AFC South: Gus Bradley

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley admitted he made a mistake in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles by not calling timeout when his defense clearly wasn't ready on a fourth-down play.

But he had no second thoughts about what happened at the end of Sunday's 41-10 loss at Washington, when rookie receiver Allen Hurns suffered an ankle injury on the team's final offensive snap. Quarterback Chad Henne threw a sideline pass to Hurns for 3 yards on fourth-and-16 and Hurns was hurt when he was tackled.

Bradley said he didn't consider just running the ball to kill the clock and end the game quickly when the Jaguars took over with 1:46 remaining.

"It didn't come up that way," Bradley said. "I think that the message to our team is we're going to compete every play. At the end of the game in that situation it was an unfortunate deal that took place, but that's our mindset."

Hurns is listed as day-to-day with an ankle sprain.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For one half on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars were a good team.

They had a dominant pass rush, forced three turnovers, made big plays on offense, and controlled the pace of the game to take a 17-0 halftime lead over the Philadelphia Eagles.

It fell apart in the second half, though. Nothing worked on offense, the pass rush couldn't get home, and there were some miscommunication issues on defense that directly led to two big plays. The Eagles scored 34 unanswered points and won easily.

Coach Gus Bradley's message to his players after the game was simple: What happened in the first half is what is expected and what happened in the second is unacceptable.

"This summer I took a golf lesson and was hitting to the right and slicing and the pro said, 'You're not too far off now, just tweak the head of the club a little bit and you'll see that it will go straight,'" Bradley said. "It feels like, 'What happened? We're a ways away?' But we're really close. We have to take care of these things. We can no longer find these things acceptable, but I like our demeanor in the room. They take responsibility and they understand as well.

"It's pretty clear we went out in the first half and played really, really good football. To us, that's the standard."

The players are obviously disappointed in the outcome but defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said they are focusing on that first half because it's proof the franchise is moving forward in the second season of the Bradley/GM David Caldwell regime.

"Now we know what we're capable of," Marks said. “We showed something in the preseason. We showed all practice what we've been working on and to go out and do it and we see it -- I know on the sideline as the D-line we had the feeling of how it felt to be doing great. And to come out in the second half to see how it all unfolded, that's what was hurting.

"The feeling was we went from doing so great and we didn't perform well in the second half. How do we go about finishing? That's what stung the most about it. We have to see and figure out how to finish."
Bortles
For the Jacksonville Jaguars to have success -- over the next three seasons and beyond -- Blake Bortles has to develop into the quarterback general manager David Caldwell envisioned during the pre-draft process.

Caldwell took Bortles with the third overall pick because he and coach Gus Bradley believed Bortles was the best quarterback in the draft and could become the cornerstone of the franchise the way Matt Ryan did in Atlanta during Caldwell’s five seasons with the Falcons. But unlike Ryan, who started 16 games as a rookie, the Jaguars want Bortles to stay off the field in 2014 and instead learn and develop behind Chad Henne.

Bortles will need to adjust to the speed of the NFL game and learn a new offense, but that’s not what is holding him back. He has some mechanical issues, specifically with his lower body, which he must improve. Bortles said the biggest issue is his footwork, particularly when he throws to his right. He’s not stepping in the direction of the throw with his left (front) foot, which leaves his upper body parallel to the line of scrimmage on his release. That’s costing him velocity and accuracy, he said.

There also are other minor technique tweaks and issues that offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo are working on with Bortles. The plan is to use this season to fix these issues so Bortles can take the field in 2015 as a fundamentally sound quarterback who knows the offense completely.

That’s when the Jaguars will find out if Bortles has some of the other qualities needed to be a great quarterback. Can he feel and elude the rush in the pocket? When he’s under pressure, will he step up into the pocket to make the throw or bail out? Is he capable of putting a team on his back? Does he come through in big situations or does he wilt? Is he a consistent player? Do his teammates believe in him?

Those aren’t questions that can be answered now, and they might not all be answered in 2015, either. But the franchise’s future success depends on Caldwell and Bradley being able to answer “yes” to most of those questions.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- His name was still atop his locker and there were a few items still in it -- some shirts, a towel, toiletries -- but that was the extent of Jason Babin's presence with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday afternoon.

