Postcard from camp: Jaguars
SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
Setting the Scene
The Jaguars hold training camp at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (nee Alltel) and its adjacent practice fields. They have meetings in their normal year-round meeting rooms in the bowels of the stadium, walk outside to their practice fields, and sleep in a nearby hotel. Doesn't quite have the camp feel, but they're not alone.
The one odd twist here is that the franchise the Jags share the parking lot with, the Jacksonville Suns minor-league team, was playing Monday night while the Jags practiced -- and the PA announcer for the Dodgers' Double-A Southern League team was clearly heard while David Garrard barked signals a few hundred feet away.
1. The Jags have the most intriguing mix in the league at wide receiver. As starters Jerry Porter (hamstring surgery) and Reggie Williams (knee strain) continue to miss practice, Jags offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter mixed and matched at wideout, a major position need entering the season. Vikings refugee Troy Williamson and vet Dennis Northcutt took the first snaps with the first team, with Matt Jones and Mike Walker -- who teamed with Brandon Marshall at Central Florida and was a great prospect coming out -- behind them. Jones, by the way, is re-energized and working harder than he's worked, seeing his football mortality in the mirror.
2. Not sure I trust this offensive line. Khalif Barnes will win a battle with Richard Collier at left tackle, but it's more because Collier's dropping the ball. They'll miss center Brad Meester, one of the league's underrated centers. He's out 'til maybe October with a strained biceps, but is at practice with his arm in a sling. Garrard will need to be quick with his release because he'll feel the heat against good pass-rushes.
3. I'm not worried about Rob Meier replacing the departed Marcus Stroud at defensive tackle next to John Henderson. The Stroud of four years ago, I'd miss. The Stroud who missed four games due to a league suspension and who had ankle surgery after the season, I don't think I'd miss as much. Meier, a 310-pound Energizer Bunny who never stops, and second-year man Derek Landri should soften the blow of Stroud's departure.
New Face, New Place
WR Jerry Porter. He's 30, needs a burst to be effective and is coming off late-July hamstring surgery. There's already a load of pressure on Porter, who told me he was aiming to play in one of the last two preseason games and felt sure he'd be ready to play in the opener against Tennessee. But the pressure to be healthy is not something he can totally control, obviously. He's wearing out the elliptical trainer, hoping to push himself to health. "I can't believe how good I feel right now,'' he told me. The Jags want to throw the ball downfield, and they're hoping Williamson and Porter will be the threats to let them do so.
Looking at the Schedule
A nice November -- at Cincinnati, at Detroit, Tennessee, Minnesota -- but December will not be kind. At Houston, at Chicago, Green Bay, Indianapolis on a short-week Thursday at home, and a road trip to Baltimore to close. What the Jags need is to be ready in Week 3 for a tough trip to Indianapolis, and I suppose that's a good time to get the Colts, with the possibility that Peyton Manning will still be a little gimpy on his surgically repaired knee.
Memorable Image From Camp
Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman, two old war horses from the Tom Coughlin era, on the sidelines, cutting up. Boselli is doing preseason TV, while Lageman is the color man (and a very, very good one, I might add, from hearing snippets of him on Sirius Radio.) They were there Monday night doing their homework for the preseason opener.
Boselli ran a linemen's camp this summer, and one of the stories out of the camp was how he found his troops taking an extended water break one day. "Hey! It's not cocktail hour!'' he yelled at them. And of course, everyone on the sidelines started with the you-sound-just-like-Coughlin talk. You get an education listening to those guys. Lageman's tip on the best player you don't know: special-teams demon Montell Owens, a third-year fullback from Maine.
Dirk Koetter, the offensive coordinator, was a godsend for this offense and for Garrard. He's letting the passing game develop by following through on his vow to thrown downfield, even if the Jags weapons aren't household names.
Concern about the Derrick Harvey holdout can be felt in the building. They need him to play a role early, no later than Sept. 21 against Indy, and to do that they need him in camp.
The defensive staff loves second-round rookie Quentin Groves, who certainly will be in the pass-rush rotation at the start of the season.
I'd guess Matt Jones makes the team. Barely.
Jack Del Rio loves free-agent Drayton Florence, and he'll start the opener opposite Rashean Mathis.
Looking for a last-round pick in your Fantasy League? Troy Williamson. He could score eight touchdowns. Koetter's going to give him a chance to make some deep catches.