With significant pressure to improve the passing game, Blaine Gabbert will have to get on the same…
Busy First Day for Blackmon
No circus catches. No touchdown receptions. Not even a noteworthy play.
He finished Friday's practice drenched in sweat and saturated in information stemming from new coaches, new teammates, a new system and lots of catching up to do.
"Right now, I'm just a sponge trying to take it all in," he said.
The Jaguars are counting on the former Oklahoma State star catching on quickly. They traded up two spots to take Blackmon with the fifth overall pick in last week's NFL draft, hoping to add a franchise receiver to an offense that ranked last in the league in 2011.
The first real test will come during organized team activities, which begin in less than two weeks. That's when Blackmon will get his first repetitions with quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the team's other starters.
This weekend, though, is about getting familiar with the playbook, the coaching and all the nuances that go into an NFL practice.
"He's taking baby steps," coach Mike Mularkey said.
Blackmon got much of the attention on a day when 50 newcomers were trying to catch the coaches' eyes.
Punter Bryan Anger drew plenty of interest, but mostly because the Jaguars surprised many by drafting him early in the third round. He is the highest-drafted punter since the Chicago Bears took Todd Sauerbrun in the second round in 1995.
Kicker Long Ding, one of 27 players trying out this weekend, is attempting to become the first Chinese-born player to make an NFL roster.
Defensive end Andre Branch, a second-round pick from Clemson, and 28-year-old defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton, a seventh-rounder from Ashland, are hoping to get a head start at positions where the Jaguars could use help at right away.
And then there are several undrafted free agents trying to make impressions, including several guys who were disappointed they didn't get picked. They included Ohio State center Mike Brewster and Bethune-Cookman defensive end Ryan Davis.
"Once the draft was over, I quickly switched gears," Davis said. "It's unfortunate, but Jacksonville is where I wanted to be all along. I'm just happy I'm here now. I can't cry about it. It's over already. I just have to do what I have to do to make this squad."
Blackmon doesn't have that worry.
But there's certainly plenty of pressure since he's the team's highest-drafted player since Jacksonville chose linebacker Kevin Hardy second overall in 1996.
"Nothing is going to be given to me," said Blackmon, who is wearing No. 14. "I have to work just as hard as (everyone else) to earn a spot."
Not really. But the Jaguars certainly would love to get Blackmon up to speed as quickly as possible. The strong and speedy wideout caught 253 passes for 3,564 yards and 40 touchdowns in three years at Oklahoma State -- the kind of production that prompted the Jaguars to trade up to get him.
"It's the beginning of a foundation for him," receivers coach Jerry Sullivan said. "He's got to learn what to do and how to do. All the pomp and circumstance is over. Now you're down to the nitty gritty. The drawing plans are off the table. Now you're doing the construction part.
"He's got to learn where to line up. He's got to learn his assignments. As he learns them and gets better, things will come easier and he'll be able to really demonstrate all the athletic skill he possesses. Right now, there's a lot of thinking and uncertainty."
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