The team cut the defensive end early in the morning, a move coach Gus Bradley said was done now because of the development of some of the younger pass-rushers, but also as a sign of respect for the 34-year-old Babin to give him a chance to land with another team before training camps begin next month.

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"We had to ask some tough questions about eventually the 53 guys that are going to be up on Sundays," Bradley said. "We feel that he still has some good games in him and some really good play in him. We were just juggling to try to find a way to get it done within our system. We feel like it was best to give him the opportunity to get out there and hook on with another team.

"I don’t know if there ever is a right time or how to do it. We try to do the best we can, but when we’re dealing with a man like Jason Babin that is tough on both sides."

Babin led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2013 and had nine sacks, 57 tackles and five forced fumbles in 21 games with the Jaguars. His teammates will miss him for more than that, though.

"Just the leadership he brings, the knowledge he brings," said defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who had the locker next to Babin. "Knowing everybody and how we were with Babs, Babs left a lot behind just by the things he used to teach and the way that he carried himself. I’ll talk to Babs probably for the rest of my life just because of the type of guy he is.

"He was the same way every single day. I don’t want to sit here and talk like he passed or he died or something, but Babs -- he was just a great guy. He always was willing to teach and he’s always willing to help."

Second-year defensive end Ryan Davis is one of the younger players -- along with rookie Chris Smith and second-year player Gerald Rivers -- who will benefit from Babin’s release. He was still surprised by the move, though.

"It was shocking," Davis said. "Jason was a key piece of this team, definitely helped this team in leadership. We were such a young team and he helped in my development. ... Whenever I needed to know something I’d go ask Babin and Babin would direct me or tell me what the best move was or pre-snap keys and stuff like that. [He taught me] how to prepare for a game. Babin was very instrumental in stuff like that. Not only that, he’s a great guy."

Babin might have come to Jacksonville in 2012 with a bit of a reputation as a surly guy, but that was not the case with the Jaguars. In fact, Bradley called Babin a "tremendous" leader and said he was a big help to him during the team’s rough start to the 2013 season.

"He ended up being one of our strongest leaders," Bradley said. "We went through some tough times and I leaned on him. He did a great job.

"... He’s a big part of what we’re building here and always will be."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There was a lot of scrambling on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice fields on Saturday afternoon – most of it by team officials to accommodate one of the biggest crowds in team history.

A steady flow of fans packed the practice field for the second day of the Jaguars’ rookie minicamp. They showed up about an hour before the 1 p.m. workout started, lining up into the parking lot in front of EverBank Field.

And they kept coming and coming and coming …

The final count: 6,214 fans, the most to ever watch a Jaguars rookie minicamp and nearly 2,000 more to attend a training camp session.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bortles
Rob Foldy/Getty ImagesBlake Bortles is part of a Jaguars rookie class that has captured the intrigue of the team's fanbase.
"This feels like it felt like it did in 1996 because of the enthusiasm that something better is on the way," said Brian Sexton, the team’s play-by-play radio announcer for the franchise’s first 19 seasons.

There’s certainly reason for the optimism. The Jaguars’ draft class has been lauded by draft analysts and experts across the country as one of the best in the league. General manager David Caldwell took former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick and followed that with a pair of receivers in the second round: USC’s Marqise Lee, whom many regarded as a first-round talent, and Penn State’s Allen Robinson.

Bortles looked a little better on Saturday than he did on Friday. He completed 12 of 18 passes and was the victim of two drops. Robinson stood out by digging out a low throw and making a diving catch on a deep ball thrown by undrafted free-agent quarterback Stephen Morris.

For fans starved for offense – the Jaguars averaged a league-low 15.4 points per game and scored a league-low 23 touchdowns in 2013 – the first three picks were answered prayers. That’s a big reason why 2,054 attended Friday’s practice and more than three times that many were out there on a sunny, breezy afternoon.

Both sets of 500-seat bleachers were packed by the time the team finished stretching. The overflow section behind the first practice field filled up pretty quickly after that. So many kept arriving that team officials had to shut the gates and only allowed fans to enter when some left. Some fans even watched the practice through the bottom of the fence surrounding the fields.

