It's spring, the planting season, and Ernest Wilford says the seeds of improvement are beginning to take root.
"I guarantee it's going to be a better offense. We're taking deep shots and executing," the second-year wide receiver said following Tuesday morning's veteran camp workout at Alltel Stadium.
Jaguars wide receivers are reveling in new offensive coordinator Carl Smith's throw-it-deep passing attack. Rookie Chad Owens made the big-ball catch this morning, beating cornerback Kenny Wright for the "score."
Ironically, Owens was drafted more for his kick-return skills than for his potential as a receiver, but the sixth-round pick from Hawaii has been impressive as a pass-catcher through mini-camp and OTA (organized team activity) drills.
He's just another pair of hands in a stable of wide receivers that represents one of the deepest positions on the team. It begins with veteran star Jimmy Smith and proceeds through veteran Troy Edwards, vastly-improved 2004 first-round pick Reggie Williams, promising third-year man Cortez Hankton, Wilford and this year's first-round pick, Matt Jones.
What is Carl Smith going to do with all of those wide receivers?
"It's a big challenge right now. Everybody's fighting for a roster spot," Wilford said.
Wilford burst onto the scene in dramatic fashion last season. He made the game-winning touchdown catch on the last play of the game in last year's season-opener, then caught the game-winner the following week in the home opener.
It was a twist of fate for Wilford who, at Virginia Tech, dropped a two-point conversion-pass attempt against top-ranked Miami. Last year for the Jaguars, Wilford was "Mr. Clutch."
"I still re-live that play every day. I vowed not to ever do that again," Wilford said.
So what's ahead for Wilford this season? Will he remain "Mr. Clutch?" Or will he be used more frequently in the non-clutch situations, too?
"My goal is just to get better every day. How they want to use me I don't know. I know I'm good in clutch situations," Wilford said.
Wilford and company all had their moments in Tuesday morning's practice. Edwards looked especially sharp.
Jones, on the other hand, remains sidelined by his hamstring injury. Jones, the 21st overall pick of the draft, sustained a hamstring pull on the first day of mini-camp (April 29) and missed the final three practices of that weekend. He was sidelined for last week's three practices and sat out the majority of this morning's drills.
"He's continuing to do well," head coach Jack Del Rio said of Jones' recovery. "He actually took some one-on-ones today. We're going to be smart with him."
Temperatures topped 90 degrees this morning, a foreboding of even hotter days for training camp in August.
"When it gets hot like this, we know training camp is right around the corner. We're throwing a lot at our guys; introduce the whole playbook to them so when they get to training camp their heads won't be spinning," Del Rio added.
The Jaguars will also conduct veteran-camp practices on Wednesday and Thursday. They are not open to the public.