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Jaguars begin journey


Matt Jones caught some passes, Reggie Williams dropped one but was complimented by his coach, and Donovin Darius was absent and will be fined.

Oh, yeah, Byron Leftwich said, "I'm not 260."

The journey of a season began this morning with the first steps of the Jaguars' post-draft mini-camp. How will the journey end? In the playoffs?

That is clearly the objective and expectation in 2005.

"There's no such thing as too many play-makers. Coach Del Rio and the front office gave us a great opportunity to win football games," Leftwich told reporters following Friday morning's practice at Alltel Stadium. Leftwich was referring to a crop of wide receivers that includes Jones and Williams, the Jaguars' first-round picks of the last two years.

Leftwich is also armed with a new offensive coordinator. Carl Smith has replaced Bill Musgrave and it's thought Smith will install an offensive design that will throw the ball deep more often this year. Whatever the philosophy, the result must be an increase in scoring. The Jaguars were 29th in the league last year in points scored per game.

"As a fan, I wouldn't care how we score; just score more. It's our job to make it happen. Let's just say we should score a lot more points this year. I'm not going to let too much out of the bag," said Leftwich, who appeared slim and trim for the workout, despite reports his weight had ballooned to 260 pounds during the offseason.

Williams, the ninth pick of the 2004 draft, presented a slimmer, trimmer version of his rookie self.

"He's clearly a step quicker. I think he's matured a little bit. (Wide receivers coach) Steve Walters will do a fine job working with him on the fine points of being a receiver in this league," head coach Jack Del Rio said of Williams.

In passing drills this morning, Williams dropped a perfectly-thrown Leftwich pass over the middle but rebounded by catching the same pass a little later in the session.

"Ernest (Wilford) is breathing down his neck. Matt Jones wants to play. We've got some real strong competition," Del Rio said.

Jones made three receptions this morning. He reached down for a low throw, then made two cradling catches on over-the-middle passes.

"He's got good hands. When the ball is in his area, he comes down with it," Del Rio said of Jones.

Darius, the Jaguars' veteran safety, was absent, which prompted these Del Rio remarks: "Donovin is the one player on our roster not here. That's his decision. He's been invited; he's been notified. He'll be fined."

It was not a surprise that Darius was absent. He has not attended offseason conditioning drills, an obvious protest to having been "franchised" by the Jaguars for the third consecutive year.

Running back Fred Taylor attended the practice session but did not participate. Taylor is recovering from offseason knee surgery and is not expected to join the drills until late-June.

Jones' Jaguars debut was the feature attraction of practice. Wearing number 18, the 6-6 Jones towered over receiving mates and defensive backs. He didn't do anything spectacular, but he didn't drop a pass, either.

"I think everybody was watching Jones. He can catch. We've got some big receivers," veteran wide receiver Jimmy Smith said of the Jaguars' first-round draft choice, the former Arkansas quarterback who is attempting to make the move to pro wide receiver.

"It's not something that's caught me off-guard," Jones said of the media attention he's received since becoming the 21st overall pick of last weekend's NFL draft. "You look at Arkansas, that's their pro team. There's probably even more (media) there."

Jones took off his helmet and went down on one knee on a relatively cool but sunny morning. He told the media last Sunday that conditioning would be his biggest adjustment to the wide receiver position.

"I want to listen and learn," he said, though he doesn't regard the mental demands of the position to be too difficult. "I've seen what they've had to do. It's something I've had to do. I've just been on the other side of it," he added.

Sixth-round draft choice Chad Owens flashed the quickness that is expected to make him a feared kick-returner. Cornerback Rashean Mathis was the practice's dominant player, making two interceptions and blanketing whatever receiver he faced.

Jimmy Smith made candid remarks about last year's offense, answering "yeah" when a reporter asked him if he was frustrated by the previous offensive design. "It wasn't a vertical system. Jack realized that. We all realized that. Carl (Smith) said we're going to go for it. That fits Byron," Smith said.

"I think we're going to be outstanding on offense," the Jaguars' all-time leading pass-catcher added.

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