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2014 offseason: Sullivan confident in WRs

Posted May 21, 2014

Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan on young receiver corps: “We’ll be productive. I’m not concerned about that.”

JACKSONVILLE – Jerry Sullivan’s not worried about the “youth” thing.

Yes, the Jaguars’ wide receiver corps by any measure will be very young next season, but Sullivan – the Jaguars’ wide receiver coach – said youth at the position doesn’t bother him.

He also said it won’t be an excuse.

“I like young guys, because they’re eager and they haven’t gotten too much notoriety yet,” Sullivan said Tuesday during an appearance on Jaguars Today on 1010XL with Mike Dempsey and John Oehser.

“They still have a humility about them and they understand the league is a tough league to be good in. I like molding them and teaching them to be good at what they do early in the career.”

So, Sullivan has no worries about a group that includes not only fourth-year veteran Cecil Shorts III, second-year veteran Mike Brown, second-year veteran Ace Sanders and fourth-year veteran Tandon Doss, but a pair of rookies selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.

“We’ll be productive,” Sullivan said. “I’m not concerned about that.”

Sullivan, in his third season as the Jaguars’ wide receivers coach, said he liked what he saw from the team’s early draft selections at the position – Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson – in this past weekend’s rookie minicamp. At the same time, as with any young receivers, improvements must be made.

“They need to learn the control part of the game,” Sullivan said.

That means harnessing natural ability and turning it into NFL production. He discussed Lee first, and said the second-rounder from Southern California has a great first step and speed.

“I just have to teach him some control,” Sullivan said. “I told him, ‘You can’t drive down the street 95 miles per hour and make a right turn. You wind up in somebody’s yard.’”

Of Robinson, a second-round selection from Penn State, Sullivan added, “For a big guy, he can drop his weight. Both of those guys are young and very coachable. They’re good kids and have good character. They’ll be a big asset to our program.”

Sullivan said his approach can take time. He teaches technique football rather than assignment football, and his way can take longer for players to grasp. He also said some players resist the style. At first.

“I know when they don’t,” Sullivan said. “If they don’t, we’re butting heads and you have to build a bond and a trust with them. They have to trust you, but players – if they have any idea about football – it takes about 10 minutes for them to figure out if you can coach or not. You can’t b.s. your way through the process. They know.”

Sullivan also said he has had players cross him.

“But I’m going to win in the end,” he said, smiling.

With Lee and Robinson expected to be integral to the receiving corps, their development this offseason will be key.

“You’re teaching them in the classroom, then you’re looking for them to be able to take it on the field and for them to be poised and see how to do it and build a foundation for us,” Sullivan said.

That’s a process Sullivan said will be more difficult when the Jaguars open organized team activities Tuesday. That’s when the rookies first get on the field in a competitive situation with veterans.

“You get people on press (coverage), and they’re veterans – they understand the game,” Sullivan said. “For rookies, that can be a little overwhelming, so you try to teach it piece-by-piece.

“You can’t teach six things at one time, so you put emphasis on certain footwork, certain body positions, to help them understand the transition.”

The first piece in Sullivan’s approach is route running and the key there is footwork, footwork, footwork. Sullivan is exact in what he wants in this area, which is why he spends his time in practice a few feet from the receivers and why you won’t seem him throwing passes in drills.

“You never see me throwing the ball,” Sullivan said. “When you’re throwing the ball, you’re not looking at what they’re doing. You’re throwing the football. I can teach them how to catch the ball later if they struggle. Catching the ball becomes easy once the footwork is precise.”


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