Torry Holt ready to lend a hand for Jaguars
Jaguars set to begin minicamp with upgrade in receiving corps
By Michael C. Wright
Torry Holt plans to mentor the Jaguars' young, underachieving receivers.
Holt's "thing," he said, is "each one, teach one." But first things first.
"I have to focus on my job, my task," said Holt, a seven-time Pro Bowl receiver.
That starts today at the club's first minicamp, where Holt - the club's most high-profile free-agent acquisition this year - sets out to achieve the seemingly impossible mission of making the Jaguars' receiving corps truly relevant for the first time since Jimmy Smith wore black and teal.
Just don't ask Holt to turn around the team's 5-11 record from last season all by himself.
"In terms of trying to come in and turn this thing totally around after one year of what happened around here, you can't ask me to do that," Holt said. "I don't think that's fair. What is fair is I can come in and be a pro, go about my job like I've always done. Hopefully, guys will see that, buy into it and try to do the same thing."
Nicknamed "Big Game" because of his propensity to perform when stakes are highest, Holt joins a group of Jaguars receivers worthy of far less colorful monikers. The five receivers - Dennis Northcutt, Nate Hughes, Mike Walker, Troy Williamson and D'Juan Woods - caught a combined 65 passes for 752 yards and three touchdowns. In the worst performance since his rookie season, Holt matched the production of those receivers all by himself, catching 64 balls for 796 yards and three touchdowns in his final season with the St. Louis Rams.
Holt's statistical dip in 2008 brought about whispers that maybe he'd lost a step. But Holt insists he's poised for another 1,000-yard season.
"I was coming off '07 playing in the Pro Bowl, and then I got to '08 and all of a sudden now they don't want to use me, or I felt that didn't want to use me," Holt said. "My numbers drop, and now people are saying I've lost a step. Well, maybe I have. This will be my 11th season. Am I running the same way I did 10 years ago? Absolutely not, but I can still play at a high level."
Of the 12 receivers on the Jaguars' roster, nine have played fewer than three NFL seasons and six (Jarett Dillard, Maurice Dupree, Jason English, Todd Peterson, Mike Thomas and Tiquan Underwood) are rookies. Thomas, Dillard and Underwood were fourth-, fifth-, and seventh-round picks.
Holt embraced the opportunity to serve as a mentor, but he views the club's addition of younger receivers as a challenge.
"I look at it as you're coming to take my position," Holt said. "That's how everybody in this building should be because they're drafting someone to remove someone. It's good competition, something we can use here."
Heading into drills today, it appears Holt and Walker will serve as the starters on the outside, with Northcutt lined up in the slot as the No. 3 receiver. Thomas will compete for time in the slot, along with Dillard.
Underwood clocked one of the fastest times in the 40-yard dash among the receivers of this year's draft class. He'll line up outside, playing behind Holt and Walker.
Five-year veteran Troy Williamson (five catches for 30 yards and a TD last season) also figures into the mix, along with D'Juan Woods, who spent parts of the past two seasons on the Jaguars practice squad.
"It'll be a little different than what you guys have seen around here the last couple of years," said Terry McDonough, the Jaguars' director of player personnel.
Perhaps different means better, because for years it appeared the Jaguars preferred unpolished projects over overall ability.
First-round bust Matt Jones possessed impressive size and top-end speed, but he lacked the short-area quickness to gain immediate separation that would allow him to take advantage of that speed. Reggie Williams, another first-round disappointment, was a better blocker than receiver.
The club insists fans will see more polish, speed and playmaking ability in the receivers this weekend at minicamp.
Asked if he would provide a breath of fresh air at the position, Thomas said, "I hope so. To come in and have a model like [Holt], it's going to be amazing. I'm going to get right under his armpit and soak as much information as I can from him and watch him every day."
Holt is fine with providing guidance.
But then again, he has a task to complete.
With his left middle finger bent awkwardly from catching more than 800 passes over an 11-year career, Holt called the disfiguration a trophy that he planned to show to the club's younger players. After all, a crooked finger would seem to be a minor inconvenience for a potential Hall of Fame career that includes seven Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring.
"I think 1,000 yards, however many touchdowns and [a] Pro Bowl is still in the picture for Torry Holt," he said. "That's the way I've always thought, that's the way I train. That's the way I prepare, and I don't expect anything less here in Jacksonville."