Jags' practice observations: Working Wildcat
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Every blog entry with OTA practice observations comes with a disclaimer: These practices are about installations and themes. There are no pads and no real contact. These settings favor receivers and don't feature a lot of information about line play. Guys can look like superstars here and be terrible come camp or vice versa.
That said, here's what I saw, thought and heard during the Jaguars session Monday:
Somersaulting: Near the start of practice, defensive players stuttered stepped over five blocking bags on the ground, then rolled into a somersault and looked to grab a loose ball rolled by a coach. "Find the ball, scoop and score," linebacker coach Mark Duffner urged them. Safety Sean Considine's helmet popped off when he hit the ground.
First impression: In one-on-one work in the red zone, my first look at rookie corner Derek Cox was as he intercepted a pass to the back left corner intended for Maurice Dupree. Later, Todd Peterson broke away from Cox along the back line of the end zone under the goal post for an easy TD, Mike Walker dropped a catchable ball against Tyron Brackenridge and Brian Williams break up a pass for Dennis Northcutt. Cox looked pretty smooth.
During that red zone one-on-one period, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker stood under the goal posts and offered a lot of instruction. After a play he'd often talk with the defensive back involved about what unfolded and how it could have or should have been different in very specific terms. A bit later in a defensive walkthrough, Jack Del Rio's was the voice everyone was listening to.
Out of action: John Henderson fell out very early and didn't come back. He was under the shed at one end of the practice field in the shade. Everyone was presuming he fell out because of the heat - recent OTA sessions have been on cool rainy days. But it's sunny and in the high 80s or low 90s Monday. Not a good sign, but we don't have all the info in it yet.
Lineup stuff on defense: Williams was at right corner with the ones, with Considine paired at safety with Reggie Nelson. In nickel, Cox came in and took Williams' spot, while Williams kicked inside. The consensus among observers is that the competition is between Considine and Cox. If coaches feel the D is better off with Considine as a starting safety, then Williams winds up playing corner. If Cox is better, he plays corner and Williams goes to safety.
Justin Durant is playing middle linebacker, but Daryl Smith and Clint Ingram on either side of him. Didn't get a good read on the line, as people were shuffling, Henderson was out, and the O-line was sometime only using three people in team drills with the ends basically kneeling down at the snap. Line play in team periods in these situations often doesn't mean a whole lot.
Lineup stuff on offense: The starting line was, left to right, Tra Thomas, Uche Nwaneri, Brad Meester, Maurice Williams, Tony Pashos and the first two wideouts were Torry Holt and Mike Walker. (Walker gave Holt 81 without any resistance, happily returning to his college number 11 once it wasn't any longer being used by Reggie Williams.)
Wildcat work: Put the Jaguars on the list of teams experimenting with the Wildcat. In the first full team period, the offense broke the huddle and red-shirted David Garrard went wide right as a receiver, with Maurice-Jones Drew behind center in the shotgun, First play: handoff to Northcutt coming on an end around. Second play fake handoff to Troy Williamson and a run up the middle by Jones-Drew. (On defense before the snap, someone yelled, "You know 32 ain't throwing the ball." After the play, Del Rio said. "He got through the hole a little quicker than out quarterback power [run] does.") Third play: the snap went awry. Fourth play, handoff to Montell Owens.
With the second unit, tight end Zach Miller and Owens took snaps.
Update: 5:56 p.m.: I've since spent some time with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who indicated it would be wise to read that period as more about getting the defense ready to defend it than the offense ready to run it. That doesn't mean they won't roll it out, but he urged me to keep in mind I just happened to be here on the day it came around for them.]
Shiny: The new sparkly teal quality to the helmets isn't as bad as I expected. In the sunlight, there is a special kind of shine that bounces off each one. As I sat down to talk with David Garrard, he pulled his out of the locker and we inspected it together. He's a big fan of that sunlight effect and the overall streamlined uniform look. He looked to be in command though the session, but in a 2:00 drill, he missed Tiquan Underwood deep left and Williamson deep right on consecutive passes as the offense failed to score. (More about Garrard specifically in a column to come later Monday.)
Fielding kicks: In kickoff return work, I saw Cox, Underwood, Williamson and Mike Thomas field balls. I am sure Brian Witherspoon was back there as well - I must have managed to miss him.
Different perspective: During a red zone team period, Torry Holt stood off to the side, away from the rest of the team. Later he told me it's just a matter of him getting away from the clutter and being able to better focus on a mental rep. He offered some commentary after a few plays. "You've got to catch that, you aren't going to get more open," he said to tight end Greg Estandia after he broke free from Considine running across the back of the end zone to the right corner. Estandia let Garrard's pass slide off his hands. Later Holt told Thomas, "You're letting them dictate to you."
Plays: Ingram had a pick of fourth-quarterback Paul Smith, as did Considine. Northcutt had a bobbling catch on the left sideline against Thomas Williams, who should have picked it. Russell Allen dropped an interception of a pass intended for Estandia.
Burst: Hard to gauge running backs in this setting, but Rashad Jennings showed a nice burst knifing through the middle on one play. He's a guy that's going to get a lot of attention. Regular observers love what they've seen of the seventh-rounder out of Liberty and said you can't find a nicer or more well-spoken rookie.