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What we learned: Jaguars at the Combine

Posted Feb 25, 2013

Here's what we learned about the Jaguars from the NFL Scouting Combine, which wraps up Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

1. Trading back from No. 2 will be tough… This is becoming more and more evident. The 2013 NFL Draft class is considered relatively weak at the top, but deep later in the first round and beyond. That creates a scenario in which teams are unlikely to trade up with the Jaguars for the No. 2 overall selection on April 25 – theory being, why burn later-round selections to trade up when you can get a similar player staying where you are? Nothing that happened at the combine changed the outlook.

2. …but still possible. Never say never, right? Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell has said he is open to all possibilities, including a trade. He’s focused on building through the draft, and because the Jaguars have to get better in a lot of areas, trading back and accumulating selections would be the ideal scenario. If that looks unlikely coming out of the combine, it’s not out of the question. It only takes one team coveting a player to want to move up, and with two months remaining in the draft, there’s time for some franchise to fall in love.

3. Trading No. 33 makes sense. The Jaguars hold the first selection of the second round. Trading that is a lot more likely than trading No. 2. The quarterback class is deep, and the top of the second round is where many after Geno Smith are projected. That pick could glean Caldwell an extra pick later in the draft without having to drop much.

4. Change should be coming soon. This will be a year of transition in Jacksonville. What does that mean for veterans? Well, reading between the lines, there’s a good chance a lot familiar names won’t be back. Fullback Greg Jones, center Brad Meester, cornerback Derek Cox, offensive lineman Eben Britton, linebacker Daryl Smith. The future with the Jaguars remains uncertain for all. Stay tuned.

5. The Jaguars won’t use the franchise tag. Caldwell said so this week, and considering the Jaguars’ approach of wanting to build through the draft and get younger, the decision makes sense. The Jaguars are building for the long term. Paying, say, Cox, $10 million for one season doesn’t fit that approach.

6. Bob Babich will be calling the defense. This wasn’t a given, not with Head Coach Gus Bradley having served as defensive coordinator in Seattle the past four seasons. But Bradley said this week the plan is for Babich – who has three years coordinator experience with Chicago – to call the defensive plays.

7. The zone-blocking system will be the core of the offensive line approach. It won’t be everything, but it’s more apparent that the zone-blocking approach will be crucial to the offense under coordinator Jedd Fisch and line coach George Yarno. The Jaguars’ offensive linemen are athletic, and the decision-makers don’t think it will be a difficult transition.

8. Left tackle will be a very real possibility …in the draft. Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is the best left tackle in the draft, and one of the few consensus elite players. That doesn’t make him a no-brainer choice for the Jaguars, who have many holes. Caldwell also hasn’t tipped his hand and won’t for a while. But if he’s a can’t-miss, long-term Pro Bowl type tackle he’ll be tough to pass if available at No. 2.

9. …but so will pass rusher. If the Jaguars stay at No. 2, this is the logical position of choice along with left tackle. There are multiple available players at the position, and no consensus about who’s best, but a pass rusher from the group of Barkevious Mingo, Damontre Moore and Ezekial Ansah are early players to watch.

10. Pete Carroll Is a Gus Bradley guy. OK, we’ve known for a while that Carroll – head coach of the Seahawks – has long believed in Bradley, who served three years under Carroll as defensive coordinator. But Carroll made it clear again at the combine, saying that it took about 10 days to two weeks in 2009 to realize he wanted to retain Bradley from former Head Coach Jim Mora’s staff. “I fell in love with the guy,” Carroll said. “He's just a fantastic individual. Just an extraordinary competitive guy. He's got a great message. He's got great leadership skills. People love to be around him. Players like being around the guy. He's very much an upbeat, high enthusiasm guy that will not allow his dauber to get down at any time. I think his football principles are excellent, and I think he brings a package that's unusual, and I'm sure that when he went in in his interviews, he wowed those guys. They were surprised at who he was, what he was all about and where he was coming from.”

11. Bradley’s giving Gabbert a fair chance. This isn’t saying Blaine Gabbert’s being handed the starting quarterback job. He’ll compete, and his time to prove himself likely won’t be lengthy. But Bradley talked at the combine of having seen the good in Gabbert, and the staff wants to make sure it can get the positives from a former No. 10 overall selection in the draft on a consistent basis. Think Alex Smith on this one: once he finally got the right structure in San Francisco, a struggling player became productive. It makes sense for the Jaguars to see if that can happen again. “I think he’ll respond very well,” Bradley said when asked about Gabbert competing for the job,

12. Alex Smith won’t be coming to the Jaguars. Speaking of Smith, David Caldwell confirmed Sunday that the Jaguars aren’t making a deal to trade for the 49ers quarterback. Though there are reports circulating at the combine that some team already has done so, it makes sense that that team’s not the Jaguars. Making the deal would fly in the face of what Caldwell and Bradley are saying about building through the draft.

13. Laurent Robinson has been cleared. The veteran wide receiver has been cleared for football activity after sustaining three concussions this past season. That’s the first step to figuring the role Robinson could play in an improving young receiving corps that includes Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon,

14. The Jaguars are looking for a right tackle. The Jaguars have a lot of needs entering the draft. Caldwell laid it out fairly clearly that one of those is right tackle when he was asked at the combine who would play the position if the Jaguars played tomorrow. “That’s a good question,” he said. “Good thing we don’t play tomorrow.”

15. The Jaguars may have to wait a while to be on the clock. There are years the team with the No. 2 overall selection becomes the story early. Those are the years when the team holding the No. 1 selection makes its decision known well before the draft. This happened with the Colts and Andrew Luck last season. Don’t expect a repeat. With no clear-cut quarterback available and no real clear choice for the No. 1 spot, it will be a while before we know the Kansas City Chiefs’ choice with the first overall selection.

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