STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The loss of veteran center Brad Meester for eight to ten weeks was met with mixed reaction. Certainly the Jaguars were better with Meester in the lineup to take advantage of his experience in calling line signals. That's a skill that can only be replaced through time and game-experience.
His replacement, Dennis Norman, doesn't have that experience but does have talent. There won't be any drop-off in terms of pass-blocking skills as Norman has shown in the past that he can handle that, whether it's at center, guard or tackle, and he's played all three positions for the Jaguars at various times in the last two years.
As talented as Norman is, the Jaguars liked the idea of having him on the bench to spell any lineman during a game. Now that he's in the starting lineup, it cuts down on the effectiveness of the depth in the line should the club suffer another injury. That's why former starter Maurice Williams and third-year veteran Dan Connelly will see extensive action at the tackle and guard spots respectively during training camp.
- RB Fred Taylor received a three-year extension on his contract with the total package amounting to $23 million over the next four years. It isn't likely Taylor will fulfill the contract as it gets pricey for the Jaguars the last two years when Taylor would be 33- and 34-years-old respectively. Taylor was under-payed in his old deal and the Jaguars were forced to rework his contract to bring him up to current standards.
- Deon Grant was not resigned because the Jaguars felt comfortable with the deep quality of safeties in the college draft. The team did its homework and was able to drop down a couple positions and grab some extra picks and still get the player they wanted in Florida's Reggie Nelson who has stepped right into the starting lineup.
- QB Tim Couch was signed the second day of training camp after it was determined that third-string quarterback Quinn Gray would be out for a while with an ankle injury. Couch came in to give starter Byron Leftwich and backup David Garrard some relief and keep their arms fresh. Gray will return to practice on Monday where he'll begin his battle with Couch to get the No. 3 QB spot.
- P/K Tony Yelk was signed to give fourth-round draft pick Adam Podlesh and veteran place-kicker Josh Scobee some competition in the kicking game. The punting spot is Podlesh's to lose but Yelk has shown his value as both a punter and place-kicker and will likely hang with the Jaguars until the final roster cuts.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Nick Greisen vs. Clint Ingram and Justin Durant for a starting OLB spot -- Greisen started 10 games last year and would have been a 16-game starter but the Jaguars opened the game in nickel coverage six times. But Greisen is in a battle not only to save his starting spot, but to make the roster. Ingram is too talented to keep out of the lineup and second-round pick Durant will make a strong push for playing time as a rookie. With Jack Del Rio emphasizing speed on defense, Ingram and Durant have been early camp standouts and could push Greisen totally out of the picture by Sept. 1.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: RBs Fred Taylor vs. Maurice Jones-Drew for the starting spot-it's hard to call this a battle because both players are going to see plenty of action. The team has been cautious to expose either to much contact the first week for fear of injury. In the team's first scrimmage of the camp, Taylor had three carries for 19 yards, Jones-Drew one chance for eight yards. Both players want their share of carries. Taylor is less than 500 yards from cracking the 10,000-yard club while Jones-Drew showed he's a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
--Greg Estandia vs. Marcedes Lewis and Jermaine Wiggins for backup TE spot-Estandia continues to shine with his pass-catching skills. With veteran George Wrighster still mending from off-season shoulder surgery, Estandia is making a push to join Lewis and Wiggins as a fourth tight end/special teams player.
--Scott Starks vs. Terry Cousin for nickel back spot-Cousin had four starts to Starks' one starting role at this position last year. With Gerald Sensabaugh having replaced Donovin Darius at strong safety, it opened the door for Starks and Cousin to battle to be the first DB called into action on passing downs. Thus far Cousin has the edge over Starks.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Byron Leftwich -- He's been the focus of training camp from Day 1 and while having some inconsistent sessions during the week, Leftwich looked sharp in the team's first scrimmage inside the stadium on Friday. In front of over 11,000 people, he hit 10 of his first 12 passes and finished with 12-of-17 for 181 yards and a 23-yard TD pass to Matt Jones.
"Byron has had a terrific camp and the receivers, the timing, the routes, all the little details that we need to be explosive in the passing game with, I think they're really starting to come together," said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio following the scrimmage.
ROOKIE REPORT: S Reggie Nelson had a strong opening week as a regular from day one. The club likes his ability to close fast and be physical. ... LB Justin Durant has too much speed to keep out of the lineup for very long. Already there's talk that Daryl Smith could move into the middle 'backer spot next year (ousting veteran Mike Peterson) with Durant taking over one of the OLB spots. ... WR Mike Walker continues to shine but there's still concern that he only practices once a day. The staff doesn't want to risk too much strain on the knee he suffered a torn ACL at the end of the 2005 college season at Central Florida. ... Seventh round pick John Broussard was tops among wide receivers in last Friday's scrimmage with three grabs for 62 yards. He'll need a solid showing in preseason games to make the regular-season roster and avoid the practice squad list.
INJURY REPORT: The lone significant mishap was the ankle injury to center Brad Meester. Mid-week surgery was a success, but he's not expected back until early October which will cost him the team's three September games. ... Charles Sharon hit his head on the turf in a passing drill on Monday and was sidelined the next five days, including Friday's first scrimmage. He should be cleared to return to practice-mold status early this week. ... Third-string QB Quinn Gray was taken off the PUP injury list and will return to action this week. ... Concern is building for starting DE Paul Spicer who has been sidelined with back spasms since camp opened. With the emergence of young players like Brent Hawkins, Kenny Pettway and James Wyche, Spicer, who turns 32 in two weeks, can't afford to fall behind in a fairly loaded position for the Jaguars. Same holds true for DE Jeremy Mincey, a second-year pro, was also on the sidelines (calf injury) much of the first week of camp.