NFL Nation: Maurcie Jones-Drew

When new GM David Caldwell decided not to retain Mike Mularkey and set off on a search for a head coach, he spoke of looking for a co-builder of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Caldwell’s guy is hired and Gus Bradley will be introduced Friday.

Now the two will embark on the toughest job in the league: Roster building for a team that doesn't have much talent.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliNew coach Gus Bradley inherits a roster with a dearth of playmakers and an upgrade needed at quarterback.
The Jaguars were technically the second-worst team in the league in 2012. They and the Kansas City Chiefs were 2-14, but Kansas City played an easier schedule and thereby qualified for the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Caldwell and Bradley will be looking to add a blue-chip player at No. 2, a building block.

The list of guys under contract that I consider pieces they can fill in around isn’t very long:
On offense: Receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Marcedes Lewis (though he’s overpriced), running back Maurice Jones-Drew (who could be dealt with one year remaining on his deal).

On defense: Ends Jeremy Mincey and Jason Babin, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, safeties Dwight Lowery and Dawan Landry.

That’s not a lot, and we don’t know if all those guys fit what Caldwell and Bradley will want to do systematically.

While a lot of teams have turned things around quickly, the Jaguars need a major infusion of talent. A quality free-agency class and a good draft can do a lot to help the team make a jump. But this roster needs major revamping, and it’ll take more than a year to turn the Jaguars into a playoff-caliber team.

The one element that can accelerate a turnaround -- a big-time quarterback -- does not appear to be available. The Colts went from 2-14 to 11-5 with a new regime, but the central player in the turnaround was No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. There is no Luck to be brought in here.

Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are under contract.

Perhaps the Jaguars find a quarterback who’s a revelation like third-rounder Russell Wilson in Seattle, where Bradley comes from. Perhaps they deal for Matt Flynn (also in Seattle) or Alex Smith (San Francisco) and the new veteran is a big upgrade.

But the odds on either scenario are long.

More likely the leadership duo look to build all other areas of the roster while waiting for a chance at a quarterback in a year or two. Caldwell's contract is for five years. We don't know the length of Bradley's deal yet.

But their co-build is very likely going to take time.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

December, 22, 2010
12/22/10
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FALLING

1. Jacksonville’s execution at a critical time: Down four points in the third quarter, you can’t go for it on fourth-and-1 in your own end and not convert. I didn’t like Jack Del Rio’s call. But fact is, if David Garrard snuck it, there was room, and if Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t fumble the pitch he had room to convert it too.

2. The Texans’ perspective: Explain it away all they like, but the Brian Cushing-Antonio Smith on field scuffle looked horrible. It almost matched Bob McNair’s weak praise of his team last week for the comeback against the Ravens. Never mind they lost in overtime. McNair shouldn’t follow the instructions of his team’s fans, but he also can’t be that disconnected. And after he shared that enthusiasm about the team’s direction, it rewarded him with a dud in Nashville.

3. Don Carey and Sean Considine, Jaguars safeties: Angles, tackling and reliability have been an issue for the team from the safety position all season. In the Jaguars’ biggest game of the year, the two starters were glaringly poor. Gene Smith couldn’t fix all the personnel problems at once. Courtney Greene may be OK at one spot going forward, but this team needs to add at least two safeties in the offseason.

RISING

[+] EnlargeJacksonville Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliJaguars linebacker Daryl Smith is flying under the radar and making plays.
1. Daryl Smith, Jaguars linebacker: He was all over the place against the Colts, and if it came in a win, I think it may well have been an AFC defensive player of the week worthy performance. Smith’s backers have touted him as one of the most underrated players in the league. He was the best linebacker in the AFC South on Sunday.

2. Fernando Velasco, Titans center: Subbing for Eugene Amano, who went on IR last week, Velasco got high praise from Jeff Fisher and was part of the team’s best offensive line effort in recent memory. He’s a strong guy who seemed ready to perform, just as he did in a spot start for Leroy Harris against Dallas. Velasco could be injecting himself into the mix for a front-line spot in 2011.

3. The Colts' run-blocking: Donald Brown was our High Energy Player of the Week Tuesday, but we failed to give enough credit to the guys in front of him. It was a quality game plan which was well-executed and stopped the more powerful Jaguars. Holding up a couple times when the Jaguars needed only a yard was impressive work.
Dirk KoetterAP Photo/Phil CoaleWith two strong-willed assistants gone, Dirk Koetter may be more assertive but says he still has to tailor things to the strengths of his players.
He’s heading into his fourth season. Two strong-willed veteran offensive assistants have departed. His team needs to make a leap with several second-year guys in key roles.

So Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, regarded as a creative offensive mind as a head coach at Arizona State and Boise State, is about to show us how clever he is, right?

While the coordinator is aware of the labels he might have carried when he came into the league in 2007, he’s even more aware of the realities of the NFL.

“Shoot, when I was a college coach, I was supposedly one of the most innovative college coaches there was,” Koetter said. “In the NFL, you’re not showing defensive coaches and defensive players something they haven’t seen before. So that whole creativity thing -- it’s not like you’re going to break out the veer and go up to Tennessee and fool Jeff Fisher because he’s never seen it before.

“I think the best teams in the NFL are more about execution than they are about creativity."

Koetter said he never felt overshadowed by the departed assistants. He values the time he gets with good coaches and that he learned a lot from Kennedy Pola, who handled running backs, and Mike Tice, who oversaw tight ends. Their replacements, Earnest Byner and Rob Boras, respectively, won’t rank as weaker members of the offensive staff.

Koetter feels the Jags have a valuable asset in improving execution: experience.

Last season, he had six rookies on the field at once during the team’s 41-0 loss at Seattle .

But now, players like tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton and receivers like Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard and Tiquan Underwood and tight end Zach Miller all have a better understanding of what they are being asked to do and how the league works.

“Am I saying to Dirk, ‘Hey, let’s put the pedal down, let’s be as good as we can be and be yourself and do things you want to do?’” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think he naturally feels a little more free to do that because we had a couple strong coaches, really good coaches, that were here before he got here in Kennedy Pola and Mike Tice and they’re both gone.

“He probably deferred to them a little bit more. Now that they're not here, he’s not going to defer to them. I think he’ll work closely with [offensive line coach] Andy Heck and the rest of the staff and put together a plan. But I think he’ll have a chance to push some of his thoughts to the forefront and I’ve encouraged him to do that.”

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