As Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey sees it, the growth continues for Blaine Gabbert.
Mularkey said after Thursday's practice he liked a lot about the morning's work, pointing out good route running by the receivers and good tempo overall.
He also said Gabbert continued a positive early-camp trend.
"He's taking a gradual step each day," Mularkey said.
Gabbert was accurate and strong in the pocket much of the day Thursday, and Mularkey said he was particularly good in the pocket during a two-minute drill late in practice.
"I think Blaine showed some things especially in the last drill where we had pretty good pressure in the two minute – standing in the pocket, making some of the throws," Mularkey said. "I think he's gotten better each day.
"There's little things that we're working with him not for public knowledge. There's little things off to the side that we see that he can get better at each day. He takes coaching. I say it, and it may be the next play, the next series, or maybe the next day I see him come back and try to do what we're telling him to do. So he is making every effort to get better."
Gabbert afterward said while there were some drops by the receivers in practice, the group made serious strides on other areas.
"We got better at route running," Gabbert said. "They were running crisp, perfect routes and that's what you want to see out of those guys. They had a great practice."
LANE SUSTAINS FOOT SPRAIN
The Jaguars may be without defensive end Austen Lane for a while.
Lane, a third-year veteran who missed much of last season with a shoulder injury, sustained a sprained foot during the Jaguars' Thursday morning practice, Mularkey said.
Mularkey said following Thursday afternoon's walkthrough Lane like will be out two weeks.
Lane's injury came the same day that linebacker Daryl Smith left practice with a groin injury. Mularkey said Smith's injury didn't initially sound serious, and said he likely will miss about a week.
Wide receiver Laurent Robinson and cornerback Kevin Rutland missed the morning practice while undergoing tests to determine the seriousness of head injuries, but Robinson returned for the afternoon walkthrough. Safety Jeremiah Brown missed with a head injury that Mularkey said was more serious than those of Robinson and Rutland.
Also Thursday, Mularkey said Mike Thomas was dinged up and sore in a couple of places, and the team pulled the wide receiver from some drills as a precautionary measure Thursday.
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe remained out of drills with soreness in his knee, and center Brad Meester was held out of practice in keeping with a plan to keep him fresh through training camp. Guard Will Rackley missed a second consecutive day with a high-ankle sprain.
PROGRESS IN TALKS**
Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said following Thursday morning's practice that the team has had "healthy conversations" with representatives for Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, is the lone first-round selection unsigned. The team apparently wants a contract that protects them in the event of Blackmon having future off-field issues.
Blackmon was arrested for DUI in early June.
Smith also said while there was no progress in the situation involving running back Maurice Jones-Drew, that he has been in communication with Drew. Smith said he believes in keeping lines of communication open.
Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher last season, has yet to report to camp and reportedly is seeking to renegotiate his contract.
Smith and Jaguars Owner Shad Khan each have said in recent weeks there are no plans to renegotiate with Jones-Drew.
"That was a good practice. We expect that every day. We came out here today, especially knowing it was going to be a little hotter, we were going to push them a little harder. They came out with a good mentality and did it themselves. We have to do that every day."
WR CECIL SHORTS ON MOVING FROM SLOT TO OUTSIDE RECEIVER
"I enjoy it. It's just playing football. My preference is to get on the field. I think I'm doing OK. I just have to keep pushing, and keep learning the playbook, because there are a lot of shifts and motions, things going on before the play. I just have to go out there and keep enjoying myself."
WHAT WE SAW
A whole lot of intensity. The energy level and amount of hitting has increased each day since the team went to full pads Tuesday, and there was a noted uptick in those areas Thursday. An early goal-line drill and minus-2 drill – a drill in which the offense must move from its own 2-yard line – were particularly intense on Thursday, with coaches and players yelling during and between plays. Gabbert found Brian Robiskie for a 20-yard gain on the minus-2 drill, and running back Rashad Jennings had a long run through a big hole on the ensuing play. Gabbert also completed an effective, quick pass to rookie receiver Mike Brown on the drill while wide receiver Taylor Price had a drop from Chad Henne during the drill. Price's drop was one of several for the receivers Thursday, and that's an area that still must improve – "We've got to correct that," Mularkey said – but Gabbert stood strong in the pocket on most of the out-of-the-end-zone plays, including the pass to Brown, a play on which protection broke down quickly.
The schedule has remained the same all week, but that changes in a big way Friday. The 89 players in camp will go through a 9:15 walkthrough that is closed to the public, but one of the highlights of 2012 Training Camp takes place later that day with a 6:30 p.m. scrimmage inside EverBank Field. The scrimmage is free and open to the public, and will feature extensive live hitting. Mike Mularkey's goal is to turn the scrimmage into an annual tradition for fans, and the intensity of the event should reflect that.
Things are starting to pick up at Jaguars 2012 Training Camp. While there was some focus understandably on a few dropped passes in the morning, the reality was the offense overall on Thursday morning had perhaps its best day of practice yet in training camp. Because that followed a couple of days of notable progress by the offense, it's safe to say strides are being made. The drops still have to be worked through, but even with Robinson out, receivers were getting open and there was unmistakable energy and tempo in the run game. Gabbert had a play-action touchdown pass to Marcedes Lewis in goal-line drills in the morning, and shortly after that, offensive tackle Eben Britton cleared a hole for a short touchdown run by Jalen Parmalee. Britton let loose a monstrous yell accompanied by words we won't repeat here, but there was energy and effort and it felt like an old-style training camp practice. It also felt like a step forward for the offense, and that's a good sign for that unit.
*With Monroe, Rackley and Meester out, the Jaguars' starting offensive line Thursday was left tackle Guy Whimper, left guard Uche Nwaneri, center John Estes, right guard Jason Spitz and Britton at right tackle.
*A spirited practice featured a spirited altercation early Thursday morning, with defensive end Aaron Morgan and newly acquired fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou scuffling early in the session. Mularkey said while he doesn't promote fighting in practice neither does he discourages it. He also fines players a whopping $25 for participating. "We don't want to promote it, but we do like the competitive part of it," he said. Mularkey said he did get into fights while a player, adding with a smile that while he never was fined, "I paid in the fight. I think they wanted to but they felt sorry for me, so they didn't fine me."
*Mularkey said while many of the errors – including some of the drops – in practice Thursday could be attributed to fatigue, the coaches emphasize the last half hour of the morning practice for that very reason. The 10:30-11 a.m. period is the hottest part of practice, and Mularkey said some of the most important drills of the day are placed there for a reason. "We're trying to find out who can mentally and physically execute at a high level at this time of the camp," he said. "That's what this is all about. You can't do these things when you get into the season so this is the time to find out about a lot of people."
*The Jaguars on Thursday signed second-year running back Keith Toston and released tight end Gijon Robinson. Toston (6-feet-0, 214 pounds) spent the 2010 season with St. Louis Rams after signing as an undrafted free agent.