As expected, the mini-camp just completed was a get acquainted session for the players and coaches of the 2002 Jaguars. Just over half of the players were brand new, 46 of the 89 on the field had never been there before. A chance for the coaches to let the players know what’s expected, and a chance for the players to size up what it’s going to take to make the team and stick in the NFL.
Also as expected, the focus quickly was on three of the Jaguars draft picks: #1 John Henderson, wearing #98, was “impressive in the one-on-one pass rush drill,” according to Head Coach Tom Coughlin. Henderson is “high-cut” in the vernacular of NFL personnel directors, not a fireplug that you might expect of a defensive tackle. The guy is so big, fast and strong though he might re-define the position. At 6’7”, 307 lbs paired with Marcus Stroud in the middle, the Jaguars hope they’ve found just the tandem they want.
#2 Mike Pearson, wearing #72, “because I didn’t want to get involved in all that,” was Pearson’s response when I asked why he wasn’t wearing his college number, 71. “Boselli was a cornerstone type of player, I’m just trying to keep my mouth shut, listen and learn,” he added when I pushed him a little bit with a “but he’s in Texas,” comment.
Coughlin thought Pearson “learned some things he can use,” during the 5 practices over three days. He’ll be ready to play left tackle (not Brunell’s blind side) by the season opener. It’s the middle of the line that has to be sorted out. Zach Weigert, Brad Meester and John Wade will be fighting for two positions: left guard and center. Meester was a center in college and is a natural there and if he can transition to the middle, that’s where he’ll end up, with Weigert at left guard and Wade fighting for one of the backup jobs.
The #4 pick quarterback David Garrard found himself under the microscope from the outset. First, Brunell said, “he’s not the backup, he’s one of the backups,” when asked about Garrard on Friday. Mark made it very clear to the rookie who’s in charge; asking the rookie “you got a little excited with the microphone in front of your face didn’t you?” Brunell was referring to Garrard’s assertion after being picked by the Jaguars on the second day that he would push Mark for the starting job. “He apologized, he’s a great kid, he’ll learn,” is how the Jaguars starter finished up the discussion of one of the backups.
Coughlin gave Garrard more snaps as the camp went along and then declared he was pleased with his progress. “But nobody’s blitzed him yet,” added the Head Coach. Coughlin knows he’s stuck in a little bit of a Catch-22. He knows Garrard will only get better if he gets a lot of snaps, but the team would benefit with a veteran backup behind Brunell. So he gave the politically correct answer. “If there’s a player who can help our club and we can afford him, we’ll make a move,” is how Coughlin wiggled out of it. He’ll have a decision to make sometime near training camp. There will be some cap money available after they release Keenan McCardell and Hardy Nickerson. So does he want to be one play away from a rookie being the starting quarterback? “I’m glad we don’t have a game tomorrow,” the Jaguars Head Coach noted after five practices. It’s the right kind of team for Coughlin, young, eager and impressionable. Whether a team like that can win is another question.