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Jaguars Training Camp: Five Things To Watch


The Jacksonville Jaguars begin training camp on Friday, 7/25, and Coach Jack Del Rio’s team seems primed for a big year (at least on paper). This may be the deepest Jaguars team top to bottom since the 1999 team that went 14-2 en route to the AFC Championship Game. Though the roster is strong, here are five things to watch closely as the Jaguars begin the 2008 campaign:

1. Will WR Matt Jones Make It Through The Final Cuts? It certainly seems like Matt Jones is at the end of his nine lives. The much-maligned WR has not lived up to his 1st round draft status, and his recent arrest on felony cocaine possession charges is not helping his cause in the eyes of the coaching staff, the fans, and owner Wayne Weaver. Coach Del Rio has stated that Jones will not be cut based on his recent arrest. However, it remains to be seen if Jones will do anything special in training camp to climb out of the doghouse. The only thread of hope he seems to have is that WR Jerry Porter is out for the entire preseason recovering from hamstring surgery. With both the uncertainty of WR Mike Walker’s recovery from a knee injury and the questions still surrounding WR Troy Williamson’s ability to shake off his past woes in Minnesota, Jones may have bought himself some time for one last shot to prove himself.

2. Who Becomes The Starting Strong-Side Linebacker: Clint Ingram Or Justin Durant? Clint Ingram had a great rookie year in 2006 when he was thrust into action because of injuries. But he tailed off a little bit in 2007, and Justin Durant went on to have a stellar rookie campaign once Mike Peterson was out with an injury. Now Peterson is healthy and ready to reclaim his spot at middle linebacker. With the underrated Daryl Smith taking care of the weak side, the battle between Ingram and Durant will be fun to watch. Durant, ironically wearing #56, looks and plays like a young Lawrence Taylor. His speed in getting into the backfield, defending the run, and showing good coverage in passing situations is likely to get him the starting nod on Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense.

3. What Contributions Will Rookie DEs Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves Make In 2008? The Jaguars were criticized by the so-called experts for not pulling the trigger on a trade during the April draft for Dolphins’ DE Jason Taylor and for trading up to spot #8 to take Derrick Harvey from the University of Florida. But clearly, two young defensive ends are better than one aging, soon-to-be-dancing-into-retirement defensive end. Harvey is the only one that  remains unsigned, as Groves inked his deal to get in camp, so hopefully, the Jaguars can be swift at getting Harvey’s deal done and the rookie into camp on time.  So where do they fit in the grand scheme of things? I would expect to see Harvey and Groves contribute right away. There is no guarantee that DE Reggie Hayward has fully recovered from the devastating ruptured Achilles’ heel injury in 2006. If he cannot prove he is back to normal, it would not surprise me to see the Jaguars cut Hayward and get Harvey and Groves more in the mix. Granted, the Jaguars still have DE Paul Spicer, who is coming off a career year for himself. But he is 33 years old, and I can see the Jaguars rotating Harvey and Groves out in situations to keep the older guys fresh for the season.

4. Can LB Mike Peterson Shake Off The Injuries Of The Last Few Years And Make An Impact In The Final Year Of His Contract? There is no questioning the heart of a warrior. Mike Peterson leaves it all out on the field on every snap he is in the ball game. When you listen to him in interviews, you know he means business. There is no BS when it comes to Peterson. However, the recent injuries of the last few years have started to build. In 2005, he injured his wrist late in the year and was a non-factor in the 28-3 playoff loss to New England. In 2006, he tore a pectoral muscle and missed 11 games. In 2007, he missed 6 regular season games and 2 playoff games with a broken hand. Are there legitimate questions about his durability? Sure. Is there any questioning his heart? No way. You can bet Peterson has a huge chip on his shoulder and wants to prove he is not damaged goods. He knows the crop of linebackers itching to take his place (Ingram, Durant, and D. Smith) are lurking in the shadows. Will he be able to ward them off in 2008?

5. Can RB Fred Taylor Repeat His Stellar 2007 Season, Or Has He Peaked? Fred Taylor is just like his fellow Florida Gator Mike Peterson. He takes his job seriously, strives for nothing but the best, and takes pleasure when people question his abilities and he is able to serve up some tasty crow when his critics are wrong. Taylor got to his first Pro Bowl in 2007 after an amazing season where he ran for 1202 yards and averaged a whopping 5.4 yards per carry. With the combination of a rigid offseason workout routine coupled with sharing carries with RB sensation Maurice Jones-Drew, Taylor has managed to elevate his game as he heads toward the twilight of his career. The critics may be ready to push Fred Taylor out the door. However, Taylor has made it known that he intends to pass Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown before his career is done, which gives Taylor a good two years to potentially do it. Has Fred Taylor peaked? No way. Watch for the Jaguars to heavily showcase the running game again in 2008.

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2 Responses to “Jaguars Training Camp: Five Things To Watch”

  1. Edward says:

    I think one thing you may have forgotten to mention is the how the secondary shakes out, with Brian Williams moving to SS and such.

  2. ATLJagsFan says:

    Nope, I didn’t forget about it. I basically flipped a coin to talk about either Fred Taylor or the secondary, and the Taylor part of the story won. I’m not really worried as much about the secondary, because it’s deep. If Fred Taylor goes down or tails off, can Jones-Drew be asked to shoulder more of the load? With the running game the team’s bread and butter, it seemed like a bigger issue to discuss. This team needs Fred Taylor. The team can more than survive with Brian Williams moving to safety.

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