At the NFL’s Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, the Jaguars were everybody’s “sleeper pick” to make some noise in the AFC South and contend for a post season berth. But long suffering Jaguars fans probably only heard one phrase uttered by Head Coach Gus Bradley at the annual AFC Coaches Breakfast: “Five year plan.”
Wait. Wasn’t it three, then four and now five? To their credit, the Jaguars brass has never mentioned a number when it came to years to rebuild but now five? Does Owner Shad Khan know that’s the number?
“I’m sure if you talk to Shad, I don’t know if he would say its patience,” Bradley said in front of the assembled media at the breakfast. “I just think he feels like this is the way we’re going to do it. This is the way. We took a big undertaking and we’ve all been on the same page since we’ve started. I think it’s been tremendous support. He’s also a guy that, like Dave, has tremendous expectations. As we build this and get these players in here, that’s part of it. I think we feel like those expectations from day one, but we’ve been very strict to stay to the plan”
There are parts of the plan that never really made sense. Daryl Smith, Montel Owens and several other players the Jaguars parted ways with would have fit just fine into a rebuilding plan. But the new leadership seemed determined to start from scratch. Nobody’s ever done that. Usually it’s rebuild around a veteran QB or bring in a rookie QB on a veteran team. The Jaguars started from scratch on both sides of the equation.
It’s pretty obvious the expectations are high this year, starting with Khan. Asked what “better” translates to, he said, “Better than 5-11.”
That’s why the spending in free agency was saved for this year, putting some veteran faces with the young developing players.
“One of the things in free agency, you’re looking to have flexibility in the draft,” Bradley explained. ” I think it has allowed us to do that. You’d like to go into the draft thinking that you can truly take best available. The player that is best when we pick. I think that’s what free agency has done for us. We have some needs still. We have some areas that we need to concentrate on, but it has allowed us to do that.”
By signing Malik Jackson, arguably the best defensive free agent available, the Jaguars have addressed their biggest pressing need: pass rush. Jackson plays in the interior of the defensive line, similar to Sen’Derrick Marks who’s coming back from injury. They hope to have both of them on the field, often playing together.
“I think for us, if it’s up to us, we’re not going to have a lot of really good players standing on the sidelines. We have to get them on the field. That’s the challenge for us: to get those guys on the field at the same time.”
Adding Tashaun Gipson at safety will make Jonathan Cyprien better and allow him to play closer to the line of scrimmage according to Bradley. He expects James Sample to be a part of the plan as well.
He’s more of a ball hawk.,” Bradley said of Gipson. “That’s what we were looking for. We wanted a guy that can get the ball. He’s shown that with what, 14 interceptions over three years. More of a ball-hawk type free safety.”
While Bradley is a defensive coach, his eyes lit up most when he talked about Chris Ivory. “A violent, violent runner,” is how he described the free agent acquisition from the Jets. He expects Ivory and TJ Yeldon to be the perfect complement at running back.
“It’s a good complement. Nowadays, the ideal is to have two backs. I think there was a game last year that T.J. played over 70 snaps and we just felt like if we changed that up a little bit and give defenses a different style of runner, that’s always important.”