The pads came on, and as promised, the Jaguars kept alive a long-standing training camp tradition on Sunday night.
On this night, the defense had at least a slight edge.
On a gray, breezy evening on the final day of July – the fourth day of practice in Jaguars 2011 training camp – the Jaguars at long last donned full pads, with the highlight of the occasion in front of 3,678 fans a drill that is annually the most popular event of training camp:
The Oklahoma Drill.
"The Oklahoma Drill has become a crowd favorite over the years," Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said Sunday night. "Our guys get excited. They see the crowd out here, and they know what's coming. They know we're going to have a physical football team. This is the beginning of it.
"It was good competition."
While observers scored the overall matchup 5-2 in favor of the defense, Del Rio thought it might have been closer.
"We may have a discrepancy," he said, smiling.
The one-on-one, blocking drill on Sunday was everything it is designed to be. The crowd was electric and raucous, and the players and coaches responded with an energy level not felt or seen in what until Sunday night had been a training camp featuring practices mostly in shorts and baseball caps.
The new, post-lockout rules made it that way. The Jaguars opened training camp Thursday, and for three days were allowed only shorts and caps or helmets. On Saturday night, they held their first practice with shoulder pads, and as would be expected, the intensity level rose.
Sunday night's was the first practice with full pads, and after stretching and some special teams work, Del Rio called the players and coaches to midfield.
The setup of the Oklahoma drill is as follows:
A defensive player lines up one-on-one versus on offensive player. A quarterback – on this night, rookie first-round selection Blaine Gabbert -- hands the ball to a running back; the defensive player's job is to stop the runner or force him into one of two tackling dummies, aligned at the line of scrimmage several yards apart.
It's hand-to-hand, one-one-one, old-school stuff, and on Sunday it didn't' disappoint, with seven competitive matchups.
In the first drill, second-year defensive tackle Tyson Alualu got the edge on rookie offensive guard Will Rackley on two of three plays, and in the next matchup, veteran guard Uche Nwaneri had a decisive advantage over second-year defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith.
Rookie free agent linebacker Scott Lutrus got the edge over veteran tight end Zach Miller in the third matchup, and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley had a decisive edge over John Estes in Match No. 4. Offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge won against defensive end Larry Hart in the fifth matchup before rookie Marc Schiechl had a solid showing in winning the sixth matchup against Kevin Haslam to set up the most-competitive head-to-head pairing of the evening.
The finale featured defensive end Austen Lane versus offensive tackle Eben Britton, a matchup Lane figured was pretty much set the night before when the pair scuffled during practice.
Lane won the first play of the matchup, with Britton clearing a hole on the second. On the third and deciding play, Lane – a fiery, emotional player – got the advantage and made the tackle, drawing a high-five from line coach Joe Cullen and setting off celebration among defensive players and fans.
"It's the Oklahoma Drill – under the lights, the crowd going crazy," Lane said. "One on one, mano a mano – I'd have it no other way."
After it was over, Del Rio talked about the Oklahoma Drill as a camp tone-setter.
"We're sitting here on the fourth day of practice, Day 5 of camp, and it's the first time we were able to get into full pads," Del Rio said. "We've got a ways to go. We know that.
"The game of football is still about physicality, in the trenches in particular. The majority of what we do in that drill revolves around offensive and defensive linemen. It's just a mindset drill. It's a good way to start it off. There's intensity involved. You learn a little bit each year about different guys, how they approach it and the intensity they bring – the ability to block and shed blocks.
"It's a good evaluation tool, but more than anything, it kicks off camp."