Postcard from camp: Jaguars
Jaguars have high hopes for their revamped receiving corps led by Torry Holt
Jack Del Rio showed some a lighter side but said camp would be tougher
Primary running back Maurice Jones-Drew dropped down to 208 pounds
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Damon Hack had to say about the Jaguars' camp in Jacksonville, Fla. For an archive of all the camp postcards, click here.
Setting The Scene
The Jaguars hold their annual training camp on the grass and turf practice fields next to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. There's no need to travel, really. The average temperature in Jacksonville in August is 81.2 degrees, with an average relative humidity of 91 percent in the morning and 61 percent in the afternoon. During especially hot summers, Jacksonville can have more than 20 days in August with temperatures above 90 degrees. It's a sweaty camp. Water bottles and sports drinks are in abundance at Jags camp -- even reporters are given a bottle -- and hydration is every bit as important as shuttle drills. I took a swig from my water bottle and watched quarterback David Garrard and a team with 40 new players on the training camp roster take the field. After going 5-11 in 2008, it was time for the Jaguars to go to work.
1. The receiving corps has to excell for Jacksonville to succeed. A year ago, I visited Jaguars camp to write about their receivers, in particular Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Jerry Porter and Dennis Northcutt. All failed to perform well during the season, and none is with the team in 2009. This year, Garrard will look to former St. Louis Ram Torry Holt and the talented but injury-prone Mike Walker. Troy Williamson, the one-time replacement for Randy Moss in Minnesota, also has a chance to make an impact, but he must catch the football in traffic. Of the team's nine draft picks, three were spent on receivers -- Mike Thomas of Arizona, Jarett Dillard of Rice and Tiquan Underwood of Rutgers. That spoke volumes about Jacksonville's desire to finally turn a weakness into a strength.
2. Jack Del Rio showed his congenial side. I'd long considered him a hyper-serious guy. The black leather jacket. The set of his jaw. To me, he never looked happy. But I was surprised to see another side of him at a recent Jaguars practice. Del Rio addressed a local high school football team (guests of running back Maurice Jones-Drew) and implored the youngsters to hit the books as hard as they play football. Del Rio placed his arm around Jones-Drew, telling the players what a great role model his running back is. Later in the day, Del Rio was giddy recalling Oklahoma drills from his days playing college football at USC. After getting knocked around in a particular drill, Del Rio remembered one of his assistant coaches, the late Marv Goux, "gonging me on the side of the helmet." OK, I still think Del Rio is hyper serious. But it was nice to see him smile for a change.
3. Del Rio's soft side only goes so far though. The Jags coach said that Jaguars training camp will be tougher than in years past - more hitting, more 9-on-7 drills, more block protection. "When you're practicing twice a day, you're fighting for your livelihood," Del Rio explained. "You've got a family at home that you're feeding, and whether or not you can bring checks home for you family is at stake. I think camp's hard. We're constantly throwing talented [younger] guys at the older players and they have to fend them off. Young guys are looking for a role and the older guys don't want to give up their role. It's going to be a competitive camp."
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