Most veterans departed Redskins Park on June 19 to begin a six-week vacation, but there was Taylor Jacobs last Friday, still working out in preparation for training camp. Jacobs was a solitary figure on the primary Redskins Park practice field. The third-year wide receiver was perfecting his route-running skills--first a curl, then a deep route, then another curl.
Since he joined the Redskins as a second-round draft pick in 2003, Jacobs has always been one of the hardest-working players on the team. He is consistently among the last players off the field after practice.
The coming season is a big one for Jacobs and his NFL career. The Redskins revamped their wide receivers this offseason, emphasizing speed. The team acquired Santana Moss in a trade and signed a pair of veteran free agents in David Patten and Kevin Dyson. Darnerien McCants and James Thrash are also in the mix.
Where does Jacobs fit in?
For the first time in his NFL career, Jacobs could be a legitimate contender for a starting job at wide receiver.
"Taylor has come back and looks as good as I've ever seen him," head coach Joe Gibbs said during the June mini-camp.
Asked who would be the starting wide receivers this season, Gibbs replied: "We haven't designated a starter. I'd say David and Santana have been lining up with the first group, but we haven't designated a starter. We're letting [wide receivers coach] Stan Hixon work with the guys and rotate them around a little bit."
For his part, Jacobs senses the opportunity before him. But he's not taking anything for granted. In two NFL seasons, Jacobs has a modest 19 receptions for 215 yards and one touchdown. From 1999-2002, he was a standout at the University of Florida, where he ranks eighth all-time with 133 career receptions and ninth with 2,097 career receiving yards.
"Laveranues Coles was the main go-to guy the last few years here," Jacobs said. "We still have some go-to guys here, but I feel like this is my third year and I'm getting better. So I think I can push for a starting job better than I have in years past.
"I feel like I'm just as talented as anybody out here. I just need a break. When coaches say it's my turn, it's my turn. Hopefully when I get that break, I'll run with it."
Jacobs' first NFL season 2003 was plagued with injuries and his 2004 season got off to an ominous start when he was slowed by an abdominal injury during training camp. He was a solid special teams performer early in the season, but he rarely saw action on offense. He didn't get down on himself, though.
"At that point, I just said, 'Look, I'm not going to tuck in my tail and run into corner. I've got to come out fighting,'" Jacobs said. "I'm just going to go out and work hard every day. Do my best. I'm not going to worry about anything that's out of my control."
Jacobs has already impressed a competitor for one of the starting wide receiver job. Patten, a nine-year veteran and three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, said he was surprised that Jacobs had not yet emerged as a big-time receiver in the NFL.
"He has all the tools," Patten said. "I was talking to him [during mini-camp] and I asked him, 'Why are you not a starter?' I really think the best is yet to come for him."