Jaguars officials quickly cleared additional space behind north end zones of the second and third practice fields and re-opened the gates. When the Jaguars worked exclusively on the first practice field for the final few periods, security allowed fans on the middle practice field so they could get a closer look.

"How about the fans?" Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "I look and they’re all lined up underneath [the tarps on the fences]. I don’t know how many people were there, but what a credit to [owner] Shad [Khan], what a vision. When I go around and talk to people, they feel so confident in his vision. I think it’s a credit to him and the organization and it feels good, I do know that.

"And our fans, we talk about ‘connect with the following’ and try to help them go along this journey with us. We get excited, they get excited. When we have tough times, they have tough times. We are going to do this thing together and to be able to come out and see a group of people that are that passionate for good football and to watch passionate players is something."

Tight end Reggie Jordan, one of 27 rookies that were given a tryout, said he has played in front of smaller crowds at Missouri Western State in St. Joseph, Missouri.

"Some days you’ll have, like, 4,000 or 5,000,” Jordan said. "Some days you’ll have, like, 10-12 [thousand]. It was pretty small.

"It just depends on who we played. We knew that when we had a lesser opponent it wasn’t going to be very good."

There hasn’t been this many fans watching a rookie minicamp practice since 2,378 attended a session in 2003, which was quarterback Byron Leftwich’s rookie season. According to the Jaguars, the largest crowd to ever watch a training camp practice was 4,500, which happened several times.

Former Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli, the team’s first inductee into its ring of honor (Pride of the Jaguars), said the atmosphere was similar to the franchise’s early years, especially for the team’s first training camp in Jacksonville in 1996. The Jaguars had camped in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, in their inaugural season.

"It’s always hard to compare because we didn’t have open practices this time of year. Everything was closed," Boselli said. "But it reminds you a little bit of that ’96 training camp with all the buzz. … I think people are really hopeful that this thing is on the right track.

"I think it’s infectious and I think people are pleased so far with what they’ve seen, what Dave’s been able to do, so I think there’s a lot of hope right now. And you draft a quarterback first; everyone gets excited about a quarterback."
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A wrap-up of the Jacksonville Jaguars' draft. Click here for a full list of Jaguars draftees.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonThe Jacksonville Jaguars added much-needed depth at the receiver position, drafting Marqise Lee in the second round.
Best move: Wide receiver is one of the Jaguars' biggest needs because of the uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon. They quickly snatched up Southern California's Marqise Lee when it came time for the Jaguars' first pick in the second round (39th overall). Lee is a first-round talent who slipped because his production dipped significantly in 2013 because of an early-season knee injury and inconsistent quarterback play. He's a big-play receiver (29 career touchdown catches) with good speed and elusiveness, but he also worked the middle of the field at USC. After Blackmon was lost for the second half of the season, the Jaguars had only Cecil Shorts as an outside playmaker and he was bothered by a sports hernia over the final month. Lee was one of the most dangerous players in the country as a sophomore in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Riskiest move: Taking a quarterback high in the first round is always a risk unless you're able to nab a sure thing such as Andrew Luck, so the Jaguars' selection of Central Florida's Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick qualifies. He has ideal size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), a strong arm and good athleticism and mobility, but he needs seasoning and time to develop. The Jaguars' plan isn't to put him on the field in 2014 but instead have him ready for 2015. There's no guarantee that he will be ready, however, or if he can be the elite quarterback the Jaguars desperately need. Missing on Blaine Gabbert in 2011 hurt the franchise for years. Bortles is the make-or-break pick for the David Caldwell/Gus Bradley regime.

Most surprising move: Considering the Jaguars are dealing with a player who has violated the league's substance-abuse policy multiple times (Blackmon), it was interesting that they drafted linebacker Telvin Smith in the fifth round (144th overall) because he failed a drug test at the NFL combine. Smith was forthcoming about the incident, calling it a dumb mistake and saying he told Bradley and Caldwell that he had learned his lesson and it won't happen again. Caldwell said they examined Smith's background pretty intensely and told him this is his opportunity to make up for his mistake. Smith is an intriguing prospect because he fit as a nickel linebacker as someone who can cover backs and tight ends. He needs to get bigger -- he's only 218 pounds at 6-foot-3 -- but he significantly upgrades the speed on defense.

