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Sunday, July 31, 2011
Gabbert-to-Shorts already one to watch

By Paul Kuharsky

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At the Jaguars’ first of seven padded practices at training camp, I took notes on a bunch of stuff but feel compelled to feature one item in particular.

The snapshot sticking on this impressionable mind is of a Blaine Gabbert-to-Cecil Shorts connection the team hopes is a big one for the offense for a good while.

It’s super, super early of course.

But we’re at the stage of offering super, super early thoughts.

Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in April's draft, and Shorts, a fourth-rounder out of Mount Union, look to have some immediate chemistry. Reporters who’ve followed this camp from the start say they can’t remember a drop and already have a sense that Gabbert is regularly looking for Shorts.

At this practice they connected for a red-zone touchdown at the center of the goal line on a dart fitted between multiple defenders.

Gabbert throws a beautiful ball -- it zips out of his hand. Sunday night he found tight windows both from the pocket and on the move, hitting a variety of receivers including Shorts, Dontrelle Inman, Armon Binns and Jamar Newsome.

With no chance at an in-bounds catch, Binns impressively went up and pulled in one overthrown ball right in front of where I was standing.

Gabbert dropped a silly fumble when he took off running one time.

Unless Gabbert somehow blows David Garrard away in camp, Shorts is more likely of the draftees to have an early role for the Jaguars. He could easily be part of three-receiver sets.

“He’s off to a good start for not having the OTAs and the offseason work,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s got some polish to him for a smaller school guy. He’s certainly been coached well. He’s fit. He’s all business. He’s made a nice impression to begin camp. … I think he’s going to be a real good player.”

A few other notes:

Marcedes Lewis told Tania Ganguli he’ll join the team Monday and tweeted about being en route. The tight end, who signed a franchise tag for just under $7.3 million, has been holding out for a long-term deal.

Del Rio said he told Lewis that the team would keep him out of full contact work while he participates in meetings and everything else and irons out a deal.

The coach said he thought there could be a contract by Thursday.

The Oklahoma drill is a huge fan favorite, and I found this version more entertaining than the one I saw a couple of years ago.

Del Rio said he wanted the one-on-one matchups to come down to the final showdown between right tackle Eben Britton and end Austen Lane, though the media had the score 4-2 in favor of the defense heading into the finale.

Lane handily won the first and third snaps of the best two out of three. Afterward he rated his performance against a teammate he fought with Saturday night as “strong to quite strong.”