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Taylor in full sweat


Byron Leftwich says the offense isn't struggling and Fred Taylor remains encouraged by the progress he's making in his recovery from knee surgery.

"I'm feeling better each day," Taylor said. "I'll be there (on opening day). That's the mindset."

Taylor underwent surgery in January that turned out to be more extensive than originally thought. The running back's rehab regimen excluded practicing with his teammates during spring drills, but Taylor has worked his way back into practice during training camp and appears to have increased his activity significantly this week.

"I cut on it but not in the same fashion prior to my surgery," he said as he walked off the field following this morning's practice. Taylor even stayed for some extra work after practice ended and he was drenched in perspiration as he left the field.

"I'm beginning to put it down," he said of his left knee, "and I'm feeling other muscles getting sore."

All of that is good news for an offense that has been criticized for a slow start to training camp. The Jaguars' starting quarterback, however, says that criticism is not valid.

"I don't really pay any attention to it. You got to be crazy or don't know football to watch that film and say we're struggling as an offense. To say we're having a bad camp; if it was true, I'd be the first to say it," Leftwich said.

The Jaguars are in the process of installing a new offensive system and playbook under new offensive coordinator Carl Smith. The team's practices and its scrimmage last Friday have produced impressive plays, but the defense has been judged the winner on most occasions.

"We feel good about the direction and what we're getting done now," coach Jack Del Rio said after practice today. "If it's not a trained eye, you don't understand how close we are."

Del Rio challenged his offense following Monday morning's practice, which included dropped passes and what some would describe as typical Monday morning blahs following an off day. Leftwich said the performance of the offense has improved since then.

"You just want the truth to be out there. To hear we're struggling, you can't be seeing the same thing," Leftwich said.

Del Rio explained that defense typically carries the day in most training camp practices around the league.

"Our defense is good but they've seen our offense over and over. That's universal around the league. Defenses that see offenses all of the time are going to do pretty good," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars will see new faces this Saturday when they kickoff the preseason with a game against visiting Miami at Alltel Stadium, and Del Rio began cutting back on the practice regimen today.

"We pulled back just a hair this morning. We're getting some strains and tight muscles," he said.

Back spasms forced wide receiver Cortez Hankton to leave the field at the start of practice. He did not return.

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