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Fabulous Four: Offseason wrap up

Posted Jun 17, 2013

Senior writer John Oehser discusses players buying into Gus Bradley, Maurice Jones-Drew’s offseason, Luke Joeckel’s transition and the Jaguars’ quarterback situation entering training camp.

4. Buying in. We begin this wrapping-up-the-offseason-with-something-anything-because-it’s-a-slow-time Fabulous Four by, yes, wrapping up the 2013 Jaguars offseason. That means touching on the major themes, one of which is Head Coach Gus Bradley’s process of establishing mindset. That’s big for any head coach, but particularly for Bradley, who believes strongly that getting players to invest in the idea of daily competition is key to everything else he and the team are trying to accomplish. Cornerback Marcus Trufant, who played in Seattle under Bradley the past three seasons, said it can take time for players to truly buy into the philosophy, but he said significant progress was made in the area during organized team activities and last week’s veteran minicamp. “It’s still a process, but I think we’re ahead of the curve,” the 10-year veteran said. “I think everybody appreciates Gus as a person, as a coach – just the way he is, the joy and enthusiasm he brings to the game. I think everybody’s buys in. You know you’re going to get the same thing from Gus, good or bad. It’s good to know the coach has your back.” Trufant said while the defense, which could have at least seven new starters, also will have an adjustment period, he likes the offseason progress. “I like where we’re at,” Trufant said. “We’ve pretty much put in the whole book, just so we can get a look at it. There’s going to be a learning curve, but we’re right on track.”

3. Not worried at all. You can’t wrap the offseason without touching on Maurice Jones-Drew. There’s no way to know the end-game with the off-field issues, so we’ll continue in the vein that the most-pressing issue for Jones-Drew is his rehabilitation and conditioning. There understandably has been some teeth-gnashing among fans and observers over whether his foot, weight or both will remain an issue come the regular season. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said last week the plan is for Jones-Drew to be 100 percent when camp opens July 26. Jones-Drew said he is optimistic about his progress, and outlined the reasons. No. 1, he said his foot is now healed and that the focus is now on strengthening the ankle. The foot being healed, he said, is important because now he can run. That, in turn, means he can condition at a level that will allow the weight he added following surgery to come off in time for training camp. “The weight’s going to come off as I work out,” Jones-Drew said. “All I could do (after surgery) was eat. With this injury, you don’t want to break the screws and have to get the surgery over again. I couldn’t move.” With 40 days remaining until training camp, Jones-Drew said last week it won’t be an easy process being ready. But as he sees it, his situation isn’t substantially different than 2011, when he returned from microfracture surgery to lead the NFL in rushing. Many doubt Jones-Drew this time around. Will that doubt fuel him the same way as if has in the past? We’ll know come September, but Jones-Drew’s history suggests he knows his body and how to prepare.

BEST OF MINICAMP PHOTO GALLERY

2. Almost there. You won’t hear rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel talk much about how he has completed the transition from college left tackle to his current position. Even if the transition were complete, you wouldn’t hear it, because self-adulation’s not his thing. “I’ve always been my hardest critic,” Joeckel said. “I don’t need coaches jumping me. I can accept all that, but when I watch film, I look at every single step. That’s one of my favorite part of playing the line, how detailed it is.” Still, the Jaguars are liking the progress Joeckel has made since moving to right tackle after being selected No. 2 overall in the April 28 NFL Draft. Joeckel said he, too, felt as if he made progress. “It was definitely something I got better at every single day,” Joeckel said. “Some days, I got a lot better at it and some days, I just got a little better. The comfort level is getting there. It’s not all the way there yet, but I want to be ready to go.” Joeckel said while there has been focus on the physical nature of the switch – balance and footwork, etc. – he said the toughest part of the transition thus far has been recognizing defenses. “The NFL is a lot different than college,” Joeckel said. “In college, teams usually have their one base defense they’re going to throw at you. Here, you’ve got a bunch of different looks, a bunch of different blitzes. That’s definitely the hardest thing, to recognize that stuff to be able to react to what they’re doing.”

1. And finally, a word on the quarterbacks. You get the idea coming out of minicamp that the starting quarterback won’t be decided until the second or third preseason game. That makes sense, with Bradley wanting to see work in pads before making the decision. If it’s announced after the second preseason game, August 17 at the New York Jets, that will give the team three weeks of padded practice and two games to make a decision. The signing of Mike Kafka last week added a fifth player to this drama, and with Bradley and Caldwell each saying they had no issues having five quarterbacks entering camp, that’s a real possibility. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne likely will share reps early, with Kafka getting reps as he becomes familiar with the offense. Gabbert and Henne remain the front-runners, and the gut here remains that Gabbert will start the season. One player to watch is Matt Scott. As a rookie free agent, it remains a very long shot that he could push for a playing role this season, much less a starting job. However, he improved as camp continued and he got work with the backups in the final practice of minicamp. Scott has NFL arm strength and there were times in OTAs when he showed why many projected him as a third- or fourth-round selection. Scott also on Thursday ran some read-option plays, and appeared comfortable in that style. “I feel a lot more comfortable in the offense,” he said. “I’m picking a lot of things up. I still have lot of work to do obviously.” If it’s a stretch to have Scott in the conversation to start this season, a takeaway from the offseason is it’s not a stretch to think he has value in the season or two after that.

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