Jack Del Rio gave training camp his seal of approval and the Jaguars coach remains confident his team's offense is on the path to success.
"All the things to have a well-oiled offensive machine are starting to come together. I see positive signs but I certainly understand that those not in my position have questions. The proof is in the pudding but the pudding doesn't come until September," Del Rio said following Friday morning's camp-ending practice.
The Jaguars went to Tampa Friday afternoon in search of a second consecutive preseason win and, more importantly, an improved performance by the team's first-team offense. Against Miami a week ago, the first-team offense gained just one first down overall and allowed a sack in each of four possessions.
"It ought to be a real good test," Del Rio said of Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Bucs at Raymond James Stadium. "We expect to be a week sharper."
Del Rio would not offer specific playing-time plans for quarterback Byron Leftwich or the number one offense, opting to make playing-time decisions based on the progress of the game. Running back Fred Taylor, however, was ruled out of action for a second week.
"Fred will not play this week. He's going to suit up and warm up, but we're not going to subject him to live contact," Del Rio said. Taylor is recovering from offseason knee surgery and speculation is Taylor may see his first game action against Atlanta next Thursday.
If Taylor is indeed on the mend and close to returning to the lineup, then the Jaguars broke camp today a healthy football team. Del Rio chose to focus most of the effort in this camp on the mental aspect of installing a new offense and appeared to cut back on the physical rigors.
"We just finished three weeks of practice and a large volume of work; over 1,200 scripted plays. We were able to give our team a season's worth of work," Del Rio said. "No distractions; I thought it was as smooth an operation as we could hope for."
Camp began with at least one major question confronting the Jaguars: Should they have to play without Taylor, could they find a running back capable of replacing him?
"The answer after camp and one preseason game is absolutely yes. I think Greg Jones has looked great. I think Alvin Pearman has stepped up. I think LaBrandon Toefield has stepped up," Del Rio said. "We want to clean things up. We've established a very solid foundation. Now we need to sharpen things up."
So, what was the question confronting the Jaguars as they ended training camp? That's easy: Is this a playoff team?
That question, of course, will require a full season to answer, but the answer would seem to rest with Leftwich and the team's offense. Expectations are that the Jaguars will have one of the top defenses in the league, but the team must improve its offense, which was 29th in the league in scoring in 2004.
"We're young in some spots. We need maturity from those guys. The quicker they mature, the quicker we can become the kind of football team I want to have," Del Rio said.
"What we want to be is whatever we need to be to attack the opponent each week," Del Rio said of his offense. "We want to be able to attack them on our terms. It's less about the flash and more about winning the football game."
The only news of note from Friday morning's practice is that wide receiver Jimmy Smith was absent due to an upset stomach. He was expected, however, to be in the starting lineup on Saturday.