JACKSONVILLE – He sees it and hears it – and he doesn’t mind it, necessarily.
Not really. Not yet. Because as Cyprien sees it, he has a lot more work to do, which means a lot more earning to do.
“Without taking those steps to become better for next year, it won’t happen,” Cyprien said this week during Jaguars 2014 organized team activities, which continued Tuesday with the eighth of 10 scheduled OTA practices at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
Breakout player …
Top young safety …
Yes, you’re starting to hear and read such things about Cyprien, and with reason. He played well enough the second half of his rookie season to not only impress observers, but give the Jaguars confidence he is developing into the on- and off-field leader the team envisioned when selecting him No. 33 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
“I think the more and more comfort level he has in playing the position that will just gradually take place,” Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said recently.
But all of that talk? Of leadership? Of breaking out?
Of what he can be? And how soon?
That’s not something Cyprien’s talking about in OTAs.
“Gus preaches, ‘Never say you got it,’ and I’m going to treat it that way,” Cyprien said.
That’s an encouraging approach, the right approach, for a young player with developing left to do, and make no mistake: the Jaguars very much need Cyprien to develop. He’s a player around whom the team envisions building a dynamic, aggressive secondary, and safety is critical in Bradley’s defensive back-centric defense.
Cyprien indeed showed signs of such development last season, and after some early struggles, he emerged as a player around whom many believe the Jaguars can build.
And Cyprien gets that. And he’s fine with people saying it.
He just doesn’t want to own it. Yet.
“Preseason accolades don’t mean anything until they’re accomplished,” Cyprien said. “There definitely are personal goals you want to shoot for, but overall, we’re just trying to get better, the Jaguars.”
Cyprien said while he indeed struggled early last season, his key moment coincided with a crucial moment for the team: the week off Bradley gave players at the bye despite an 0-8 record at the time. The Jaguars won four of their next five games, and players said Bradley’s bye-week approach was key to organization’s culture change.
Cyprien said the bye was big personally, too.
“Coach challenged us to come back and improve on one or two things,” he said. “I looked myself in the mirror told myself, ‘OK, I know what I’m doing, so just go out there and play like you’ve been playing your whole life.’ I really just told myself that and I improved a lot.”
Cyprien was asked if he had watched video of himself from early last season.
“I definitely look at it and see things I would never do now,” he said, laughing. “I say, ‘I would have never done that if this were this game of the season.’ I see little small, lazy steps. I definitely turn that tape on and see a difference between the first game and last game of the season.
At the same time …
“I still go back and make sure I learn from those mistakes so I don’t repeat them,” he said.
Cyprien not only finished last season second on the team with 104 tackles, he improved analytically in the second half of the season. His three highest- games according to Pro Football Focus came following the bye, and Cyprien had just one negative game in the last seven games last season.
Cyprien said he played with more confidence in the final half of the season, and he continues to feel a difference this offseason. There are no pads in OTAs, and as a result, no live hitting, but in terms of play recognition and quickness, he said things are slower than this time last year.
“You know more,” he said. “Things are more natural.”
Cyprien said that’s how he wants a leadership role to happen, too – naturally – and figures in time that will come. He was a leader based on his ability at North Miami Beach High School and at Florida International, and he said that’s how it will happen here, too.
“It’s earned, not given,” Cyprien said. “I don’t want come out here and demand it. I’ve been blessed that in the places I’ve been I’ve had those leadership roles, and those qualities I guess are in me. I let myself be myself on the field. I definitely want to it happen as I grow.”
And the accolades? The talk of what he can be and how soon? He said those are earned, too. That’s his next step in the process, a process that has him excited about the season but that also has him determined to approach it correctly.
“It’s definitely encouraging, and it’s definitely motivation,” he said. “The ceiling can be so high, but you just keep pushing and keep climbing for it no matter how high you are.
“The clouds are high, so I’m going to keep climbing.”
As long as that ceiling is above him, Cyprien said he won’t buy what people are saying and writing. Not really. Not yet.