There were only marginal signs of improvement in the passing game during this morning's practice, but wide receiver Bobby Shaw isn't concerned by the slump. After all, Shaw came to the Jaguars from what once was the NFL's traditionally worst passing attack.
"It's not something that's just in Jacksonville. We had two losing seasons in Pittsburgh and the passing game got scrutinized and talked about there," Shaw said following this morning's practice.
So, what was the cure in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers improved last season to a point few thought possible?
"The running game," Shaw answered. "When you have an efficient running game, like we did in Pittsburgh, you have to pick your poison; stop the run or stop the pass."
Shaw believes the Jaguars have the makings of a rushing attack this season that'll force opposing defenses to commit to the line of scrimmage. And that will take pressure off a revamped passing attack that is struggling to develop chemistry between an "old" quarterback and new receivers.
Through the first seven years of the Jaguars' existence, the opposite had always been true. The Jaguars had always been a team that passed first, ran second. Throwing the football is what the Jaguars did naturally; the running game has often been a source of frustration.
"It's very early. Most of the team is new. It takes time to get into a chemistry situation," Shaw said of a passing game that has struggled to complete even the most basic throws in this training camp.
Coach Tom Coughlin wasn't critical of this morning's effort, but it obviously fell short of praise. "Today was OK," he said. "It was much more competitive."
The defense didn't dominate the action as thoroughly as it did in Sunday afternoon's practice, but, of course, morning practices are mostly dedicated to the running game and play-action passing. Mark Brunell and company will wing the ball more freely this afternoon. Hold onto your hats, folks.
"We should be advancing more on offense because the offensive line is allowing us to do that," Coughlin said, complimenting his offensive line.
Backup center Kevin Long was carted from the practice field this morning with a knee injury that was believed to be an MCL sprain. That means starting left guard Brad Meester is certain to get more time at center, which will undoubtedly increase second-round draft choice Mike Pearson's role at left tackle. It could be the first true move toward Pearson taking over at left tackle and Zach Wiegert moving inside to left guard.
But that won't help the passing game. Improvement relies mainly on the development of Brunell's relationship with Shaw and a cast of newcomers at wide receiver. Time and patience is required.
"Take two aspirin and worry about tomorrow," Coughlin said of his prescription. "It upsets me. I look forward to the next day."