4. Ch-ch-changes. We lead this Week 1 2013 OTA Fabulous Four with the release of fullback Montell Owens, the latest move in an offseason of turnover and transition. The Jaguars released Owens Thursday, parting ways with a two-time Pro Bowl special teams player who played well late last season in an emergency starting role. He was a hard-working player whose story – he was originally a college free agent from Maine – and attitude made him popular among fans. So, the reason for the release? Timing, as much as anything. Had Owens been a college free agent this season, he would have been the ideal player in this new regime: a hard worker who loves to compete and loves football. As of right now, though, Owens doesn’t fit into what might best be thought of as a five-year arc. The Jaguars want to win now and want to compete, but as important as the immediate is having as many core players develop and grow together over the next three-to-five years. Some of the usual backlash that accompanies the release of a familiar veteran was heard, but Owens likely wouldn’t have been significantly involved in the offense. It’s tough to keep a veteran special teams player when the general theme of the organization is building with the future in mind. Owens probably could have made the roster, but he would have been low on the running back depth chart, and releasing him now gives him a chance to make a team elsewhere.
3. Right move, right time? The Jaguars made the not entirely unexpected move of moving Tyson Alualu from defensive tackle to end this week. He worked there all three days of OTAs, and to hear Alualu tell it, the move is expected to be permanent. What was most striking about the move was Alualu’s attitude toward it. When discussing the Jaguars’ defense earlier this offseason, Alualu seemed as excited as he has been in the last two seasons. When discussing the move outside Wednesday, the normally low-key Alualu . . . well, he wasn’t doing cartwheels, but he could barely contain his smile. He believes playing end in Gus Bradley’s system will be similar to the end role he played in a 3-4 at California, and he believes the move fits his skill set. Bradley said with the Jaguars’ new defensive line scheme, players who can play more than one technique are valuable. Alualu had more ability to play multiple positions than any other lineman, so the move made sense. Perhaps most importantly, though, Alualu said Wednesday the knee that has bothered him much of his first three seasons felt better than it has in any offseason. This is a story to watch closely moving forward. A healthy Alualu at a position where he feels comfortable could help the Jaguars’ defense significantly.
2. Taking shape. If it wasn’t obvious before that the Jaguars’ defensive line was going to have a significantly different look next season, it should be after this week, with Alualu’s move to end just one reason. The Jaguars this week also claimed veteran tackle Kyle Love and veteran end Brandon Deaderick off waivers from the Patriots. Love started 24 games for the Patriots over the last two seasons, and it appears he and two other recently signed free agents – Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller – have a very real chance to get a significant percentage of the reps on the interior of the line next season. At end, Alualu could start on one side with Jason Babin at the Leo and Andre Branch playing the second Leo role, and Jeremy Mincey, Deaderick and Austen Lane among those competing for reps in the rotation. The use of the word “could” in that last sentence is by design. Bradley has talked since his arrival about competition and a constant search for the right mix and the right parts. The Jaguars appear to be deep in the process of finding those parts, and the search may not end for some time.
1. And, finally – a word on the quarterbacks. Ah, yes – a word on the quarterbacks. We close here yet again – because, well, because it’s what we do. Despite reports this week that the quarterbacks struggled, let’s keep some perspective. The Jaguars are installing an entirely new offensive system under offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. They are also working with a significant number of new skill position players, including running backs Justin Forsett and Denard Robinson, wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and a slew of new tight ends. The team has been in organized team activities for three days, and they are installing different packages each day. There is a saying that newspapers are the rough draft of history, meaning a lot of things that get written on a daily basis look far different with perspective and time. OTAs are a rough draft, too – the beginning of the installation process. There will be ample time for judging the quarterbacks and breaking down each day’s performance. May 17 is not yet that time, so for now the Jaguars’ quarterback situation is as Head Coach Gus Bradley said it was this week: Blaine Gabbert working with the ones, Chad Henne with the backups and Matt Scott with the other reserves. Significant change in that area probably won’t come until training camp and the preseason, and the temperature of the situation won’t likely change based on one or two mid-May practices without pads.
Photo Gallery of Week One 2013 Jaguars OTAs