It's the most competitive position in training camp and Friday night's scrimmage will showcase the depth of that talent. LaBrandon Toefield and Alvin Pearman know they will be playing for their football lives.
"I'm always competing for playing time. I got tired of sitting on the sideline. I'm just trying to turn it up a notch. I know I can play," Toefield said as he left the field following Wednesday morning's practice.
Three years ago, Toefield was Fred Taylor's backup. Toefield had an impressive rookie season and he appeared to have a bright future.
Then came injuries, beginning with a severe ankle sprain in '04. Greg Jones moved into the backup job and Toefield became somewhat a forgotten man, as Pearman even moved ahead of him last year.
Now, Toefield is back. He's having one of the best training camps of any player on the Jaguars roster; maybe the best. He is running with such force that bigger defenders are having trouble stopping him.
"Each day is important to me. I'm competing every day. I'm competing in the meeting room," Toefield said.
The resurrection of his football career began on Christmas Eve last year, in Houston, as Toefield rushed for three touchdowns. He showed bulldozer-like power in that game and a week later he enjoyed his first 100-yard game, rushing for 102 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown run that is Toefield's career-long run from scrimmage.
Friday night, he will attempt to continue his quest for increased playing time. It may only by an intrasquad scrimmage, but it's football "life or death" for Toefield.
The same could be said of Pearman. He has great all-around skills. He can run and catch. When the Jaguars were desperate for someone to handle the punt-return duties in week two last season, Pearman stepped into the role midway through the game in Indianapolis and fielded punts with the ease of a veteran. He earned a lot of dependability points with his head coach.
Pearman knows, however, that the competitive world of the NFL isn't all about dependability. Raw ability is always the first measuring stick and Pearman isn't real big or real fast. He has to compete, hard.
"It's just another opportunity to showcase your skills. It's high intensity out there. It's very important to show the coaches what you can do," Pearman said.
There are six returning running backs (Taylor, Jones, Toefield, Pearman, Rich Alexis and Derrick Wimbush) and newcomers Maurice Jones-Drew, the team's second-round pick, and undrafted free agent Montell Owens. Obviously, all of them won't be able to stay. The Jaguars kept five running backs on their roster last year.
"That's the kind of stuff you try not to worry about. Thinking about that stuff doesn't prepare you," Pearman said. "One of the first things I realized in the NFL is if you're afraid to compete every day, this isn't the profession for you."
"I'm probably more excited about that position than any we have," Del Rio said of running back. "We have a lot of hungry guys."
The Jaguars also have a "hungry" backup quarterback. David Garrard had an exceptional morning practice. Playing with the first unit as Byron Leftwich rested his arm, Garrard threw with zip and accuracy. He completed a laser over the middle to Ernest Wilford that froze a crowd of defenders. On the last play of practice, Garrard threw a short touchdown pass to Reggie Williams.
"David's had a great camp. He's been very sharp. He continues to develop as a quarterback. Decision-making is the big thing with David," Del Rio said.
Leftwich's rest was scripted. Del Rio said it was planned to rest Leftwich in Wednesday morning's practice, and that Leftwich was fine and would play in Friday's scrimmage.
Taylor, who is nursing a tender hamstring, participated in practice. "He's doing a little more each day," Del Rio said.
Matt Jones wore a protective boot on his sprained ankle. It's thought to be a minor sprain and Del Rio said he wouldn't rule Jones out for the scrimmage, though, Jones won't play if his ankle is still tender.
Mike Williams sat out practice with a sore back. He was to see a doctor on Wednesday afternoon.
The broken finger Dan Connolly sustained in Tuesday night's practice may require surgery.
Donovin Darius and Todd Yoder, both of whom are in comebacks from knee surgery last year, did not practice.
Quinn Gray had a rough morning, having been intercepted by Rashean Mathis and David Richardson.
Jones-Drew made an outstanding sideline grab of a Garrard pass.