ST JOHNS, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sharks returned to the practice field on Tuesday, holding a morning workout at Plantation Park in St. Johns County. Following the cancellation of Monday’s practice due to rain, Tuesday’s workout marked the first time that the Sharks conducted a contact practice in 2014.
The addition of shoulder pads combined with the hottest temperatures to this point in camp provided the Sharks with a tough physical challenge on Tuesday. Throughout practice, the Sharks’ coaching staff emphasized the need to finish strong, hammering that point home during conditioning drills held after the end of the team session.
There is no doubt that the addition of shoulder pads makes the biggest difference in the trenches, where the team’s offensive and defensive lines finally got a chance to match up in live situations. With plenty of one-on-one and four-on-four reps, the team’s protection and pass-rush units had plenty of opportunities to impress Assistant Head Coach Brian Ferguson.
On the other side of the field, the friendly rivalry between wide receivers and defensive backs continued to build on Tuesday. While all of the Sharks’ players are working toward the same goal of improving the team, healthy competition during camp has typically proved to be a great way to get the most out of each player.
That competition will only increase over the next few days as the grind of training camp continues. The team is still nearly a week away from Sunday’s preseason scrimmage against the Tampa Bay Storm, which is the first opportunity the Sharks will have to match up against true opposition.
Examining the Skill Groups
Heading into this year’s training camp, the Sharks’ coaching staff put together an impressive group of players at the skill positions, specifically wide receivers and defensive backs. In yesterday’s training camp report, the balance of experienced veterans and talented rookies was highlighted. The same holds true for the Sharks’ secondary.
In the defensive backfield, the Sharks feature three returners who have each earned an All-Arena honor in the last three years. Micheaux Robinson, Terrance Smith and Tracy Belton combined to make 51 of a possible 54 starts during the 2013 regular season. Robinson, Smith and Belton return for their fifth, fourth and second respective seasons in Jacksonville, bringing continuity that is sure to benefit the squad in 2014.
But these three veterans are in the mix of a fierce competition with a group of four rookies. Brodrick Brown, Keiron Jones, Bartram Trail High School alum Xavier Brewer and Jacksonville University product Colby Walden have all stepped in and made plays during their first few days of Arena Football League experience.
When examining the skill positions as a whole, Sharks Head Coach Les Moss is impressed with what he has seen so far.
“I think that we have the most depth that we’ve ever had,” Moss said following Tuesday’s practice. “We have some players that are going to make it very tough on us coaches at the end of training camp, because we have a great core of veteran players coming back that have been great for us. But we have [a few] rookies that are in here pushing those guys and doing a great job.”
Moss also spoke about the way that the Sharks’ veterans have brought the younger players into the fold.
“The veterans here aren’t selfish players,” Moss added. “They want to see this team succeed and do what it takes, and they’re lending a hand and helping get [the rookies] up to speed.”
The Sharks are scheduled to return to the practice field on Wednesday morning for another full-contact workout. Wednesday’s practice will be held at Plantation Park, located at 3060 Race Track Rd. in St Johns. Practice is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m.
About the Jacksonville Sharks
The Jacksonville Sharks are members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The ArenaBowl XXIV and four-time South Division Champions are presented by Sea Best Seafood and play all home games on Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Season Tickets for the 2014 season are now available, two tickets for as low as $185. To purchase your season tickets or for more information, please call (904) 621-0700. Follow the Sharks on facebook at facebook.com/jaxsharks and on Twitter @jaxsharks, as well as the Attack Dance Team at facebook.com/sharkattackdance and Chum at facebook.com/chumsharks.
About the AFL
Since its inception in 1987, the Arena Football League has showcased a fast-paced and exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets across the country. The ESPN family of networks and CBS Sports Network will nationally broadcast AFL games each week for the entire season. The AFL schedule then culminates with the ArenaBowl Championship game live on ESPN.