LaBrandon Toefield was never a pass-catcher. When he was at LSU, Domanick Davis filled that role. As a rookie with the Jaguars last season, any hope of becoming the team's third-down back was probably lost in Toefield's rookie mini-camp, when footballs bounced off his hands with embarrassing regularity.
Now, all of a sudden, the guy looks like Lenny Moore. This spring, the kid who couldn't catch a foot fungus a year ago is pulling balls out of the air with the aplomb of a glue-fingered wide receiver.
"It's something I said I had to get better at," Toefield said following this morning's "passing camp" practice. "Whatever it takes to help the team win, I'll be willing to do it," Toefield added.
Well, catching the football would certainly help the team win, because even though star running back Fred Taylor was the Jaguars' second-leading receiver with 48 catches last year, Taylor led the team in drops and is maintaining that distinction through spring drills.
"I like to have one guy who can do it all. That's what I want to develop Fred into being. But if you don't have that, it's good have role players," running backs coach Anthony Lynn said.
Taylor's still trying. We know that because he cursed loudly the other day after having dropped a pass. But just in case Taylor's hands refuse to soften, the Jaguars might want to consider Toefield for, say, that third-and-five pass at the New England five-yard line with no defender between Byron Leftwich and Paul Revere.
"I'm still a power guy, speed, but in the NFL you have to be all-around. You're not going to run over anybody in this league," Toefield said.
As Taylor's chief backup last year, Toefield rushed for 212 yards, a 4.0 yards-per-carry average and two touchdowns. He was a very pleasant surprise as a fourth-round pick. He also caught 14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, and maybe those numbers are more important because the Jaguars need Toefield the pass-catcher a lot more than they need Toefield the runner.
He might be a perfect fit as a third-down back. It could become Toefield's prime role on this team. Finally, the Jaguars may have replaced Tavian Banks.
"If you're trying to get him on the field, that would be a good role for him. He doesn't drop many balls. Last year he gave people a bad impression in mini-camp. He couldn't catch a bag of balls," Lynn said.
On a team that deepened its stable of running backs with the selection of Greg Jones in the second round of the draft, the Jaguars would seem to have a man for every role. Taylor is the team's star. Jones and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'Afala are power backs; short-yardage specialists. Toefield and David Allen are utility backs with pass-catching skills.
"Whenever Fred needs a break, I'll be that guy who can step in, but I'm hoping we can be a 1-2 punch," Toefield said.
Third down would be fine.