Rayshawn Jenkins: Jaguars ‘were working just to work’ in 2021

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins (2) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins (2) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] /

Urban Meyer’s first and last year as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars was a failure, and players who were with the team in 2021 have spoken about how tough it was. Meyer has been gone for several months and players have already moved one. However, some notice the difference between how things were run then and now.

On Day 2 of mandatory minicamp, safety Rayshawn Jenkins told Jamal St. Cyr of News4Jax that he’s having fun under defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, “you get a bunch of guys around the ball, a bunch of different guys making plays“. Jenkins believes that Caldwell does a good job of “putting his guys at the point of attack”. Later, he said he’s excited about how the defense is coming together. Moreover, he doesn’t think Jacksonville’s defense was bad but there was no direction.

"Last year, I would say defensively, we didn’t have a horrible year. The only thing I can really think about is just our turnovers. We gotta get the ball out there or create turnovers, some type of way, whether that be like strip sacks or forced fumbles, interceptions, anything, so I’m excited to see all 11 work with a real goal in mind. There’s no shot at anybody but last year, we were just working just to work."

Head coach Doug Pederson exempted most veterans from the team’s mandatory minicamp but had rookies, players recovering from injuries, and a selected bunch attend it. Jenkins, who suffered an ankle injury last season was among those who showed up. A fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2017 draft, the safety signed a four-year worth $35 million with the Jaguars last offseason. He made 14 starts in 2021 and logged 73 total tackles and three passes defensed. Here’s the whole one-on-one interview.

Rayshawn Jenkins and the Jaguars defense will be better in 2021

Urban Meyer allegedly threatened players and instilled fear in them to motivate them. Meanwhile, Doug Pederson is looking for ways to connect to players and build up the trust his predecessor threw out of the window. This isn’t to say Pederson is soft. Far from it. He demands the best from his players but he knows what buttons he needs to push. And his less authoritarian, ‘my way or the highway’ approach should lead to a healthier culture and more success on the football field.

For context, Jacksonville’s defense ranked last in the league in takeaways with just nine. Jenkins is right they need to step up their game, and he’s also into something when he says he and his teammates were working without defined goals. At times, it looked like the Jags were going through the motions and that falls on the coaching staff. In spite o that, the defense showed flashes at times and had some dominant performances, so the safety isn’t necessarily wrong.

It’s uncertain if the safety was referring to former Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen or Urban Meyer. Then again, the latter was the head coach, so he needs to bear the blame if the defense wasn’t responding to Cullen. Having said that, it’s possible that Cullen himself was fed up with his boss. Either way, that’s ancient history.

Jenkins and every Jaguars defender must be thrilled. There’s a new coaching staff in place, one that will push them to be better. Also, the front office made several upgrades to most position groups. Jacksonville might not field a top 10 defense in 2022 but one thing is certain, they will be better than they were last year.

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