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New faces bring new energy


His starting running back, left tackle and top three receivers from last season are all gone, but David Garrard didn't make it sound as though that's all bad news.

"I'm more excited," the Jaguars quarterback said of his attitude in this year's mini-camp. "Fred (Taylor) is a guy we'll miss. I really feel like Jack (Del Rio) and Gene (Smith) did a great job of bringing talent in here to help get us back in the playoffs. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm excited things have started."

The field is littered with new players wearing old players' numbers. When a pass is completed or an interception is made, most onlookers find themselves reverting to the Jaguars' roster to find out who made that play.

It speaks of an offseason of cleaning out the roster. This is a new start and coach Jack Del Rio speaks of a freshness in the air, and no position supports Del Rio's words more than wide receiver, where three second-day draft picks are attempting to fix a seemingly age-old problem.

"I don't want to call them 'bad apples,'" Garrard said of those former players who were weeded out this past winter, "just guys that made mistakes. I'm sure they regret having made those mistakes."

You didn't need a scorecard to know Garrard was speaking of former first-round picks Reggie Williams and Matt Jones. They remain unsigned free agents.

"We want guys we know aren't going to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons," Garrard said. "It's being able to count on those guys that when the ball is in the air they'll make a play."

Fourth-round pick Mike Thomas is a player on whom Arizona could always rely on making a play. He is, in the vernacular, a playmaker. He's also on the short side, which has caused him to be compared to Carolina star wide receiver Steve Smith.

"I love it. Steve Smith is a great athlete. To be compared to someone like that is a lot to live up to and I love it," Thomas said.

Thomas is a run-after-the-catch specialist. At Arizona, he was featured in the bubble-screen play. The Jaguars, no doubt, have plans for him.

Jones led the Jaguars in receiving last season with 65 receptions, but Jones averaged only 1.1 yards after the catch.

What does Thomas think he'll average in yards after the catch?

"I'd say about six or so," he said.

What did he average at Arizona?

"I'm not even sure but I know it wasn't a yard," Thomas added.

Oh, the innocence of youth. It seems to please everyone.

"It's more of a competitive spirit now. It's all about competing. We're doing everything we can to be better," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "When I first got into the league, everyone was saying it was a revolving door. It's come true."

Jones-Drew will replace Taylor as the team's feature back. First-round draft choice Eugene Monroe is likely to replace Khalif Barnes as Garrard's left tackle. Newly-acquired veteran Torry Holt is expected to be Garrard's number one receiver.

Holt didn't practice on Saturday morning. He said he was spending some of his veteran esteem.

"I'll be ready when it counts," Holt said.

Who will be the Jaguars' number two and three receivers? That would seem to be the question of greatest interest and intrigue as the Jaguars head toward OTA practices.

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