AREA OF FOCUS
If all goes as planned, the Jaguars' starters will play through the first half Friday. If all goes as planned, that will include rookie first-round draft selection Justin Blackmon, too.
Blackmon, who ended a 10-day holdout Monday, August 6, did not play in the team's preseason opener Friday, but Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey said earlier this week he will play against the Saints in New Orleans on Friday. He is expected to start the game, and Mularkey hopes Blackmon can play the entire first half.
"We're going to talk tomorrow night about participation but we're going to try a minimum of a half," Mularkey said. "Again, if I see any indications that he's not in top shape I'm not going to put him out there. That exposes him to injury. That exposes us to failure on offense."
"So as long as he's playing at a high level then he will stay in there."
Mularkey said Blackmon's conditioning improved Tuesday from Monday, his first day in full pads in an NFL practice.
"He's still a little bit behind the eight ball with some of the things – splits, depths, reads – but I'm pretty pleased with him for missing as much as he's missed to be able to do what he's done," he said. "He has stepped in with the first team. He has some work to do, though."
Mularkey said while the starters will play the first two quarters, the team will not game plan for the Saints game.
Left guard Eben Britton left practice late during the morning drills with what he and Mularkey each said shortly thereafter was cramps.
Britton had walked gingerly from drills to a shaded area at the end of the middle field at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields.
"He's just gassed," Mularkey said. "Eben Britton just went a hundred miles an hour and it was a physical practice. When he's not talking in the huddle and he doesn't have high energy I know he's spent, so that's the word on him."
Mularkey emphasized that the incident was not related to the back issues that kept Britton out much of last season.
"I was concerned the way he walked off but it was cramping," he said. "He goes above and beyond his energy level, so I could tell immediately something was going on with him."
Britton was more succinct in his analysis.
"Dude, I just red line it," he said, smiling.
"We want more sacks but we want pressure on the quarterback. We don't want a guy (opposing quarterback) that can stand in the pocket and have all day. We want a guy that has to move in the pocket, he has to slide, he has to make the perfect throw. We want to disrupt his normal pattern so whether that's getting a hand on him or making him take one step to the side it's not normal anymore."
CB WILL MIDDLETON ON THE JAGUARS WIDE RECEIVERS
"It's practice, but you have to treat it like a game. These guys can make you look bad. They have a really, really good receivers coach (Jerry Sullivan). What he has installed in those guys, they are literally taking it to the field. You hear him coaching from the sideline. You hear them receiving the coaching, then applying it. We talk about it in the defensive backs room. We have to make sure we're ready because those guys are practicing so well and taking what their coach says to heart."
WHAT WE SAW
As training camp practices go, this was intense stuff. That was easy to see from the sideline Tuesday morning, and Mularkey confirmed what many on the sideline at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields believed – that a morning "9-on-7" drill was as good a practice drill as has been seen around the team in a while. Rashad Jennings broke a long run down the right sideline early in the drill, and Montell Owens and Keith Toston also had long runs. Jennings closed the drill with another long run, and early in the drill, backup running back Jalen Parmele and defensive end Jeremy Mincey got into a heated exchange that lasted through the next play or two. The offense was particularly vocal during the drill, and Mularkey later called it "a great period." He added, "That is where we've got to be up front with both sides of the ball we've got to be physical. That was by far the best period that we had the whole camp."
Training camp continues with its normal schedule Wednesday, with a practice with full pads from 8:30-11 a.m. and an afternoon walkthrough. Practices are closed to the public.
Practice Tuesday wasn't just intense. It was productive and may have been the best day for the passing offense during training camp. While the defense had the edge in a late red-zone drill, quarterback Blaine Gabbert may have had his best day of camp hitting long and intermediate throws, connecting with wide receiver Laurent Robinson on two long passes late in practice.
Overall, Mularkey said the day was the best in camp for the receivers. "They're catching it and running and not slowing down,' Mularkey said. "We need to hit some deep ones. We've got to keep people threatened by that." Not only did Gabbert connect with Robinson, backup Chad Henne hit wide receiver Mike Thomas down the middle for a long pass and wide receiver Cecil Shorts continued to get open consistently, catching a touchdown pass in a red-zone drill. Gabbert also had a solid team drill midway through the practice, completing a 20-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis and a 15-yarder to Robinson. "It's good to get some chunk plays, get it in one play if you can," Robinson said. "We're just working on getting our timing down, our depth down."
*Mularkey said while practice started well, it was less crisp at the end with too many false starts and defensive holding penalties. He said one reason is it was the second what he expects to be three hard morning practices during the final week of training camp. "I told them the third week of camp is the fourth quarter of the game," he said. "It is extremely difficult. We are going to be a good fourth quarter team. We're not going to let up on you because it's hot and its third week and you've got pads on. We know how you feel. We've been around in the League long enough. We know how you physically feel. We want to see how you respond when you feel that way. There's two ways you can do it. You can come out here and give the impression I'm sore, I have aches and pains, or you can come out here and get a lot of work done. We have. These guys to their credit, which doesn't surprise me, have come out here for two straight days and worked their tails off in a tough environment. This week is a grind."
*Center John Estes was one of several Jaguars players not at practice Tuesday, and Mularkey said it continues to appear Estes will miss significant time with a knee injury sustained Friday against the Giants. With Estes out, and Brad Meester not practicing as part of a normal training camp routine, rookie Mike Brewster worked with the starters at center Tuesday. Other Jaguars players not practicing Tuesday: guard Jason Spitz (foot), guard Will Rackley (ankle), tight end Zach Miller (pec), defensive end Austen Lane (foot), cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring), fullback Brock Bolen (knee), linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) and cornerback Leigh Torrence (concussion program). Guard Josh Beekman and cornerback Mike Holmes worked in shorts and linebacker Nate Bussey worked in full pads after joining the team this week.
*While Lewis' conditioning has definitely improved early in camp, Mularkey said he still has work to do in the area. "Our tight ends move a lot," Mularkey said. "We do a lot of shifting, we do a lot of motions, we do a lot of finishing of plays and if you're not in the best condition of your life you're going to feel it. He's got plenty of time still to get that done and we will work him to make sure that happens."
*Jennings practiced full Tuesday after working a lighter load Sunday and Monday. Mularkey said Jennings "deserved" the break. "He ran hard in the game – had a couple bumps and bruises but he was back at full strength today," Mularkey said.
*Owens is currently the backup running back, Mularkey said, adding that Owens has looked good with every opportunity he has had this training camp. "It's too early," Owens said, smiling. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to make this team, year after year, fullback-tailback-special teams. That stuff, the depth chart, it's not about that. I'm just not one of those guys."