Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Rebuilding Jaguars avoid talk about winning
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- No doubt, the Jacksonville Jaguars want to win.
They just don't want to focus on it, talk about it or really even think about it.
So you won't hear general manager Dave Caldwell, coach Gus Bradley or many of their players mention that ultimate goal. Instead, the main theme in Jacksonville is getting better. It's the team motto these days, a catch phrase that Bradley brought with him from Seattle and one he hopes will narrow each player's focus during what could be a lengthy rebuild.
"I really believe in the process," Bradley said. "I think when you look ahead, you forget about enjoying the process. We want to compete, have our guys go hard, get better at fundamentals and techniques, but also enjoy it. And when you look ahead, sometimes you miss those things.
"If we can get a guy to get to his highest level, then we win. That's how we define winning, that's how we talk about winning."
The Jaguars are coming off the worst season in franchise history, a 2-14 debacle that got general manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey fired and started the franchise's third overhaul in the last five seasons.
This one is going to be a complete renovation.
And it might not yield immediate improvement on the field or in the standings, something Bradley can handle -- at least for now.
"His mindset is for everybody to go out there and give what they have and live with the results," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "He's instilled in us that we don't have to worry about expectations; that kind of thing will just take care of itself. I think that creates an environment which allows us to be able to just go out there and give it all we've got, and live with the results. And if it's good enough, it's good enough."
With winning off the Jaguars' radar, here are five things to watch in 2013:
GABBERT'S LAST GO: The biggest thing Jacksonville needs to get out of this season is clarity at quarterback. Bradley named Gabbert the starter, picking him over Chad Henne and giving the former first-round draft pick a chance to prove he can be a franchise QB. If Gabbert shows significant progress, then the Jaguars could be set under center for years. If not, there's little doubt Caldwell and Bradley will move on and draft their guy in 2014. Caldwell and Bradley believe Gabbert played in less-than-ideal circumstances his first two years and will benefit from drafting right tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick, getting running Maurice Jones-Drew back from a foot injury and having more experienced receivers in Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon.
MJD HEALTHY, HUNGRY: Jones-Drew is trying to make a comeback and earn another contract. The NFL's leading rusher in 2011 sustained a Lisfranc injury to his left foot last October and missed the final 10 games of the season. He had surgery in December, which delayed his rehab and his return. He was cleared to practice just days before training camp and has shown no ill effects from the injury. Jones-Drew is eager to prove he can return to form, even in a new offense that features a zone blocking scheme. If the 28-year-old back stays healthy, he could land another lucrative contract in Jacksonville or elsewhere.
DEFENSIVE DOUBTS: The Jaguars might be punchless at the point of attack -- again. Bradley's retooled defense features press coverage designed to disrupt timing and routes, but it's unlikely to find much success if the unit doesn't generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Jacksonville has been the least-disruptive defense the last five seasons, averaging a paltry 24 sacks. Although free agents Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks and veteran Jason Babin (claimed off waivers last November) are upgrades, the Jags have yet to show they can apply the kind of consistent pressure needed in a passing league.
SHORTS SHOWS UP: Shorts has been the team's best receiver throughout the offseason and in training camp. The Jaguars would love to see it continue into the regular season. With Blackmon suspended the first four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, Shorts will be asked to carry the load early, a role he welcomes. Shorts caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns last season -- 47 receptions for 784 yards and five scores over his final nine games -- and showed glimpses of being a go-to guy.
FRANCHISE'S FUTURE: Despite continued speculation the Jaguars will move to Los Angeles or London, billionaire owner Shad Khan has made it clear he has no plans to relocate the small-market franchise. Not only has he already spent about $10 million in facility upgrades, he's committed millions more in local business ventures and is helping commission a $60 million scoreboard that will be the largest in the NFL. As for those four home games in London, which begin this season, they're part of Khan's plan to increase the team's international profile and reach an untapped market.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org