JACKSONVILLE – You didn’t need to look hard, or think on it much. The theme for the Jaguars’ 2013 NFL Draft? The thread running through this draft class?
It was right there in Gus Bradley’s smile, in everything the Jaguars’ head coach has spent the last three months instilling around EverBank Field.
And if you still missed it . . .
If you still weren’t quite seeing it . . .
Well if so, rest easy, because Bradley – months into his energetic, competition-based tenure – was there minutes after the last of the Jaguars’ eight selections on this tone-setting, franchise-shifting weekend to make sure it was clear.
Whatever that means, Bradley said this draft class definitely had it.
“I don’t know if it’s a good word or a bad word, but these guys all have juice,” Bradley said with a smile shortly after the Jaguars had wrapped up the 2013 NFL Draft with five selections in Rounds 4-7 Saturday.
“That’s a big trait for me as a head coach. I want to be able to feel this team out there. I want to be able to feel their personalities. I want to feel what they can bring to this organization. (General Manager (Dave) Caldwell and I agree on that.”
Evidence supports that statement. Big time.
Yes, there were other themes throughout the first draft for Caldwell and Bradley. There were on-field specifics and priorities, many of which were achieved and some of which the team just didn’t quite have enough picks to address.
The team addressed pass blocker, along with pass rusher one of what Caldwell called the two primary needs entering the draft, and another objective was to get faster. On Saturday, the objective was to add speed and depth in the secondary, and those traits came in rapid-fire succession with safety Josh Evans from Florida in the sixth round and cornerbacks Jeremy Harris of New Mexico State and Demetrius McCray of Appalachian State two selections apart early in Round 7.
Harris and McCray closed the Jaguars’ draft, and those selections were absolutely about the process of making the Jaguars faster, a lot faster, while improving special teams.
“We need some speed and some explosiveness here,” Caldwell said.
Asked if the Jaguars got faster over the weekend, Caldwell’s reply was simple.
That was the objective early Saturday, too, when the Jaguars first addressed a long-standing need at punt returner with South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders in the fourth round.
“I looked at this draft to add more competition to add talent and speed to the group of guys we have,” Bradley said.
After Sanders came the day’s glamor pick, a pick Caldwell clearly loved.
That was Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who will play running back for the Jaguars with some wide receiver and maybe some wildcat quarterback mixed in – along with the probability of filling the kick returner role.
“Not only does he have juice on the field he has juice in the building,” Caldwell said. “You’ll love the guy.”
That was the theme early Saturday – not only to get faster, which was a day-long, draft-long theme – but to add playmakers, guys who Bradley said can stress the defense.
Sanders and Robinson are those kinds of guys.
But more than on-field specifics, the idea in this first year of the building process is to establish a core, a foundation, a type of ideal Jaguars player. Free agency marked the start of that, but because the Jaguars weren’t necessarily signing core players there, there was a limit to how deeply the tone could be established.
There was no such limit on draft weekend.
“The No. 1 thing we needed to do here was fill some needs with good, quality players and guys who had some urgency – what we liked to call ‘juice’ to them,” Caldwell said. “All these guys are fast, physical and had some type of urgency to them.”
Pick after pick on draft weekend that was the theme, and minutes after the draft, Bradley expanded on what “juice” meant to him.
Passion, competitiveness, drive, spirit, a love for the game . . .
It’s about all of the things Bradley has emphasized for three months, and Bradley said that’s one reason the pre-draft process was so important to him. He met personally with first-round left tackle Luke Joeckel, second-round safety Johnathan Cyprien and third-round cornerback Dwayne Gratz before the draft. His grasp of what those players were about, he said, was high. Some of the second day selections he didn’t know quite as well, but Bradley said he had a vibe that each player had . . .
Well, you know . . . *juice.*
The job is not done. Not as of Saturday. Caldwell and Bradley knew this. They also knew that both pass protector and pass rusher couldn’t be addressed adequately in one year, not with each position likely needing a Top-10 type selection. And Caldwell was specific throughout draft weekend that one draft would not fill all needs on the roster.
They also know quarterback is not settled. But they believe a structure is now in place – with the offensive line almost certainly improved with the addition of Joeckel – where the quarterbacks can have a better chance to succeed. To the surprise of some the Jaguars did not draft a quarterback, and Caldwell said there are no plans to sign a veteran at the position. That means the coming months and year likely will be about competition between
Many expect that story to play out differently, but that’s now a story for another time. The story for this weekend is that after three days, we have a clearer notion of what the Jaguars are, what the future will hold.
For all the work still to be done, Caldwell and Bradley liked the players added, and whatever “juice” means, the Jaguars added it this weekend.
You didn’t need to look hard, or think on it much, to know that.