STEPPING IN IMMEDIATELY
When it comes to Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars are wasting no time.
Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, lined up as a starting outside receiver in the team's afternoon practice Sunday, two days after he sat out the preseason opener.
Blackmon, who signed with the team last Monday, could have played against the Giants Friday, but Head Coach Mike Mularkey opted against it, not wanting to put the rookie from Oklahoma State in a position to fail. But Mularkey said he expected Blackmon will play Friday against New Orleans.
"We're trying to get him as many reps as we can with (starting quarterback) Blaine (Gabbert), obviously," Mularkey said. "He has to hear those plays and rep those plays as fast as we can get him going."
Said Blackmon, "It felt good. I'm still trying to catch up on everything, get everything down and get out there and not make mistakes."
Mularkey said the goal is to have Blackmon ready to start the regular-season opener, and that it appears Blackmon studied and worked during his holdout.
"It's a matter of transferring it over to practice," Mularkey said.
The practice Sunday was originally scheduled to be shoulder pads and helmets. But Mularkey said the team played hard enough to take the pads off two days later.
"They earned it," Mularkey said.
Blackmon's first work in pads with the Jaguars will be Monday morning.
"I want to keep improving and get better every snap," he said. "I just want to get out and make as few mistakes as possible."
The Jaguars on Sunday released veteran wide receiver Lee Evans.
They also the same day signed six-year wide receiver Demetrius Williams and guard/center Josh Beekman, placing wide receiver Taylor Price on injured reserve. Beekman's signing came amid news that three-year veteran John Estes could be out for the season, according to Mularkey.
Estes sustained a knee injury that will require surgery, and while Mularkey said it's too early to know for sure the extent of the injury, he said Estes' injury didn't look good.
"He's going to miss for sure the rest of the preseason," Mularkey said.
Mularkey said Evans, whom he coached in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005, "just wasn't the same player, obviously."
"I think he felt the same way," Mularkey said. "It's always difficult. I've been in that chair. I've known Lee a long time. I was hoping we could get another year out of him. I think he was, too. It's disappointing."
Mularkey said Evans struggled to get in and out of breaks, and that Evans approached him last week. That led to the decision not to play Evans Friday, then to his release Sunday.
"The route-running, it looked like it was hurting him on some of those breaks," Mularkey said, adding that Evans may retire. "I don't think that will ever go away. We had talked in the last week. He approached us and he recognized he wasn't the same guy on film."
Also on Sunday, Mularkey said he expects cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) and fullback Brock Bolen (knee swelling) to miss at least two weeks while guard Will Rackley could return earlier than expected from a high-ankle sprain.
While Rackley likely won't play Friday, Mularkey said he may play in the third preseason game.
"I thought the (route) running (by the wide receivers) was very good (against the New York Giants). It picked up a notch from even the practices. They did a good job with the routes and that's why some of the timing was as good as it was."
WHAT WE SAW
The Jaguars went through their 13th day of training camp Sunday, working in helmets and shorts two days after a 32-31 victory over the Giants in the preseason opener. Blackmon took work with the first team, and center Uche Nwaneri got work at center after a knee injury to Estes Friday. Fullback Montell Owens had a big run down the right sideline in team drills, and Cecil Shorts had a long touchdown on a pass from backup Chad Henne. Tight end Marcedes Lewis had a 20-yad reception from starter Blaine Gabbert and Colin Cloherty had a long touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Nathan Enderle. The practice was delayed about 25 minutes because of lightning and rain, then ended under clear skies. "I'm glad we got it in," Mularkey said. "We were going to wait it out as long as we could to get this practice in."
Training camp continues with its normal schedule Monday, with a practice with full pads from 8:30-11 a.m. and a 4:30 afternoon walkthrough. Practices are closed to the public.
For a coach who isn't "connecting with his players" (see last week's Heath Evans flareup), Mularkey seems to be doing a good job of . . . well, connecting with players. He has implemented a program he first had when he was the head coach at Buffalo in 2004-2005 in which he donates $250 to the Ronald McDonald House if a player hands the ball to the official after a touchdown. Mularkey started the program when the league started penalizing 15 yards for excessive celebration. "I thought, 'How can I make sure our guys don't do something ridiculous and do that and create a penalty that will really hurt our football team?' " he said. "Everybody wins. It looks good. The Ronald McDonald House wins, we win with no penalties." On Friday, Jaxson Deville knocked the ball from Shorts following the first touchdown, and on Sunday, the mascot donated $250 to the Ronald McDonald House. Owens faked a spike following a touchdown Friday, then handed the ball to the official. "He did it purposely just to see if it would get me going," Mularkey said laughing, and Owens added, "We talked throughout the week and he kept reminding us, 'If you get in the zone, make sure.' I was just pulling his leg." The team will match every $250 Mularkey donates, meaning $500 will go to the Ronald McDonald House each time the Jaguars hand the ball to an official following a touchdown.
*Mularkey said while he didn't like the pressure allowed on the first play of the game Friday, he did like how Gabbert stood in against intense pressure and delivered a long pass down the middle. "I didn't realize the pressure that came that fast," Mularkey said. "It was too fast. He actually got clobbered. I like that he stood in. That was very positive."
*Mularkey said cornerback Leigh Torrence is in the concussion program following Friday's game, but that he doesn't expect the veteran to be out long.
*Wide receiver Laurent Robinson got kicked in the leg late in practice, but Mularkey said the situation wasn't serious.
*Cameron Bradfield played well and was more productive at right tackle than at guard or left tackle, Mularkey said. He played about 50 plays at the three positions. "As soon as we started moving him, his production and execution went down," Mularkey said. "A lot of that was us doing that to him. He just came back from PUP. I'm proud as heck of how he played. If we leave him at a spot and have him play, I think he'll improve daily."
*Mularkey said he was "shocked" how well Eben Britton played at left guard considering he had been moved there two days before the game. He said Britton gave up one pressure on a play – on a play that forced Gabbert to protect himself from pressure -- he hadn't repped, but beyond that played well. "Now that he's getting more play time, he's going to be pretty darned good," Mularkey said.
*Mularkey said while Bolen will miss two weeks Will Ta'ufo-ou has played well since joining the team early in camp. "He will hit you," Mularkey said. "He fits right in with us."
*Mularkey also praised rookie free agent Drew Nowak, who played about 50 plays after moving from defensive tackle to guard last week. "He had five mental errors but you talk about a guy that has a chance to be a player," Mularkey said. "He's smart, he's tough, it's just amazing what he did." Mularkey said Nowak also can work at center.