At last, help may be on the way.
And in the case of the Jaguars' special teams, if any development is positive news it's the return of not only Montell Owens, but Kassim Osgood.
The duo has combined to play in four Pro Bowls, and Owens and Osgood – who have missed the last three and four games, respectively – are considered key element to a special teams unit that has struggled at times this season after being one of the NFL's best last season.
Osgood and Owens each could return this week. And as Jaguars Special Teams Coordinator Russ Purnell sees it, their return may not be the end-all, but it sure won't hurt.
"They're obviously outstanding players – we've missed them," Purnell said Friday as the Jaguars (1-5) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at EverBank Field Monday at 8:30 p.m.
The absence of Owens and Osgood hasn't been the only story on special teams this season.
Punter Matt Turk, signed early in training camp, struggled in the first five games of the season before being released after a loss to Cincinnati early this month. The Jaguars signed to take his place Nick Harris, who had a 40.4-yard net average against Pittsburgh Sunday.
The Jaguars are currently ranked 16th in the NFL in kickoff returns, averaging starting on the 21.4-yard line. They are 21st in the NFL in kickoff coverage, with opponents having an average starting position of the 22.3.
The Jaguars place a strong emphasis on special teams, and earlier this season Purnell said there were times the units hadn't made enough of an impact. The absence of Owens and Osgood hasn't helped, nor has the unavailability of other players. Will Middleton, also one of the Jaguars' best special teams players, has played less on the units because he has started four games for Derek Cox at cornerback.
Safety Courtney Greene, perhaps the third or fourth best special teams player, also has missed two games this season, and has missed two days of practice this week.
"It's a game of musical chairs a little bit," Purnell said. "Sometimes an injury, we'll lose a guy on special teams, maybe we'll get him on one or two phases instead of four like he's been playing. That's just an opportunity for someone else to step in and play as well. That's every team in the league; you're doing that on a weekly basis. Our young guys are doing a good job and gaining experience and getting to be better football players and making some plays for us."
Owens, who sustained a strained MCL against Carolina, practiced on a limited basis Thursday and worked full Friday. Osgood, who sustained a hamstring injury against the Jets, also practiced limited Thursday and worked full Friday.
"It's a pain in the butt to not be in there," Osgood said Friday, adding that he expects to participate in all special teams duties Monday. "I want to get involved and get the action going. Everything looks a lot better when you're winning. When you're winning, it's a lot easier to fix and repair.
"We just have to be a little more tenacious, a little more stingy in not allowing the hidden yardage."
Said Purnell, "We've seen some guys fill in their spots and do a pretty good job and get better every week. But Kassim and Montell are elite players and hopefully they're back 100 percent. They're leaders in the classroom, leaders on the practice field, leaders in the locker room and it's good to have their presence."
Also around the Jaguars:
*Defensive end Aaron Kampman, limited in practice Thursday, returned Friday and said the limited work on the first preparation day of the week likely will be the norm going forward. He missed the first five games of the season with a knee injury.
*Kampman said he felt no aftereffects of his first game back this past Sunday, and said while he had no sacks against the Steelers, he believed he progressed throughout the game. "I felt like I got better as the game went on," he said. "I hadn't played any real football in quite a while. There's no substitute for experience and reps, so the more of those . . . It won't take me long."
*Offensive tackle/guard Eben Britton (back) and Greene (hamstring) each missed practice for a second consecutive day Friday. They were the only active players not to practice.
*In addition to Osgood and Owens, the following players worked full Friday after being limited Thursday: defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (knee), cornerback Derek Cox (groin), left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder), guard Will Rackley (knee), linebacker Clint Session (elbow) and right tackle Guy Whimper (hip).
*Guard/center Jason Spitz was limited with a quadriceps injury and safety Dawan Landry was added to the injury report as limited with a thigh injury.
*Fullback Greg Jones, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Kampman and cornerback Rashean Mathis worked full after being limited for non-injury related reasons Thursday.
*Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has completed 60 of 123 passes this season, and while that's 48.8 percent, he said he's not overly concerned about the number. "I know last game the completion percentage was down, but we had a couple of throwaways," he said, referring to a 12-of-26 performance for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers. "It's all about execution in our offense, hitting guys when they're open, making the easy completions, checking the ball down when necessary. It's just a matter of us doing our job and that's only going to get better." Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said many factors influence completion percentage, including footwork, preparation, pass protection. "I would say that all of those and probably a couple of other things," Del Rio said. "I think it's a little here and a little there in a lot of different spots. I don't think you can lay it on one thing and have the answer. Overall timing, throw it better, catch it better, protect it better, all the things that make up the passing game need to be a little bit better. I wouldn't lay it on any one particular area."
*The Jaguars' defense has allowed a touchdown on the opponents' opening drive in four of six games this season. That's a trend Del Rio said needs to change this week against Baltimore, a team that has outscored opponents 59-7 in the first quarter this season. "This is a football team that is jumping on people to start the game," Del Rio said. "We're going to need a fast start against this football team."