MONROE, SMITH, RACKLEY RETURN
Eugene Monroe is back, and happy to be there.
Monroe, the Jaguars' starting left tackle, participated in practice on Saturday, as did linebacker Daryl Smith and offensive guard Will Rackley. Monroe missed the last two games in the concussion program, with Smith (groin) and Rackley (high ankle sprain) having been out the entire preseason.
Monroe, who sustained a hit to the head in practice on Wednesday, August 15, was cleared in a concussion test Friday, head coach Mike Mularkey said.
"It stinks not being able to play," Monroe said. "I had to heal up. I'm good now and ready to get back to work. I can't wait. Seeing the progress that the team is making, that the offensive line is making – it's promising. I want to be a part of it."
Smith said he doesn't know if he will play against Atlanta on Thursday, but he worked in team and 7-on-7 drills Saturday. He said he doesn't doubt he will play in the regular-season opener.
"I'm working my way back in," Smith said. "I've been staying in it in meetings and helping the younger guys," Smith said. "Now, it's getting out there and actually doing in working my way to full speed."
Rackley said he participated in team and 7-on-7, and Mularkey said he wasn't quite back to 100 percent.
"It felt good today," Rackley said. "It was good to finally get back out there."
With Monroe back, Mularkey said the starting offensive line this week will be Monroe at left tackle, Eben Britton at left guard, Brad Meester at center, Uche Nwaneri at right guard and Cameron Bradfield at right tackle.
"It's really the first full week of what we think is our starting offensive line working together," Mularkey said.
UP TO MJD
Mularkey said he can't predict the future.
He also said it's difficult to comment on what he doesn't know, which is why he can't give a final date on when Maurice Jones-Drew would have to report to play or start in the regular-season opener.
Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher last season, has been holding out since the start of training camp. Jaguars owner Shad Khan and general manager Gene Smith have said they don't plan to renegotiate his contract.
If/when Jones-Drew reports, how much and how soon he will play, Mularkey said, "depends on him, really – what kind of shape he's in, how fast he picks up the system."
"I'm not going to put him in a position where he has any chance to fail, because in the long run we all fail," Mularkey said. "I'm not going to expose him to failure. It's just not going to happen. I've never gone through this process with any player at any position, so I don't know where we are with that."
Mularkey said Jones-Drew does not have a playbook, and when/if he does return, he must go through a three-day process without pads before he can practice full or play.
Mularkey said that means for now, Rashad Jennings remains the starter.
"If there was a game today, he'd be in the starting lineup," Mularkey said of Jennings.
"He (quarterbacks coach Greg Olson) is just an incredible teacher, and very patient in everything he does. He's very passionate and very intelligent. He's exactly what I foresaw when we hired him. Based on the interview process, I knew exactly what we were going to get. I sit in the meetings with the quarterbacks. There's a lot of information that goes to them that's very easy to take in and transfer to the field."
"(Wide receiver) Justin (Blackmon) is doing a great job. He's finding ways to get open, making plays after the catch and he's doing good things with the ball in his hand."
The Jaguars will practice Sunday then return to practice Monday as they prepare for the preseason finale against the Falcons Thursday night at EverBank Field.
Justin Blackmon spent Saturday answering questions about how he caught up so fast considering a 10-day holdout at the start of camp. It was a logical question, and one the rookie wide receiver answered by saying he worked hard, studied and concentrated on what he was supposed to do. Blackmon almost certainly did those things and there's no question he has worked hard since a DUI arrest in early June. But watching Blackmon in recent weeks something else is equally obvious – that Blackmon is just really, really good and has a chance to be something special. That's not shocking, considering he was the No. 5 overall selection in the NFL Draft, but as often is the case with the draft, there were doubters about Blackmon's ability to transition into the NFL. Through two games, Blackmon hasn't erased all doubts, but he gets open and makes catches with remarkable regularity and has clearly shown he has playmaking ability beyond any player the Jaguars have had at the position for a long time. Where he takes that ability is up to him, but early signs are we're seeing the start of something that could be critical to the franchise's development.
*Mularkey said the Jaguars will work with receivers this week on making plays with defenders in their face. He said after Thursday's game that the rest of the receivers needed to do what Blackmon has been doing in terms of making plays on the ball given the opportunity. Mularkey said there were plays to be made by the receivers Thursday that could have been made. "It's not like it's a lack of trying, or lack of effort," Mularkey said. "They would have been Top 10 plays on ESPN if we had made some of those catches, but we expect that. They expect that of themselves."
*While wide receiver Laurent Robinson has come under criticism from observers for catching one pass for seven yards in the preseason, Mularkey said he is confident Robinson's production will improve. Mularkey said the offense will be better if it gets the ball in Robinson's hands. "I think we're OK right now," Mularkey said, adding that Robinson blocked well Thursday.
*Drew Nowak (foot) and cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) worked on stationary bikes Saturday after being out against the Ravens, while cornerback Leigh Torrence (concussion program), defensive end Austen Lane (foot), defensive end Odrick Ray (concussion program), center Josh Beekman and fullback Brock Bolen (knee) were out of practice. Center John Estes (knee) and guard Jason Spitz (ankle) also did not practice, while safety Courtney Greene was limited. Lane likely is a couple of weeks away, Mularkey said.
*Cornerback Mike Harris missed practice Saturday after the birth of his daughter Friday, Mularkey said.
*The Jaguars released eight players on Saturday morning: cornerback Ashton Youboty, wide receiver Chastin West, quarterback Nathan Enderle, running back DuJuan Harris, linebacker Nate Bussey, cornerback Mike Holmes, linebacker Donovan Richard and offensive tackle Dan Hoch. The team now has 82 players and must reduce the roster to 75 by 4 p.m. Monday. The team will then reduce the roster to 53 on Friday, August 31.