That’s why Del Rio approached Atlanta coach Mike Smith six months ago about bringing the Jaguars and Falcons together for combined practices in training camp.
“I think you’re going to see more and more of this,” Del Rio said Monday. “Things could change going forward in training camps. We’ll all adapt where we need to, but I think you’ll see more combined practices as a result of that.”
Atlanta and Jacksonville will practice again on Tuesday. The Falcons are hosting New England in similar fashion next week. The current NFL collective bargaining agreement expires in March, at which point owners want to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games and reduce the preseason from four games to two.
“I can see both sides of the situation,” Falcons running back Michael Turner said. “Fans don’t want to pay full price for preseason games, which don’t even come close to the same intensity as real games do. There’s no doubt as players, that’s asking a lot of our bodies, but if you’re trading out preseason games for a couple of training practices, that’s a pretty good deal.”
It’s nothing new for two NFL teams to hold joint practices to break up the monotony and ease the grind of camp, but the Jaguars and Falcons are a natural fit.
Smith was Del Rio’s defensive coordinator before Atlanta hired him in January 2009. Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and defensive backs coach Alvin Reynolds left the Jaguars to join Smith’s staff. Two other Atlanta assistants, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, also worked on Del Rio’s staff.
“In my seven years in Jacksonville, we’ve not gone against anybody else,” Del Rio said. “I decided it was right for us. It’s a good time to accomplish all the things we talked about, but also having a guy like Mike, who I trust, who I know, I think being able to do that with somebody like that was a good place to start.”
The morning session, held in full pads, featured a couple of flare-ups between a couple of Falcons and Jaguars. Nobody reported a fight.
Smith and Del Rio agreed in their early discussions that there would be hitting, but no tackling. Just like other practices in camp, the Falcons and Jaguars had positional segments, individual work and 11-on-11 sessions.
But instead of Falcons facing Falcons, it was Falcons going against Jaguars.
“I thought it was really good for our players,” Smith said. “I thought it was really good for our coaches to get out here and really work against a different team with different color helmets and different color jerseys.”
Atlanta’s receiving corps is having to adjust to the loss of starter Michael Jenkins, who will miss the next four to six weeks with a shoulder injury. Smith indicated that Jenkins doesn’t need surgery.
When the Falcons host Kansas City in their preseason opener Friday night, rookie Kerry Meier, Eric Weems and Brian Finneran will take the majority of snaps.
Harry Douglas might not play after missing last season with a knee injury. He did not dress for last week’s scrimmage.
Meier impressed the coaching staff with a strong performance on making catches in tight coverage, running strong routes and blocking.
Weems is the favorite to retain his jobs as a kickoff and punt returner, roles that Douglas filled in 2009.
The Jaguars are trying to settle their starters and reserves at safety.
After failing to sign free agent Darren Sharper, who stayed with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, the Jaguars lack a clear-cut favorite at both safety spots.
Reggie Nelson is trying to beat out Anthony Smith at strong safety. Sean Considine and Gerald Alexander are batting at free safety.