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Offense gone to print


An offseason of intense creativity is complete. Everything about this year's Jaguars offense will be original.

"The book has been sent to the printer," new offensive coordinator Carl Smith said. Smith was referring to the Jaguars' new offensive playbook, a compilation of work by Smith's staff that is original in every way.

"We started with no pages. Every page in there was drawn by (quarterbacks coach) Ken Anderson and (offensive line assistant) Andy Heck. We said, 'What do you want to call that play? And what do you want to call that?' The approach was that we have about 200 years of knowledge in here. Let's see what we can do. Let's see what we can call it," Smith said of the new creation.

Smith is a veteran NFL and college coach and quite often when a team hires a new coordinator the playbook becomes a hybrid of all the places the new coordinator has been; stolen pages, stolen terminology, etc. Smith has spent time prominently in New Orleans, New England, Cleveland and at USC, and he acknowledges the plays in his new playbook are not new to football, but the drawings, terminology and how those plays have been shaped to fit the Jaguars' personnel are completely original.

"This is what we think our guys can do the best. The day after the Super Bowl we had nothing and now we have an offense," Smith said.

What is that offense? Well, Smith is going to make us wait to find out, but what's wrong with a little suspense?

If spring practices have offered any indication, it's that Smith, as advertised when he was hired, wants to get yardage in big chunks. The Jaguars have thrown the ball deep a lot this spring.

"We looked at (last year's game) tapes to see what we had; to get a feel for what this offensive team has. Now we know who we are so let's pick some plays and decide what to call them," Smith said.

When Smith looked at the tapes, he saw Byron Leftwich and Fred Taylor. He saw a quarterback with the arm to go deep and a running back with the legs to run long.

"The first thing I saw was Fred Taylor. That's what jumped out. It was a thrill just to watch him," Smith said.

Therein is the rub, too, because Taylor has missed all of spring practices as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. It is the only negative of the spring. Everything else about this offense, 29th in the league in points per game last season, has been up, up and away.

What if Taylor isn't fully recovered for the start of the season? Coach Jack Del Rio has steadfastly maintained that Taylor's rehab is on schedule and that he's expected to be recovered for the start of training camp, but, of course, there are no guarantees other than Taylor is a major player in this offense and that the playbook is largely a product of what Taylor can do.

"This isn't my first rodeo," Smith said. "I hope every guy we have is in on Sept. 11, but I'm prepared mentally at every spot. If he's not here, where are we?

"'Toe' is a good football player," Smith said of LaBrandon Toefield, currently number one at running back. "And I've seen 'Fu' live and in person at Pittsburgh. When you give the ball to 'Fu' you get all of 'Fu.' And I think Greg (Jones) is going to be a terrific fullback and I know he can run the ball, too. Those guys are stamped. We know what they are. Besides that, we have Alvin Pearman and he couldn't look better."

The better question may be: What if Taylor IS fully recovered for the start of the season? Smith, no doubt, tingles at the thought.

"The first guy I met with is Byron and he's a pro. He only has two years in but he knows he's in charge. He had to learn a new offense, new words, new routes. He said right from the beginning, 'Don't worry, I'll have it by tomorrow.' He knows he's a quick learner," Smith said of Leftwich.

Nobody has played better this spring. He is having the best practices of his young professional life. This past Tuesday, Leftwich completed 27 of 32 passes with two drops. His mechanics are improved. His actions have been quick and decisive and his throws have been tight and accurate. At the root of all of that may be Leftwich's affection for Smith's offense. Leftwich loves to throw the ball deep.

"The biggest surprise was on the first day of mini-camp and in the first three plays of (skeleton drills) the ball came right out on time," Smith said. "I'm surprised at how well it's gone. I don't want to be naïve but I couldn't be happier with the way the football team has gone through the whole transition.

It's in the printer's hands now.

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