There is reason for optimism, Jags fans. We finally have a GM in place who appears to have an idea of how to put together a competitive franchise. Caldwell isn’t talking about “blowing it all up.” Instead he’s giving vague votes of confidence regarding the current roster. Vague you say? As a professional in any field you don’t simply single someone out claiming how bad of a job he or she is doing. When you’re in a position such as Caldwell’s, you talk about what went right. Why talk about what went right in a 2-14 season? Well that’s a very good question.
There are parts of this team that can and will still work in the Jaguars’ favor. He’s already said Mercedes Lewis is a “very good tight end.” He’s been fairly supportive of Blaine Gabbert, as supportive as one could be. I guess I should say he’s open to the possibility of Gabbert starting for the Jaguars once again, if he beats out his competition in camp that is. He’s claimed that Eugene Monroe is a core of the offense as well.
David Caldwell is approaching this thing the right way. When searching for a head coach, there were no out of work retread coaches in the mix. Caldwell was searching for someone with a very high ceiling and a deep passion for the game, and his head coach ended up being Gus Bradley.
In a nutshell you just can’t “blow it all up.” You can’t build a team solely on free agency. Regarding the draft, you can find impact players who can contribute immediately, but the odds of hitting on all seven picks to do so are very slim. So Caldwell and Bradley will have to sift through the roster and see who needs to stay and who needs to go.
Caldwell has come out and said that the Jaguars will be a needs based drafting team. I’ve always been more of a BAP kinda guy, but the fact that he has a solid philosophy makes me believe that we will see the best Jaguars draft in recent years.
So it comes down to this: which positions will be addressed through free agency and which positions will be addressed through the draft? The money positions, the high stake positions in football are as follows: quarterback, left tackle, cornerback, defensive end, and to a certain degree, defensive tackle. What do the Jaguars need?
In my humble opinion, they need not only those positions, but running back depth behind MJD, wide receiver depth behind Shorts and Blackmon, tight end depth behind Lewis, a new safety or two, younger interior offensive linemen, and some healthy linebackers. So basically the Jaguars could use a little of everything.
Regarding the premier positions, if training camp was to start tomorrow, they would roll into camp with Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, Eugene Monroe at left tackle, a slew of average yet experienced defensive ends in Jeremy Mincey, Austen Lane (to a certain degree), Jason Babin (age is a factor, but he’s proven to be effective), and 2012 2nd rounder Andre Branch. What happens with Derek Cox at cornerback is a huge question mark and will most certainly deteremine what happens at the position in the offseason. Defensive tackle could use a major upgrade considering the only decent player we have seems to be Tyson Alualu and even that’s debatable.
So do we use our 2nd overall pick at one of those positions? We also have the 1st pick in the 2nd round and that’s not bad news at all. Thankfully this draft is looking very deep at offensive and defensive line, wide receiver, and there’s even some good quality running backs who would be a great complement to Maurice Jones-Drew. Kenjon Barner from Oregon anyone?
As far as free agency goes, expect the Jaguars to use it the right way. The days of overpaying over the hill veterans are long gone. No more Aaron Kampmans or Laurent Robinsons – who may have hit the end of the road due to four concussions in 2012. They will simply fill holes. Expect Caldwell to use free agency to bring in that RB, WR, TE depth with some mid tier free agents. Maybe he signs a safety. Maybe he brings in a free agent quarterback to compete with Gabbert and Henne. Bottom line, Caldwell will surely get good value free agents.
There won’t be any splash signings, but there won’t be any wasted money either. The parts of the team worth keeping will be kept, and the Jacksonville Jaguars will become a team that knows how to draft.
Obviously all of this is a mixed opinion based on what Caldwell is saying and my own two cents. Now that the Super Bowl is over and done with, we can all begin looking to the combine in the coming weeks. Free agency starts March 12th, and of course by the time the draft rolls around the Jacksonville Jaguars will be center stage with the No. 2 overall pick.
Fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars: Caldwell and Bradley will be putting together this team the right way. It may not garner immediate results in the W-L column, but I’m telling you right now we will be able to tell a difference in this team next year and much of it will be due to Caldwell’s level-headed approach in rebuilding.
-David R. Johns