File it away: Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin suffered a torn right ACL on the second day of Senior Bowl practices, but the little time he was on the field was enough to intrigue the Jaguars, who coached the South team, and they took him in the fourth round (114th overall). However, he's probably not going to be cleared for full contact until later in training camp and will begin the season on the PUP list. Caldwell said he's planning on Colvin getting on the field in the second half of the season, though how much depends on his grasp of the defense. He fits the Jaguars' profile for defensive backs (6-0, 192), although his arms are a bit shorter than they'd like (31 inches). He should be the eventual starter opposite Dwayne Gratz, most likely in 2015 because Alan Ball's contract expires following the 2014 season.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

April, 12, 2014
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Got questions about the Jaguars? I'll try to answer a representative selection of them every Saturday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It would be hard for the Jacksonville Jaguars to blow their first-round draft pick.

General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have so much talent from which to choose at No. 3 that it would be hard to find fault with whatever decision they made. Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson, or any of the three quarterbacks are all good options.

The same applies for the second round as well, especially if the Jaguars are going offense because Caldwell said this is a deep draft for offensive talent.

It's on the third day of the draft, however, where it gets a lot tougher. How the Jaguars perform in Rounds 4-7 will be the key to the success of the draft, Bradley said.

"I think that's where we really have to do well," Bradley said. "The first round, obviously, and the second round you have to do some things there. But this draft will be determined by how well we do in those rounds.

"Example: Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, guys like that can make a big difference there. We focus on all areas, but that's an area that we've got to concentrate on, too."

Sherman (2011) and Chancellor (2010) were both fifth-round picks who developed into key members of the Seattle secondary. That's the kind of result for which the Jaguars are hoping for this year.

They've set themselves up with enough ammunition. Because of trades with Baltimore, Detroit and San Francisco, the Jaguars have eight picks in rounds 4-7, including three in fifth round. That should increase their odds of finding at least one player who could develop into a starter.

In reality, though, they're fighting against tradition. Looking back over the past 10 years of fifth-round picks by every NFL team doesn't exactly reveal a lot of success. There are some familiar names -- Sherman, Chancellor, Riley Cooper, Chris Clemons (the defensive back), Rob Ninkovich, and Brent Celek, for example -- but the majority of the picks turned into marginal players at best or were out of the league within a year or two.

The Jaguars haven't had much success with players selected in rounds 4-7 over the past decade, either. They hit on three in 2004 -- receiver Ernest Wilford (fourth), kicker Josh Scobee (fifth) and defensive end Bobby McCray (seventh) -- but since then only five players taken in those round became significant contributors: safety Gerald Sensabaugh (fifth round in 2005), guard Uche Nwaneri (fifth round in 2007), running back Rashad Jennings (seventh round in 2009), receiver Mike Thomas (fourth round in 2009) and receiver Cecil Shorts (fourth round in 2011).

It's too early to tell if any of the players taken in rounds 4-7 the past two seasons will become significant contributors, but it appears the team hit on receiver Ace Sanders (fourth round in 2013).

Bradley said the Jaguars will try to find players in those rounds that fit a specific role. Sanders, for example, was drafted to be the team's punt returner. It's the same approach they used in free agency with linebacker Dekoda Watson, a special teams standout who played situationally on defense with Tampa Bay. The Jaguars project him as a strongside linebacker on first and second downs and a leo on third down.

"For us he was intriguing. We have a spot for him," Bradley said. "We know exactly where we want to play him. That's what can happen [in] the fifth, sixth round. Hey, we really like this guy. We have a spot that he can come in and do some good things."

Find enough of those guys on the third day and Bradley will consider the draft a success.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars coach Gus Bradley knows that people automatically assume he's going to want to sign any Seattle Seahawks player that becomes a free agent or is released.

Especially if they're defensive players. He spent three seasons as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator (2009-12) and helped construct the defense that stymied Peyton Manning's high-scoring offense to win the Super Bowl.

Shanahan
Bradley
And he did sign two players he used to coach during free agency -- defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant -- so that only reinforced the belief.

