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Jags focused on return game


The Jaguars spent much of their offseason focus on improving special teams, and that fact will be highlighted by the competition between Montell Owens and Kassim Osgood to lead the Jaguars' coverage units.

"They're already making bets on who's going to make the first special teams tackle in the Denver game," special teams coach Russ Purnell said following the Jaguars' OTA practice on Monday.

Owens and Osgood give the Jaguars the distinction of having the Pro-Bowl special teams player, Osgood, and his alternate, Owens, on the same team. The Jaguars, of course, acquired Osgood from the Chargers in free agency.

"We're going to make a competition out of it. It's definitely a bonus for our team," Osgood said.

"We've already developed a chemistry. We're playing off each other," Owens added.

Purnell will be in his second season as the Jaguars' special teams boss and he spoke of improvements he's seeking in 2010.

"We're real proud that our punt team led the NFL in opponent return average," Purnell said, referring to 4.2 yards allowed per punt return. The Jaguars were also the only team in the NFL to not allow a punt return of more than 13 yards.

"It's outstanding," Purnell said of those numbers. "We'd like to get one more yard of gross," he added referring to a 41.9 gross punting average by Adam Podlesh that put the Jaguars at 25th in the league.

"We'd like to be more consistent in our return game. We'd like to return a couple of the big returns for scores," Purnell added. "We don't want to get any field goals blocked. The field goal we got blocked against Arizona turns your stomach."

Josh Scobee led the league in field goal attempts of 50 yards or longer, which didn't help his conversion average. "He needs to put some of those through the uprights," Purnell said.

If there is a priority on special teams this year, it's on the return game. The Jaguars spent sixth-round draft picks on two return candidates, Deji Karim and Scotty McGee. Karim doubles as an explosive running back, but McGee was selected purely for his return ability.

"We've got a lot of candidates," Purnell said of Karim, McGee and wide receiver Mike Thomas, who showed flashes of top return ability as a rookie last season. "Hopefully, one will emerge. We're going to put the best man out there."

"This year we're placing a big emphasis on our return game. That's where we have a lot of our time right now," Owens said.

Monday's practice was under the hottest sun of the spring, which is the likely reason for coach Jack Del Rio moving practice up by 30 minutes and ending it 15 minutes earlier than scheduled.

"The intensity is cranked up," Owens added.

Rookie defensive end Austen Lane was back on the bicycle after having joined practice last week. He's recovering from a soft tissue injury in his leg. Tight end Zach Miller remains on the rehab team.

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