executing at a higher level. That's what we're looking for."

Also on Monday, Del Rio said:

*The Jaguars are working through the defensive line rotation, and that it will be a group – particularly at the end position – playing versatile roles. So far in camp, Aaron Kampman and Jeremy Mincey have worked at each end position, and the team likes what it has seen early from free agent end Matt Roth. Austen Lane has had a good camp, and Leger Douzable has been consistent working at end and tackle. "With adding Matt, we add another guy we know can play and help us win," Del Rio said. While Del Rio said on Saturday he expected Kampman to take fewer snaps than last season, he said, "I don't know that I ever recited an actual number of what Aaron's actually going to play. We'll work through that, but we don't feel like he needs to play 75 snaps week in and week out for us to be at our best and for him to be at his best. That's where that kind of came into play. I wouldn't worry about who is on the left and who is on the right right now. I think when we open the season it will be real clear what our plan is, and how the rotation plays out will be based upon how they earn it between now and then."

*While kick returner Deji Kareem returned several kickoffs from deep in the end zone in the preseason opener, that's not something that is expected to continue. "The instruction he has been provided will help him make a decision so we're not returning balls from nine-and-a-half yards deep in the end zone," Del Rio said. "I think he was excited to get going. We talked about being aggressive and being able to take the ball out. We'll continue to reinforce what we're looking for, but he kind of pushed the envelope on what we'd like to see." Kickoffs are widely expected to be deeper into the end zone on average this season because the NFL pushed kickoffs from the 30- to the 35-yard line. Del Rio said Monday he expects around 50 percent of kickoffs to be touchbacks this season. "If the league was determined to have fewer kickoff returns, they're certainly going to get it," Del Rio said.

*The value of the practice against Atlanta is about giving the Jaguars a chance to work against other looks, and that there will be no tackling in the session. "It's just a little exposure against another team," Del Rio said. "We're very similar in how we approach practice, so when Smitty (Falcons Head Coach and former Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith) and I get together and talk about a collaborative effort it's pretty easy to put things together."

*He expects the Jaguars to not only be a better run defense, but a better defense overall. "We're going to be a better defense, period," he said. "We're going to be good on defense. I don't think there's any doubt anybody here, coaching or playing, who's part of our unit who doesn't think we're going to be pretty good. We'll see. We'll definitely have plenty of challenges to find how good we are."

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