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Walker, Broussard gain notice


Competition would seem to be the theme of this year's spring practice season and summer training camp, and that competition began in full on Saturday morning, as Jaguars rookies joined veterans for the start of mini-camp.

"I feel like we have a young, talented group," coach Jack Del Rio said of his wide receivers. "I think we have competition across the board on our roster."

The rookies' arrival heightened the drama, especially at wide receiver, where third-round draft choice Mike Walker and seventh-rounder John Broussard quickly gained attention. Walker made a leaping, twisting catch along the sideline, while Broussard flashed speed the Jaguars previously didn't have at the position.

"Strong hands to the ball," Del Rio said of Walker. "We saw that on tape and we saw that right away today. In traffic, he's a real threat.

"(Broussard) is legitimately fast. He was probably the fastest guy on the field. The speed was evident. Any time you can run like that, you're going to get a good look," Del Rio said of Broussard.

"Right now, they're talking about me as a speed guy who can stretch the field, but I can do a lot of other stuff, too," Broussard told reporters after practice.

Free-agent acquisition Dennis Northcutt was impressive in the team's three-day passing camp and took his game up a level on Saturday. He may be the Jaguars' best receiver.

Wide receiver is expected to be a position of intense competition this summer. Reggie Williams and Matt Jones are the holdover starters and Ernest Wilford caught 36 passes last season. Jones sat out a portion of today's practice with a quad strain.

Two other rookies, second-round linebacker Justin Durant and fourth-round punter Adam Podlesh flashed their talent. Durant runs well and worked out at weakside linebacker. Podlesh boomed punts in the special teams portion of practice.

"I expected it to be a lot harder. I wasn't expecting to catch on as quickly as I did. I think I can be an asset to the team," Durant said.

Podlesh was likewise confident of his contribution.

"I feel I have enough experience and talent to handle a starting spot," he said.

"Solid start," Del Rio said of the practice. "I liked the energy. I liked the attention to detail."

Del Rio told his rookies on Thursday night that they should be prepared to compete because the Jaguars' track record is that those who compete are rewarded with roster spots. He made a point of telling the undrafted players that he has kept an undrafted player or players in each of his four seasons as head coach.

"Montell Owens was number nine on the depth chart (at running back) and we were going to keep five," Del Rio said of the undrafted running back from Maine last year. "You can let your spirits go down and you'll have no chance. Or you can do what (Owens) did; try to come out and impress the coach. Montell made our team because he had the sheer desire to do so."

Defensive end Bobby McCray was the only no-show. McCray is protesting the team's use of an RFA (restricted free agent) tender and wants a long-term deal.

Guard Chris Naeole reported for mini-camp, for which attendance is mandatory. Naeole is unhappy about his contract and did not attend the team's voluntary passing camp earlier this week.

Seven players did not practice: Marcus Stroud (ankle), Rashean Mathis (quad), Donovin Darius (leg), Reggie Hayward (Achilles), George Wrighster (shoulder) and rookies Brian Smith (hip) and Andrew Carnahan (knee).

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