But he's not going to stop looking at those players, especially if he thinks they can help during the franchise rebuild.

"I think that could be a perception of it and I want to be careful of that," Bradley said. "But if they're good players ... If there's an opportunity for someone that if I have coached, or been a part of coaching, and they've given so much to me and helped our staff as a coaching staff, that in turn if I can have the opportunity to help them, I'm going to look into it. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, that's just how I am."

Bryant and Clemons certainly can help the Jaguars. Bryant, who signed a four-year deal worth $19.5 million, is an upgrade over Tyson Alualu at the run-stuffing defensive end spot. Clemons, who signed a four-year, $17.5 million deal, instantly improves a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in each of the last two seasons.

The Jaguars also had cornerback Walter Thurmond in for a visit, but he instead signed with the New York Giants.

"I think that sometimes as coaches, especially with guys that you brought up, sometimes you can get emotionally involved with guys that you have as coaches but that's not necessarily the best fit for your team," Bradley. "And I think that's where [general manager] Dave [Caldwell] and my conversation has gone and with the other coaches, and so we stay true and we say, ‘Alright, like a Red Bryant. Do you want Red Bryant because it's emotional? You know what you're getting and you like it. Or on tape does he warrant it?"

There's no doubting the signing of Clemons and Bryant was warranted. Thurmond would have been, too, and that's more important.

"I could see that perception [that the Jaguars are signing too many Seattle players]," Bradley said. "But we're looking for all good players and they fit that category."

Pagano has seniority in AFC South

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Chuck Pagano has been coach of the Indianapolis Colts for just two seasons. He’s coached only 20 games because his unfortunate battle with leukemia caused him to miss 12 games during the 2012 season.

Those two seasons have put Pagano at the top of the seniority list among coaches in the AFC South.

“We all understand the nature of the business,” he said. “We know how we’re judged and that’s by one thing only: wins and losses. We all know what we signed up for. You just try to do the best you can, win as many games as you can.”

The Colts have won 11 games in each of the past two seasons and a division title in that time span. Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley has the second-longest tenure in the division. He’s heading into his second season with the Jaguars, who were 4-12 last season.

Houston, the biggest disappointment in the NFL last season, and Tennessee have hired new coaches. The Texans hired former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and the Titans named Ken Whisenhunt their coach.

Teams not named the Colts went a combined 13-35 last season in the worst division in the league.

“We don’t take what happened last year for granted,” Pagano said. “You have quality coaches, you have quality players. Everybody’s picking up new players, everybody’s made acquisitions during free agency. All those games, they’re all competitive games.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jaguars coach Gus Bradley would like to be able to sit down with suspended receiver Justin Blackmon and have a conversation the way they did during Blackmon's early-season suspension in 2013.

But the two have had only minimal contact via text messages because NFL rules prohibit Blackmon from visiting the team's facility while serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

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"I wish I could have a more extended conversation with him," Bradley said Tuesday. "My feelings toward him haven't changed. I still care about him.

"To be able to sit down and visit with him, that part I miss."

That used to be a regular occurrence. They would sit down each week during the season and have conversations that sometimes lasted more than an hour. Most of those talks had nothing to do with football. But Bradley hasn't had any contact with Blackmon for several weeks.

Bradley had heard that Blackmon was back in Jacksonville and that was confirmed when he heard about Blackmon's early-morning, one-car accident on March 15.

The Jaguars are still unsure of Blackmon's availability for the 2014 season -- he will be able to petition NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement before the season begins -- and the team is planning on being without him.

The Jaguars already added receiver Tandon Doss in free agency and Bradley said the team will likely draft at least one more receiver.

"It's something that we will address," Bradley said. "We looked at [Emmanuel] Sanders and didn't get him. Somewhere in those 11 picks, yeah, you'll probably see us take a wide receiver. We'll see. We've got to take best available."
Gus Bradley Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJaguars coach Gus Bradley's enthusiastic approach to his job is attractive to prospective players.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- NFL free agency isn’t quite like college recruiting. Sure, in many places facilities are pretty similar, the possibility of playing time plays a role, and it can be a lifelong dream for a player to join a certain team.

