Usually around this time we would be discussing the beginning of training camps, the workouts of our new players, the possible success of the Jaguars based on whatever GM Gene or Jack Del Rio are saying about the players strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, we don’t have that pleasure this offseason. But, like all offseasons, we have the ability to contemplate what the Jaguars will be doing this coming year, how we’ll look at the start, the midway point, and the end. In this week (the first week!) of “What’s Next” we’ll be looking at the next season for the Jaguars, the way the team will operate its playbook, and how the team will do.
In order to get a good idea of what’s ahead, let’s look at what has happened recently:
- While the offseason has been limited (read: nonexistent) the draft was still held and young players added to the Jaguars roster. Our top pick, Blaine Gabbert at number ten, has not had access to valuable team resources, such as coaches, workout facilities, or just being at team headquarters and getting used to his new place of employment. Not only has he (our quarterback of the future!) gone without, but also Will Rackley (a young key to our interior offensive line), and Cecil Shorts (a potential fit in our passing game immediately) on offense. The Jaguars may have actually been the best poised coming out of the draft with the work stoppage. By not trading any players or next year’s draft picks, they managed to secure a quarterback they really like who can sit behind Garrard, and guarantee talent inside the line with Rackley whose physical abilities should be enough to allow him to perform adequately no matter when he gets involved with the team. Shorts, admittedly, gets the short end of the stick because he is unable to practice with an offense. But, by cutting our own picks short and getting players that we don’t need to contribute immediately/can learn quickly (they are GM Gene guys after all!) was a smart move. The young guys expected to contribute immediately will, no matter the practice they get, or otherwise. On top of it all, no team has been more in the news about offseason training or workouts than the Jaguars. Almost every other day, there is a new video or article on Blaine Gabbert working out, throwing passes to his siblings or doing other drills, Marcedes Lewis doing some MMA, Maurice Jones-Drew mentioning how much the lack of an offseason hurts players, or speculation about David Garrard in the next season with Gabbert behind him.
Speaking of Garrard, let’s talk about the playbook:
- The young Jaguars rookies, from what we know, have gotten their hands on playbooks (at least Gabbert has). While this is beneficial for them to begin to learn the offense, defense, or special teams, it isn’t a good enough substitute for practice. The longer Gabbert, for example, goes without actually practicing, the longer he will fall further and further behind the current starter, Garrard. This does a couple of things: 1) it almost guarantees returning starters their starting spots (don’t look for Gabbert to make any run for the starting job until waaaay late in the season (read: next year)), and 2) it means that a lot of players that may have hit free agency will be staying with the Jaguars (like Mike Sims-Walker). It follows the same theory as the “insider-outsider” theory in economics. If you have knowledge of an organization, as our returning veterans (no matter how good they are) do, you are more valuable. Fortunately, the Jaguars players have taken the initiative and been leading workouts by position, even implementing plays from the playbook. The veterans have stepped up as leaders and even Rashean Mathis is leading workouts (something he is usually less than enthusiastic about). The character of the Jaguars is really shining through the way the players are able to organize, workout, and prepare for the season. They’re getting ready the right way, not trying out for soccer teams, golfing, or bull riding.
- On top of limiting the development of rookies, the lack of a proper offseason is also hurting the coaches and what plays they will be able to call. Bill Belichick, among other coaches, has already expressed disgust at the inability to train his new players and veterans on new plays or strategies, the Jaguars are no different. While this can be a problem for a lot of teams (the Patriots use a lot of trickery) it may benefit the Jaguars. The simplification of a playbook usually means more running, and more short, simple passes. The Jaguars will succeed in both areas. It will play into the strengths of our defense (Philosophy: Stop the Run) and our offense (Philosophy: Pound the Rock). Our personnel are built for this style of play. As teams are forced to take away from their playbook, the Jaguars become more formidable. Even weakness, like young secondary players getting used to the pace of the game, or a terrible back seven, can become strengths when they have to worry less about numerous fakes, play action, flea-flickers, blitz schemes, etc. While some people speculate that only teams like the Packers, Steelers, and Saints are best poised to come out on top, I think the teams coming out on top will not be passing teams that rely on intricate timing and maneuvers (like the Saints, Falcons, Packers), but rather the teams that run a lot (like the Jaguars, Browns, and even the Vikings). The new young quarterbacks across the league will benefit from the simplified playbooks, and I think the Jaguars will find success despite having to simplify their strategies.