It's become the red-hot competition of training camp. No, not the alleged battle between Mark Brunell and David Garrard at quarterback. This one is the real thing.
Leander Jordan completed his second full-pads practice of training camp as the Jaguars' starting left offensive tackle this morning. And Jordan, who replaced incumbent starter Mike Pearson on the first offensive line, was especially impressive this morning in a spirited nine-on-seven drill.
"He's competing for a starting job," offensive line coach Paul Boudreau confirmed, "whether it be at right tackle or left tackle."
Wow! Apparently not even right tackle Maurice Williams' job is guaranteed. Is Jordan, who failed in a three-year bid with the Carolina Panthers, that good?
"I told them I have no preconceived notions. I want to be able to turn the film on and say this guy can play," Boudreau said.
Jordan's physical gifts are obvious. At 6-4, 322, he's cut like a fullback. He's quick, nimble and can run forever, as evidenced by his huge "victory" in practice-ending wind sprints.
But for all of his athletic talents, Jordan would have to be considered a longshot to stick in the league. He played but one year of high school football and learned the game on the small-college level.
"He came from a small school and he wasn't that mature about technique and what you have to do as an NFL player," Boudreau said.
Jordan admits he spent his rookie season -- the Panthers drafted him in the third round in 2000 on the strength of his impressive combine workout -- goofing off. Immaturity has been the issue in Jordan's brief career and he may have turned that corner last season when he was released by the Panthers and landed in Jacksonville, where he got a chance to view the game from Tom Coughlin's perspective.
"I'm definitely more mature than when I was 22. I know what it takes," Jordan said. "(The light) has been on. I just had to prove it to people."
If all of this is true, then the Jaguars will have landed a major offensive line talent for the price of a waiver claim. But Pearson is expected to make a push to reclaim his job, and that's exactly the effect Boudreau and head coach Jack Del Rio want Jordan's promotion to produce.
"I told him wherever you go it's a fresh start," Boudreau said of his conversation with Jordan in Carolina last summer. Ironically, Boudreau was Jordan's coach with the Panthers. "When I got here, he said, 'Are you going to cut me again?' I think he sees this as an opportunity to start in the NFL."
Pearson lost his job following a nightmarish practice on Monday morning. After a strong training camp start on Saturday and Sunday, Pearson struggled in one-on-one pass-blocking drills, then got "timbered" in 11-on-11.
"I didn't know I was being promoted. I just thought they were taking looks at different people," Jordan said of Tuesday morning's practice.
But he knew of his promotion when he stepped onto the field this morning. He was at the test. "I want to see him against the 'varsity,'" said Boudreau, who scheduled Jordan for multiple reps against veteran defensive end Hugh Douglas.
Jordan passed the test impressively.
"Leander has matured as a person. He's battling with Mike Pearson and Mo Williams. Leander has earned the right to get a look," Del Rio said.
In other developments this morning:
• Star running back Fred Taylor sustained what is believed to be a minor knee strain. "We don't anticipate any problem there," Del Rio said.
• James Tuthill and rookie Seth Marler were each four-for-four and Danny Boyd was three-for-four in this morning's field-goal kicking competition. Tuthill and Marler posted makes from 53, 46, 42 and 37 yards. Boyd's miss was from 46, wide to the right.
• John Henderson was released from Baptist Medical Center yesterday afternoon, after being felled by the heat in the morning, but did not practice this morning. Henderson was in meetings last night. "John's doing great," said Del Rio, who suggested the Jaguars reacted with possibly more urgency than necessary. "We're going to err on the side of caution," he added.
• The Jaguars will conduct their first night practice tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. There will be an 11:30 a.m. special teams practice. The night practice, for which the Jaguars have brought in portable lights, will be a full-pads affair. Del Rio said he had decided on the night schedule change prior to Henderson's heat episode.
• Larry Smith returned to practice today following his bout with the heat on Sunday morning.
• Del Rio said he has given careful attention to the Henderson and Smith heat-related issues. "We went back and counted every rep and the reps weren't out of line. Larry Smith had 16 reps before he went down. It's hard to have fewer than that and get ready for an NFL season," Del Rio said.
• As a result of reports of Smith's and Henderson's problems, Del Rio has quickly developed a national image of punishing his players. Of course, the first five days of training camp have been anything but punishing. Water breaks have come every half hour and considerable time has been spent on walk-through drills. "If people think I'm Bear Bryant running the 'Junction Boys,' they can write that," Del Rio told reporters following this morning's practice.
• On first-round draft choice Byron Leftwich's holdout, Del Rio said, "That process is working itself out. In the end, we will have a deal that's fair for him and responsible for the team."