May 13, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley reacts during organized team activities at The Florida Blue Health

Why The Jacksonville Jaguars Will Improve In 2013...

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No. Don’t even get me started. I’m not talking about wins-losses. I’m not declaring an 8-8 record, I’m not even declaring a 7-9 record, even though 7-9 would be miraculous.

So many fans are focused on records. At the end of the day in the NFL, you are your record. Well right now everyone has the same record. Everyone is 0-0 and everyone is dreaming about something better for their team. I am no different. I am dreaming of something better for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Soon, come September it won’t be a dream. It will be a reality. This team will perform better.

Now. Here comes the tricky part. I said “perform”. I did not say “playoffs.” As a matter of fact, that word shouldn’t even be in the works.

It’s important to have goals. It’s more important to have short term goals that lead to long term rewards. I really like what I’ve seen from the Jaguars over the last few months. They’ve made their short term goals very clear. They cleaned house early on after evaluating the roster. They spent wisely in free agency, picking up low risk, low cost, high reward free agents. They drafted wisely, drafting for need rather than reaching, and in the process snagged their top rated prospect. They’ve kept a steady churn on the roster, bringing in new players since the draft like Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, and Jeremy Ebert. Bradley has done nothing but preached competition, and so far in OTAs it looks as if training camp will be nothing short of one great big competition.

The Jaguars have something now that they did not have last year: direction. You can see it in every personnel move they make, they have a set direction with not only their scheme, but their philosophy of competition as well.

May 13, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien (37) during organized team activities at The Florida Blue Health

Bradley needed a new secondary for his scheme. So…he went out and signed CB/S Alan Ball and CB Marcus Trufant in free agency and drafted S Jonathan Cyprien and CB Dwayne Gratz in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of this year’s draft along with 3 other DBs later on. There were no real significant upgrades along the defensive line that produced a league low 20 sacks in 2012. No big time free agents were added unless you count free agent acquitions Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks as “big time free agents.” Not even a defensive lineman was drafted. I really like Bradley’s approach towards this position though. He’s kept the pieces he likes, moved some around (Alualu to DE), and former Patriot defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love were recently added. Two  UDFAs who signed after the draft, TJ Barnes and Abry Jones, are no slouches either. All in all there are something like 16 defensive linemen on the roster, most of which were not 0n the team last season. Regarding the defensive line, in a nutshell: we’re going to put a whole bunch of young, hungry players together and let them duke it out. Does that surprise us? There is competition at every position, as advertised.

Another reason I think Jacksonville will be better is because of the speed that was added. Watching the Jaguars over the last few years, there just hasn’t been any speed. It looked as if the Jaguars were in slow motion while the other team happily ran circles around them. Some serious speed this year was added, and it will certainly make a difference.

The main reason I think the Jaguars will be better: Gus Bradley makes players want to be here in Jacksonville. When watching the OTAs, there is a certain level of intensity that has been seriously lacking, but not now. The practices look different. The players carry themselves differently. The team wants to be here, and that in itself will be a turning point for the Jaguars.

I’m a realist. Jacksonville has some nice pieces. Cecil Shorts is talented. Justin Blackmon is troubled, yet talented and will ultimately be absent the first four games. Maurice Jones-Drew is super talented, but he’s in a bit of a situation. But seriously folks let’s be real. This team is talent deficient. We have no elite pass rusher, not even a reliable QB, the two most important positions on offense and defense. It’s OK. It’s been the truth for awhile now, and it’s time to face the truth. That’s why this is the perfect team for Gus Bradley because Bradley knows how to get the most out of what he’s given and from what I’ve seen so far that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s causing these young players to challenge one another and themselves to get better everyday, and that in turn will have a positive effect on the team.

I know it’s probably hard to imagine. All of this “motivation stuff” is unquantifiable. Most people want the hard facts, the bottom line, the numbers. All of that stuff is great and all, but none of it means anything if your players don’t buy into the coach. *See 2012 season These players are buying into what Bradley is selling. “Why?” you might ask. Because for the first time Bradley has brought something to the Jaguars worth buying.

May 13, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) runs during organized team activities at The Florida Blue Health

Progress takes time. Most want instant improvement. That is not reality, guys. More than likely, Jacksonville is not going to the playoffs this year. Does that mean we all need to scream for Caldwell’s and Bradley’s heads? I’m sure some will actually say that. “Fire him.” “Cut him.” As if that’s the best solution to every problem that pops up. It’s not. This will be a process. The Jaguars will look better this year. They will be more competitive. Next year they will be a little better, and so on. It takes awhile for the new culture to set it. It can take years for a coach to get his kind of players in to fit his scheme.

I like the zone blocking scheme that will be implemented. I like the hybrid 4-3 defense with 3-4 looks and a mean, physical secondary that is being taught. I like the speed that was added, but more than that – I like the tempo. Playing fast, and practicing playing fast. It’s just not running fast. It’s analyzing fast, reading offenses and defenses fast, getting to your assignment fast, communicating fast, doing everything fast, and we just haven’t seen fast here in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars may not break .500 this year, but they will be better.

-David R. Johns

 

 

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