But in the NFL, money is often the No. 1 factor -- and in some cases the only factor -- when a player makes his decision on where to sign.

However, it appears there is the beginning of a twist involved in the Jaguars’ pitch to free agents. Something in addition to the $11 million in upgrades to the weight room and locker room and the plethora of holes in the roster.

Coach Gus Bradley is quickly becoming a crucial part of the draw players are feeling toward the franchise.

Money and fit in a team’s scheme are still the most significant factors for free agents, but Bradley is beginning to gain a reputation around the league as a coach who is good to play for. More importantly, he is becoming known as a coach who is fun to play for.

When multiple offers are relatively equal, something has to serve as the tiebreaker. If what happened during the first days of free agency last week is an indication, it’s Bradley in Jacksonville.

"As soon as you meet him, he is already a likable person," said cornerback Will Blackmon, who joined the Jaguars in August on a one-year deal and re-signed last week. "That’s what’s really cool about all the competitive players that are coming here. They don’t have to come here. Usually teams are like, ‘Oh, Jacksonville didn't do well.’ But once they come here and they see the environment and they see what they’re about, they’re real attracted to it."

Owner Shad Khan and general manager David Caldwell created the environment, but Bradley is the public face. He’s the one who is showing visiting free agents a PowerPoint presentation. He’s the one spewing energy like mud off a tractor tire. He’s the one who had at least one visitor ready to put on his pads and hit the field after only a few minutes.

That was running back Toby Gerhart, who chose the Jaguars over Cleveland and San Francisco, which is led by Gerhart’s college coach Jim Harbaugh.

"I’ve never seen in anything like that," Gerhart said. "Meeting Gus, it was unlike anything I’ve … I walked away, and I was like, ‘Yes, I belong here.’ I actually was going away coming out thinking, ‘What type of person am I?' He talks about different characteristics of people and how can I make people better and the positive, prosperity and adversity. All this stuff he talked about in a quick 10 minutes. I was like, ‘I wish I had a notebook to write some of this stuff down.’

"I was enlightened and fired up and extremely excited. I’ve never met anybody like him. I can see why everybody spoke so highly, and you can tell things are going to get going and you’re going to want to jump on this train."

Gerhart was blown away even though he knew what to expect before his visit. He’s a former roommate of tight end Allen Reisner, who spent the 2013 season with the Jaguars, so he called him. Gerhart also talked to Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who also is represented by Athletes First.

"[Henne] said, ‘Trust me, there’s something about this program,’" Gerhart said. "Coach Bradley, there’s something special that’s going to happen."

Gerhart could have been the No. 1 back in Cleveland or gone to a San Francisco team that has played in three NFC Championship Games in a row, but he chose Jacksonville in large part because of his experience with Bradley. Defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and his representatives had contact with Washington, Oakland, St. Louis and Kansas City, but he chose the Jaguars. Being able to move back to his natural position at defensive tackle from defensive end, which he played in Pittsburgh, was the main reason, but Bradley also was a major factor.

"The first time I met Coach Bradley, his energy was high," Hood said. "It was different. This guy has energy. He was bouncing from wall to wall. He was from room to room, side to side."

If most NFL coaches are like poetry readings, Bradley is a monster truck rally.

But perhaps most importantly from a player’s perspective is that he’s a monster truck rally every day.

Players function best when things are consistent. They liked Bradley’s message, the way he treated them on the field and in the locker room, and his positive attitude during organized team activities, minicamp and training camp, but they wondered how it would be during the season. They especially wondered how it would be when they were 0-4.

Nothing changed. Not even when the Jaguars were 0-8.

That’s what Reisner, Henne and other Jaguars players told colleagues around the league. Not only will Bradley let you be who you are and allow you to have fun, but he’s also going to be the same person every single day.

That certainly doesn’t mean the Jaguars will land every free agent they target. Walter Thurmond and Emmanuel Sanders visited last week and signed elsewhere. Not everybody fits the system, and not everybody is willing to come to a small-market team that has won just 11 games in the past three seasons.

But playing for Bradley was a pull for several players this year, and that number may grow as his reputation quickly spreads throughout the league.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There’s going to be a lot more bling inside the Jaguars' locker room this season.

