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Spotlight on wide receiver trio


Fred Taylor appeared to be his old self, but almost everywhere Mark Brunell looked he saw new faces. Such was the state of the Jaguars in this morning's first practice of training camp.

"I'm starting over myself this year," Taylor told reporters following a practice in which the running back appeared to have regained the bounce in his step he lost in the second game of last season, when Taylor suffered a season-ending groin injury.

"I feel pretty good. I was anxious to get started; get it over with. I'm anxious to see what I got," Taylor said, referring to an injury that was severe enough to cause concern it might cost Taylor the speed and elusiveness that had made him one of the best breakaway runners in the NFL.

Taylor's participation was this morning's good news. The bad news was veteran wide receiver Jimmy Smith's absence, as Smith began day two of a holdout to protest what he believes is an unfair contract. Smith wants more money, but he will lose $5,000 a day in fines during his holdout.

"That will get resolved, whether it's 10 hours or 10 days, but it does give me the opportunity to work with guys I haven't worked with before," Brunell said.

This morning, newcomers Patrick Johnson, Bobby Shaw and Darnay Scott were the targets of Brunell's passes; no Smith, no Keenan McCardell.

"Keenan was and is a great player, but at the same time you have to move on and stop talking about Keenan and Tony Boselli," Brunell added, referring to the offseason releases of two of the most popular and productive players in Jaguars history.

On this day, as the Jaguars began "Phase II" of their history, Brunell turned his attention to the future. He had led the Jaguars through "Phase I," and now he's poised to do the same in this "rebuilding" period.

"I expect us to be a solid ballclub. I feel real good about this year," Brunell said. "It's not a false enthusiasm. It's a genuine optimism; a genuine enthusiasm."

Brunell and the progress of his three new wide receivers -- Johnson, Shaw and Scott -- will be the focal point of training camp. It'll especially be that way while Smith remains a holdout.

"We're going to be a real good group. It's going to be really interesting to see what happens," Johnson said.

All three pass-catchers are vying to win the second wide receiver spot, opposite Smith, though Scott is currently working at Smith's "X" wide receiver position.

"It's no big deal because I play both positions," said Scott, who the Jaguars signed recently following Scott's release from the Cincinnati Bengals. "I had an opportunity to go other places, but when I came here they treated me with respect.

"The told me I'll have my opportunity to play. That's all I'm looking for. I'm going to show what I can do, when I get my turn," Scott added.

Shaw, signed in free agency from the Pittsburgh Steelers this past spring, was reserved in his assessment of the situation, but he said "my personal goals are set very high.

"There's no way you can replace a Keenan McCardell for what's done for the city and the team, but I want to create my own name," Shaw added.

But none of the three receivers distinguished themselves this morning, as the passing game lumbered through a practice that was dominated by defense.

"We weren't very sharp throwing the ball. The timing between the quarterback and receivers was off," coach Tom Coughlin said.

The only deep pass of the practice was attempted by rookie quarterback David Garrard, whose heave for Johnson fell incomplete. Johnson was covered step-for-step by cornerback Fernando Bryant.

"I want to make sure we get that early in camp," Coughlin said of the deep pass. "We didn't do a good job of that in the spring. I didn't like the fact we weren't very good with the deep ball last year."

Coughlin was not discouraged by his team's performance this morning. "As first days go, this was pretty good," Coughlin said.

And Taylor made it especially encouraging.

"He did good. He did a nice job. He's full speed," Coughlin added of his star running back.

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