In his fourth year as the Jaguars head coach, Gus Bradley is pretty much done creating a culture.
You could tell from his opening statement after the first OTA of 2016.
“I would say a good start, not a great start,” is how he started. “I thought there were some things, but I kind of like that as far as the first day because the team recognized it. What I saw that I did like is that they’re starting to hold each other accountable from day one.”
Building a roster with a players who have the blend of talent and personality that will fit into Bradley’s culture was a priority for the head coach and General Manager Dave Caldwell. Bradley’s built the core. Now he’s leaving it up to the players.
“We’re not going in and having a team meeting about, ‘Hey, you have to hold each other accountable to a standard.’ Those discussions are over. Those guys know the standard so I like that part of it.”
Much like last year, Bradley was faced with a question about his injured first round draft pick after the first OTA. He didn’t seem overly concerned, relating that he couldn’t tell when Jalen Ramsey was injured during Phase Two of the workouts. ”
“You know what, I’m going to be really honest with you and say it’s hard to see,” Gus recalled. “Both him and I have had conversations about it and you really can’t see anything on tape.”
Ramsey is going to be re-examined this week for a better idea of how much time he’ll miss.
Perhaps the position most in flux for the Jaguars is offensive line. They announced that Luke Bowanko has a hip injury and is awaiting surgery. As expected Brandon Linder lined up at center with Luke Joeckel working at both tackle and guard. Without Kelvin Beachum working in these OTA’s Bradley says he’ll get a good look at several players at several positions. When Beachum returns, (they hope in training camp) that’s when the real competition will begin. But make no mistake, Bradley likes everything about Joeckel.
“He’s another one that I think when you look at Luke compared to the last play of last season to now, I think physically he’s had some changes,” Gus explained when asked about where the former number one pick will play. “He looks stronger, just his attitude and his work ethic, he’s really focused. Seems like a different type of player, not that he wasn’t before, but he’s out on a little bit of a mission it seems like.”
When asked about the difference between guard and tackle Joeckel said, “It’s easier.” And added that he’ll do whatever they ask.
Adapting to the center position has been quicker than expected for Linder according to Bradley. A natural guard, Linder seems to have taken to the nuance of the position in the middle of the line easily.
“I like his leadership. You wonder how long it’s going to take him to get into a routine. It’s not going to take him long from what I’ve seen.”
In an ironic twist, Bradley said if one player has stood out in the last couple of weeks it’s Aaron Colvin. Colvin will be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s PED policy but can work with the team until then.
It’s no secret that Marqise Lee has fought injuries during his whole time with the Jaguars. That means the team really isn’t counting on him but he would be a real luxury if he can stay healthy. “We haven’t had him in a lot of practices until the end of last year,” Gus said. “Just to see him practice and he can build up and stack up good practice after good practice because he does need some technique work. His issue is not his skillset. His speed is something that we don’t have, and his athleticism. I think just stacking up really good practices.”
Just getting through one practice was considered a victory for 2015 first round pick Dante Fowler. He joked that he completed an entire practice and was glad everybody could stop worrying. The Jaguars are “managing” his time on the field but so far they like what they see.
“Yeah, in phase-two. … It’s all individual drill work,” Gus said when asked about Fowler looking like the player they drafted. “So when you see him go around the hoops and things like that, you see his explosiveness and his skillset. So he’s really done a good job.” And while Bradley would have rather had Fowler on the field last year, he admitted the injury has made the former Gator better.
“Believe me that was tough on him, really tough. I’ve visited with some coaches that say, in the NBA, they draft guys that have gone through some sort of adversity – some sort of injury – to show that they can come back. I don’t know if that’s ideal or not, but I can say with Dante, I think the whole thing has helped him. Helped him to a certain level of maturity.”
“Everybody’s here.” Although these OTA’s are voluntary, the Jaguars head coach was obviously pleased that every player who could be here was present, a rarity when it comes to the NFL.
“Coach called me and said, ‘Gus, don’t take that for granted.” Gus said with a laugh. “You could have 10-15 guys not show up, so I don’t take that for granted, it’s awesome. Our guys are incredible that way. They come, go to work and I appreciate that.”