JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars eased back to work Monday.
But more important to Head Coach Gus Bradley than Monday's first post-bye practice of 2015 was what might happen when the team convenes Wednesday.
The Jaguars might be feeling good – as in really, really good.
That wasn't often the case the first seven weeks of the season, and Bradley said it could make Wednesday interesting.
"We've got a lot of guys coming back who were injured, little tweaks here and there," Bradley said as the Jaguars (2-5) began early preparations to play the New York Jets (4-3) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"For the most part, guys are coming back and we're getting opportunities. A practice like Wednesday, where it's competition-based, we can do one on ones again. We weren't able to do one on ones for many weeks because we didn't have the receivers or the DBs (defensive backs) to do it.
"Now, with the guys coming back, we can go out there and get back into our competitive mode of practice and challenging these guys with one on ones. That part is where I think you're going to feel the difference."
The Jaguars, losers of four consecutive games before beating Buffalo 34-31 at Wembley Stadium in London before the bye, enter the final nine weeks of the season very much in the AFC South chase despite being three games under .500.
Images from Monday's practice as the Jaguars returned from their bye-week.
The Jaguars are in third place, but trail the first-place Indianapolis Colts (3-4) by a game and the second-place Houston Texans (3-5) by a half a game. The Colts play at Carolina (6-0) Monday night.
The Jaguars also enter the final nine weeks with a chance to have a more complete roster than much of the first seven weeks, when a slew of players including tight end Julius Thomas, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, left tackle Luke Joeckel, safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Sergio Brown, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and right guard Brandon Linder missed time with injuries.
Of that group, only Linder is out for the season. He is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
The Jaguars went through what Bradley calls a "Bonus Monday" practice Monday – a lighter practice designed to get back into practice mode after four consecutive days off over the bye week. The focus was on individual work and corrections, with two periods looking to Sunday's game.
"It was also to get the guys running around," Bradley said. "It was good."
Wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring) and guard Zane Beadles (foot) were the only players not practicing Monday, with rookie safety James Sample (shoulder) and Thomas (adomen) working on a limited basis. Tight end Marcedes Lewis was excused from practice for "personal reasons."
Lee, who missed the last four games before the bye, worked on the side with strength-and-conditioning coach Tom Myslinski doing short sprint work and did "very, very well." Bradley said he couldn't put a timetable on Lee's return, and did not rule him out for Sunday.
"I think everybody (outside the team) looked at it and said, 'It should be after the bye; I'm sure after the bye is when they're going to bring him back,''' Bradley said of Lee. "We took more of an approach to say, 'How's he coming along? We're going to be conservative with him and make sure that when he comes back he's fully clear.'
"For the most part, he has had really good days. If there has been a day when he has slowed in progression, it was due to us. We said, 'Let's hold back a little bit.'''
Tight end Clay Harbor worked full Monday after missing the Bills game with an abdomen injury. Rookie Wide receiver Rashad Greene, who is on injured reserve-designated to return with a thumb injury, is expected to be cleared to practice Wednesday. He caught passes on the side on Monday.
"I think they're excited to come back and get going," Bradley said. "I wouldn't say today out there everybody was jumping up and down excited. I think today was more, 'All right, we're back … let's get locked into it … let's get back into our routine.' I expect Wednesday to be a very spirited practice."