In the past three days, the Jaguars have signed three players who appeared in the Super Bowl in February: former Denver guard Zane Beadles and former Seattle defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. While that wasn’t by design, it’s a circumstance that general manager David Caldwell hopes to exploit as he continues to reshape and build the Jaguars in his second season.

Nothing ensures credibility like success and that’s something most of the players on the Jaguars’ roster have experienced little of.

"It’s not just the fact they played in the Super Bowl but all three came from winning organizations, which is important," Caldwell said. "They have been through playoff games and they know what it takes to get to where we want to be.

"They know what it takes to get better."

It wouldn’t be strange to see one player from one of the league’s top teams sign a free-agent contract with one of the league’s worst teams. Two might not garner much attention, either. But three is a bit unusual. Granted, two of the players -- Clemons and Bryant -- played for Jaguars coach Gus Bradley when he was Seattle’s defensive coordinator from 2009-12, so that played a part in pulling them to Jacksonville.

But all three players had offers from other teams, including some that made the playoffs in 2013, and somehow ended up together with a Jaguars organization that has won just seven games in the past three seasons and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007.

The two former Seahawks are here now because they had made the decision to try and end up with the same team should they be released as part of Seattle’s salary-cap management. Bryant was released on Feb. 28 and the Jaguars signed him March 8. The Seahawks released Clemons four days later and less than 24 hours after that he was signing a four-year deal with the Jaguars on Thursday.

"Once a lot of teams win the Super Bowl, some teams keep them together and some teams dismantle the whole team," Clemons said. "We are a group of guys that understand each other and know each other pretty well. That’s our plan. Me and Red had talked about it already when our names first started coming up about the salary cap: ‘Wherever you go, let me know so I can try and fit myself in because we know each other so well.’

"Once you have that camaraderie with somebody it’s hard to actually go and find it somewhere else."

Beadles had wanted to stay in Denver -- which has geared itself up for a run at another Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s final seasons by signing Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware -- but he and the Broncos were not close in negotiations. He was the Jaguars’ top offensive line target and quickly agreed to a five-year, $30 million deal just hours after the free-agency period began.

Beadles goes from one of the league’s top offenses to one of its worst.

"I think a lot of people would look at that and say, ‘What’s going on there?’" Beadles said. "But to me it’s a good challenge. Like I said, I went from a team that was 4-12 my rookie year to being in the Super Bowl my fourth year."

That’s a progression the Jaguars would like to make as well, and Caldwell is banking on the three Super Bowl participants playing a key role.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Jaguars

March, 13, 2014
3/13/14
10:30
AM ET
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has been consistent in which player he believes the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to take with the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft.

In his first mock draft he predicted the Jaguars would bypass a quarterback and instead select defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

In his second mock draft he had the Jaguars taking ... Clowney.

We’ll find out if he has changed his mind in his third mock draft Insider when it is released late Thursday morning.

The Jaguars had one of the least-talented rosters in 2013 and general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley still have a lot of work ahead before that improves. They have needs everywhere, but the two biggest are undoubtedly quarterback and pass-rusher, and it seems likely the Jaguars will take one of those two positions with their first pick.

The team signed quarterback Chad Henne to a two-year contract on March 7 and Bradley promptly named him the starter for the 2014 season. He said the ideal situation would be for whichever quarterback the team drafted -- whether it was in the first round or later -- to spend time learning behind Henne. The young quarterback might not even take a snap in 2014.

That would seem to indicate the Jaguars won't be likely to take Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles in the first round. Players taken that high need to make an immediate impact, and that won't happen if they're sitting on the bench.

However, Clowney or linebacker Khalil Mack would instantly make the Jaguars better on defense. The pass rush has been among the worst in the league the past two seasons (51 sacks, including 20 in 2012) and Clowney is regarded as the best pass-rusher in the draft. Mack, who is a perfect fit for the Jaguars' hybrid end/linebacker spot, had one of the most impressive workouts at the NFL combine and is rising up draft boards.

However, the Jaguars do need help at receiver, too. Maybe Sammy Watkins could be the player Kiper believes the Jaguars will pick.

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