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Smiley would heighten competition


Competition in the interior of the Jaguars offensive line is expected to be heightened by the acquisition of guard Justin Smiley from the Miami Dolphins. The Jaguars had not announced the trade as of coach Jack Del Rio's post-practice press conference on Tuesday, as Smiley had yet to pass his physical examination.

"When that deal is consummated, I'll have something to add. If and when that deal happens, he'll be added to the mix and given a chance to compete," Del Rio said.

It's an area of the team considered to be a concern. Center Brad Meester is in the 11th year of his career and guard Vince Manuwai continues his comeback from knee reconstruction. The other two major players in the center-guard competition are Uche Nwaneri and Kynan Forney (pictured).

"Kynan's had a good spring. He's got his mind set on earning playing time. He'll fight for some time," Del Rio said as he offered an update on the competition at guard. "Uche has been a good player for us. Vinnie has a ways to go. He's trying, he's got his weight down, but he's played better and he knows that.

"It's going to be competitive," Del Rio added.

The Jaguars struck a deal for Smiley on Monday. Smiley, 28, signed a rich, free-agent deal with the Dolphins two years ago but has been troubled by injury.

"Our interior line needs to pick it up. We expect them to play at a higher level," Del Rio said.

The Jags head coach provided a mini-analysis of the spring practice season, which has reached the halfway point. Ten practices are in the books; nine remain.

"We're trying to install and teach; install at a rapid pace and slow down and teach when we can," Del Rio said. "The biggest thing is you're starting to see some of the things we're teaching starting to show up. We're seeing fewer mental mistakes and better effort."

The lone negative is the absence of cornerback Rashean Mathis from OTAs, in which participation is voluntary. Del Rio said there has been no further communication with Mathis since he told the coach on the opening day of OTAs that he would be absent.

Defensive end Aaron Kampman continues to work with conditioning coach Luke Richesson on the knee that underwent reconstruction last December. Del Rio said Kampman's recovery is ahead of schedule but that he wouldn't participate in OTAs. "He'll be ready for training camp and then we'll be smart about it," Del Rio said.

Embattled former first-round pick Reggie Nelson earned the coach's praise for his work this spring.

"He's gained some weight and he's more dedicated to his craft than he's ever been. He's doing the things he needs to do to be a good player for us," Del Rio said of the safety.

"I think overall team speed has improved. Our decisiveness at linebacker has improved. Our athleticism in our front seven has improved immensely. Offensively, we've had some days when we've been really sharp. Right now, it's really a hungry group," Del Rio added.

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