A mini-camp that began with players introducing themselves to new teammates and a new era in Jaguars football, ended today with a post-practice, on-the-field barbecue. In between, the Jaguars made distinct gains.
"We just began the process of building a team. That was the message coming out of camp: This is just a start," rookie head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters at the conclusion of this weekend's three-day event.
It was also a weekend that ended with a touchdown pass from first-round pick Byron Leftwich to wide receiver Henry Douglas in the camp-closing one-minute drill. Leftwich, the seventh pick of last weekend's draft and the apparent quarterback of the Jaguars' future, was markedly improved today over his previous two days' worth of practices.
"I think he improved each day," personnel boss James Harris said of Leftwich, who spent the first two days fumbling snaps from center and hunting for open receivers. Today, especially in the team's "skeleton" passing drills, Leftwich threw the ball with ease and accuracy; he was considerably more decisive in his movements.
"He really immersed himself in the offense," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said of Leftwich. "He did a nice job of learning the basics.
"Any time you feel comfortable about where your receivers are going to be, you're a little more assertive," Musgrave added. Today, Leftwich was decidedly more assertive, and the Jaguars hope that trend will continue when spring practices reconvene for the rookies in June. The veterans will next assemble on May 12 for a three-day veterans camp.
"I'm getting more comfortable with the offense; able to call the play and run the offense," Leftwich said. "Everything is new. You have new teammates. Once you get comfortable, that's when you start playing better. I started getting comfortable (Saturday afternoon)."
The Jaguars seemed to become more comfortable with Musgrave's installation of the "West Coast offense," too. "It's a lot different; a lot of quick stuff," running back Fred Taylor said, comparing the "West Coast" to the system the Jaguars had used under Tom Coughlin. "I want to see it against full contact," Taylor added.
Defensive end Tony Brackens treated his teammates to a camp-ending pig roast. With Del Rio's approval, Brackens furnished two pigs, which were cooked on the field throughout practice, causing the aroma to waft over drills.
"I see a lot of guys who want to be good; a lot of guys who want to impress their coaches. It's just natural," Taylor said in summarizing the weekend.