As Mike Mularkey sees it, the Jaguars remain in training camp mode.
The Jaguars by NFL standards had a physical training camp, and Mularkey – the team's first-year head coach – said as far as he sees it, the camp portion of preseason doesn't really end until the final preseason game Thursday.
On Monday, the physical nature of camp continued with a second padded practice in as many days, and Mularkey said the physical approach has nothing to do with him being in his first season.
"That's our philosophy as a staff," Mularkey said. "It's what I'm familiar with. It's what our coaches are familiar with. It's what we're going to be."
Mularkey said Sunday's padded work was one of the more physical sessions since camp began in late July, adding that the team actually had to be more careful because too many players were on the ground at the end of plays.
"The pads are part of fundamentals and teaching," Mularkey said. "Even though we broke camp, we're still in a training phase. We're training all the way through the game Thursday night, so this is the last hard training we can do. You can't do some of these things when you get to the regular season."
After the two padded practices next week, the Jaguars will be limited to one padded practice a week for the next 11 weeks. Mularkey said those practices will more dedicated to installation and preparing for the opponent than fundamentals.
"You can't work on fundamentals and techniques, really, like you've been doing since OTAS (organized team activities)," Mularkey said.
UNCERTAINTY AT CORNER
Mularkey said he expects Aaron Ross will start the regular season at one corner.
Beyond that, not much is certain at the cornerback position, with the status of Derek Cox "iffy" for the regular-season opener at Minnesota September 9.
Ross, who signed as a free agent from the New York Giants in the off-season has started in the preseason with Rashean Mathis returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"We're still working on Rashean to get back to the level of play," Mularkey said. "He'd tell you the same thing. He's probably not a hundred percent yet but he's working his way back to it. I think he can play. I am not sure he can play at the level he's capable of playing right now."
Cox will start the opener if healthy, but the fourth-year veteran has been out since the preseason opener with a hamstring injury. If Cox can't start, Will Middleton likely will start opposite Ross against Minnesota.
"You've got two weeks almost," Mularkey said. "Thirteen days to make that decision but if it was tomorrow that would be the way we go."
With starters expected to play about 10-to-12 plays Thursday, Mularkey said the final three quarters mostly will be about evaluation.
That means the so-called bubble players will play extensively in those quarters, with young, largely unknown players getting a chance to earn roster spots on the practice squad or on the 53-man regular-season roster.
"There are players who are still on the edge of making this roster, or being on the practice squad," he said. "We want to see how they perform. Are they're going to get winded? It's not a game plan like we had last week, but it's more than we had the first two weeks.
"We just want to see some consistent play – who's going to be physical."
Mularkey mentioned safety Antwon Blake, wide receiver Kevin Elliott, defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton and linebackers such as Joshua Jones and Julian Stanford as "bubble" players who will be evaluated closely by the coaches Thursday.
"I think that's where a lot of the battles are," Mularkey said.
"I feel very good about our defense. I really do. I think they're very confident in what they're doing, they're very sure of what they're doing, and I feel good about it. (Defensive coordinator) Mel Tucker and I have talked about it. We're ahead of where we were last year at this time with a lot of things. When we get into a normal week, a normal game, and we have a good bit of our starters back let's just see where we are. I feel very good about where we are right now."
The Jaguars will practice Tuesday then return to practice for a walkthrough Wednesday as they prepare for the preseason finale against the Falcons Thursday night at EverBank Field.
Mularkey didn't mean to be unclear Sunday, and if he was, he certainly wasn't when asked on Monday. Will Rashad Jennings start at running back in the regular-season opener? Mularkey said he absolutely expects that to be the case. "Again, Rashad Jennings is going in as a starter," Mularkey said Monday. "I don't know how that came out being any different." That's as it should be. While holdout running back Maurice Jones-Drew is among the NFL's best players at his position, he has missed the first month of training camp, and Mularkey doesn't believe in putting players in a position to fail, or to be injured. If Jones-Drew were to report this week, he still would have only a week of full practice. The Jaguars' running game has been fine in his absence, so although the offense in the long run certainly needs the presence of the 2012 NFL rushing champion, Jennings absolutely should start the opener. And to listen to Mularkey Monday, that's what's going to happen.
*The Jaguars adjusted their practice schedule Monday, moving the padded work earlier in the day to avoid rainy afternoon weather. "We got a lot of work done," Mularkey said. Mularkey while the weather could jeopardize Tuesday's work, Monday was more important because it was in full pads. "It's all installed," he said of the team's plan for Atlanta Thursday. "Tomorrow's more of a day making sure we're sharp and focused."
*Mularkey said how many series the starters play Thursday will depend on the length of drives. If there is a 10-to-12 play drive, starters may leave after that, he said. "We need to establish a good drive offensively, and we need to be on and off the field a couple of times defensively," he said.
*The Jaguars on Monday morning made the final seven roster moves needed to trim the roster to the NFL-mandated 75 before Monday's 4 p.m. deadline. They placed center John Estes (knee), tight end Matt Veldman (knee), guard Drew Nowak (foot) and guard/center Jason Spitz (ankle) on injured reserve, placing fullback Brock Bolen (knee) on the waived/injured list. Bolen will revert to injured reserve if he clears waivers. The team also placed LB Clint Session (concussion) and defensive end John Chick (knee) on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The team must trim the roster to 53 players by Friday at 4 p.m.
*With multiple players being placed on injured reserve, the list of players out of practice diminished Monday, with tight end Zach Miller (calf) and Cox continuing to work on the stationary bike and cornerback Leigh Torrence and end Odrick Ray remaining in the concussion program. Defensive ends Austen Lane (foot) and George Selvie (knee) also remain out. Cox, Miller and Selvin will not play, Mularkey said.
*Guard Will Rackley also may miss the preseason finale, Mularkey said. Rackley has missed the first three preseason games with a high-ankle sprain, and after practicing the last two days experienced swelling in the area. "I don't know if I want to put him out there in this game," Mularkey said, adding that end Aaron Morgan, linebacker Daryl Smith and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe will play against the Falcons.