JACKSONVILLE – What we learned in the first four days of Jaguars 2013 Training Camp . . .
1. Cecil Shorts III’s offseason was no fluke. Remember all the offseason talk about Cecil Shorts III’s development? Well, if the first four days of practice are any indication, that offseason talk was right on. Shorts has looked like the best player on the Jaguars’ offense, catching two touchdowns in a Sunday practice. The offense looks significantly better when he’s on the field.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew appears healthy . . . With the exception of a routine “veterans” day off Sunday, the three-time Pro Bowl running back has practiced since training camp opened Friday. He has worked with the starters in three practices, and appears remarkably recovered from the foot injury that ended his season after six games last season. He also appears close to playing shape, and had a long run up the middle Monday.
PHOTO GALLERY OF DAY 1 OF TRAINING CAMP
3. . . . but he’s still being brought along slowly. The Jaguars have been working Jones-Drew a play or two in a lot of drills, then going to Justin Forsett and Jordan Todman. It’s a pretty standard setup for a veteran coming off an injury, enabling Jones-Drew to get the work he needs and stay fresh and allowing Forsett and Todman to get quality work.
4. The quarterback competition really is competition . . . and not only that, it has been remarkably even. Chad Henne probably had the better day Saturday, but the rest of the days have been pretty even. Through four days of camp, it’s probably most accurate to say neither Chad Henne nor Blaine Gabbert has pulled away.
5. . . . and Henne has a chance . . . Most observers locally expect Gabbert to win the job, but that doesn’t mean that’s what the Jaguars are thinking. Henne still has a chance in this, and he has played as you would expect a veteran working for a starting job to play. He’s certainly not conceding anything. He was very good in a two-minute drill Saturday, and has had flashes of productivity since.
6. . . . but Gabbert’s not going away. Much was made of a tough practice for Gabbert Saturday, when he had three botched snaps and an interception in practice. But Gabbert responded with a steady practice Sunday, and Head Coach Gus Bradley said he was having a good practice Monday before sustaining a right ankle sprain in the final drill of the day. As for the ankle sprain, Gabbert said he was OK and he’s believed to be fine.
PHOTO GALLERY OF DAY 2 OF TRAINING CAMP
7. Denard Robinson is still a work in progress . . . What with the offseason attention he has received, it’s easy to forget sometimes that Robinson was a fifth-round selection and in a very real sense a project player. He has struggled at times early in camp with ball security, and he’s addressing the issue, having stayed after a walkthrough Sunday to work – among other areas – on catching passes out of the backfield.
8. . . . but the Jaguars still believe in him. You know the work-in-progress stuff with Robinson? That’s perfectly OK. Remember, the Jaguars *know* Robinson was a fifth-round selection, and they know there are rough edges to be smoothed. They also know he is talented, and that he wasn’t going to come out of the box ready to be a franchise player. The Jaguars worked Robinson taking snaps from the Wildcat formation on Monday, and Bradley said the team isn’t giving up on that concept yet.
PHOTO GALLERY OF DAY 3 OF TRAINING CAMP
9. Justin Forsett will be a factor . . . The veteran backup running back impressed all offseason with his speed and he has been no less impressive in training camp. He has the look of a player who will make plays as a receiver out of the backfield, and who can break a big run on draw plays.
10. . . . Ace Sanders will, too. Sanders has looked as quick as Forsett in camp, and has surprised some observers with his ability to get open and catch. If you’re looking for players who will make the Jaguars faster immediately this season, look at Sanders and Forsett.
11. The newcomers can make an impact. Even beyond Forsett and Sanders, players acquired in the offseason have shown up in camp. Bradley has mentioned free agent linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball and defensive tackle Roy Miller, as well as a handful of rookies such as cornerback Jeremy Harris and safety Josh Evans as having stood out.
12. Mike Brown will be a tough cut. It’s hard to not notice Brown in practice. He has a good knack for getting open, particularly on routes over the middle. He’ll have to match in preseason games what he has done in practice, but if he does, he has a chance at a roster spot.
13. Allen Reisner will be a name you’ll hear in preseason . . . and maybe longer than that. The first-year veteran has shown some of the best hands on the team, and rarely drops a pass. If he can perform in games, he could be the receiving tight end the Jaguars have been seeking for a while.
PHOTO GALLERY OF DAY 4 OF TRAINING CAMP
14. As for the defense . . . The pads go on Wednesday. We’ll start learning a lot more then. The same is true for the offensive line. The scrimmage is Saturday at 6:45 p.m. Stay tuned.