|ESPN.com: AFC South||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We covered a lot in Saturday's Camp Confidential, but we forge ahead with these parting thoughts after four days with the Jaguars:
David Garrard was pretty inconsistent and made some very bad throws. It's early, he's got a lot of new receivers and a lot of new players around him, and it may all be ironed out. But he's not off to a blazing start. He may or may not be the long term answer for this team at quarterback, but if he goes down they are in big trouble. Todd Bouman is unimpressive and looks a lot better than Paul Smith. No, this isn't a landing spot for Michael Vick. Yes, they could use a serious upgrade behind Garrard.
The Jaguars think they can get Maurice Jones-Drew matched up with a linebacker often, by lining him up wide or motioning in out. Deliver the ball to him quickly in or near the flat and let the first guy he has to take on be a linebacker and the second a corner or a safety eight times a game, and that's eight times the first contract won't come from a defensive lineman. It's smart football and it's a smart way to save him from some additional hits. It's not like they haven't done it before, but it seems like with him as the lead guy, they'll do it more now. Look for rookie tight end Zach Miller to spend some time wide too.
Insiders say Eugene Monroe stands to be further behind as the result of a long absence because of a contract dispute than Derrick Harvey was last year in similar circumstances. And that's saying something based on how far behind Harvey was when he finally signed a year ago. It's the second year in a row the Jaguars have picked eighth and not reached a deal in time for camp. Are they worried about developing a reputation? No. They are making a stand that says, "We plan to be fair, but if somebody ahead of us does something foolish contract-wise, it's not going to skew things for us." That stand won't help them win any games, however. If he's absent much longer, it will assure that Tra Thomas is the starter early on.
Counting Saturday night's "scrimmage," the Jaguars have been in pads for just four of 12 training camp practices so far. Jack Del Rio had promised a tougher camp and told me in June he was a "do it right, do it light" coach. Are they doing that much right? (I suspect not, based on some of the shaky offensive periods I witnessed.) Has the weather, which has not been brutal, been a factor? I didn't talk to a guy who said he was spent or hitting the wall. We'll find out if that's good or bad, and we'll monitor whether Del Rio turns up the heat.
No team in the AFC South affords its fans better access to players during camp. Part of it is logistics. To get from the practice fields back to the locker room in the stadium, players have to walk through a long corridor. Fans lean over the portable white picket fences on both sides to plea for autographs and initiate conversations, and plenty of guys stop for a good while or mosey along while interacting. When I walked off the field with Garrard Saturday morning, he kept a good pace but still responded to some kids, grabbing the ball thy asked him to sign, scribbling on the move and passing it back with a smile while continuing our chat. Another thing that sets the Jaguars camp experience apart? Beer for sale.
This means nothing when it comes to their ability to stuff the run or collapse the pocket, but the three young guys vying for defensive tackle time -- Derek Landri, Terrance Knighton and Atiyyah Ellison -- are as nice a three-pack of players at one position on one team as I suspect can be found.