The Jaguars will wear shoulder pads for tonight's practice. Tomorrow night, all the pads go on. Let the hitting begin!
Well, maybe that's being overly dramatic. Training camps in today's NFL hardly rival the camp Jack Del Rio was in when Jimmy Johnson was the Cowboys' rookie head coach in 1989.
Johnson punished his team through two-a-day practices. "We had 21 days straight with pads," Del Rio said. "In today's salary cap era, it's almost impossible to do stuff like that."
Following tomorrow morning's practice, the Jaguars will have spent the first five practices of this training camp in a non-hitting mode. That means that since mini-camp in late April, football has been a non-contact sport.
But that's not how they play the game on Sundays. "We play the game in shoulder pads," Del Rio said. This week, the Jaguars will begin finding out who can play this game.
"Being able to stop the run and run the ball; you have to work on those things," Del Rio said.
The vehicles for practicing the physical aspect of the game are nine-on-seven and pass-rush drills. The Jaguars invested much of last year's training camp in those two exercises, and Del Rio said this year's camp will be no different.
This could be the fiercest week of training camp. Bodies are rested, limber and ready to go. It's time to find out who the physical players are. This is the week the Jaguars begin that quest, and they will do so with a roster that is dramatically improved over a year ago.
"We feel we have competition in a lot of areas now. We feel good about the competition," personnel boss James Harris said.
Three positions – wide receiver, running back and linebacker – would seem to be the most competitive. First-round pick Reggie Williams and fourth-rounder Ernest Wilford have heightened the competition at wide receiver, as has second-rounders Greg Jones at running back and Daryl Smith at linebacker.
"We feel like we have some guys capable of making some plays," Harris said of the wide receiver position, where veteran Jimmy Smith is still the team's star pass-catcher, and Troy Edwards and Cortez Hankton are trying to hold off Williams and Wilford.
"When you put pads on, it tells you a lot about a man's heart. A lot of people look good running around in shorts," Edwards said.
"Right now, I'm with the starting group and I'm going to do my best to stay a starter. I'm not going to give it to (Williams) because I think I'm a starter in this league too," Edwards said.
Harris cited "versatility" at running back, where Jones gives the Jaguars a short-yardage power runner and second-year man LaBrandon Toefield could play a bigger role as a third-down pass-catcher.
Linebacker has also seen the additions of veterans Greg Favors and Tommy Hendricks, while third-round pick Jorge Cordova could see time as a pass-rush specialist.
"We wanted to create some competition and speed at that position, and get some special teams play from that position as well," Harris said.
Who are the guys who will compete? Who will hit? Those questions will begin being answered tomorrow night.
• Del Rio told reporters that rookie wide receiver Fred Stamps strained his shoulder while making a diving catch in Saturday night's practice, and rookie running back Rich Alexis is nursing a strained quad muscle.
• This morning's practice was a special teams-only session in which punter Chris Hanson was especially impressive. Hanson, of course, missed 11 games last season due to his infamous locker room ax mishap.