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Fabulous Four: Deep in the Dead Zone

Posted Jun 25, 2013

Senior writer John Oehser discusses Luke Joeckel signing, Shad Khan, competition and quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Mike Kafka, Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers.

4. No Drama Here. We lead this Deep-in-the-Dead-Zone, looking-high-and-low-for-angles Fabulous Four with a thought on a news item that may have gotten lost if you weren’t paying attention – that is, the signing of rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel. As expected, the Jaguars and Joeckel reached an agreement Saturday, and Joeckel signed his contract that night before heading to the NFL’s Rookie Symposium. The news came four days after cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien signed their rookie contracts, and the lack of fanfare around all of the signings provided further evidence that any teeth-gnashing over the pace at which the Jaguars have signed draft picks this offseason is energy and time wasted. These under-the-radar signings are the norm since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, and rookie holdouts should pretty much be a thing of the past. Yes, wide receiver Justin Blackmon held out as a rookie last season, but there were extenuating circumstances, as Blackmon was arrested after the draft and before signing his contract. Under the current CBA and the accompanying rookie salary structure, signing rookies typically won’t be an issue. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said he expects all eight members of this year’s draft class signed before training camp, and there are no indications that won’t happen. Denard Robinson (fifth round), Josh Evans (sixth round) and Ace Sanders (fourth round) remain unsigned. Whether they sign in a week or mid-July doesn’t make any difference, so fret not. The final three will get done before camp. That’s the only time frame that matters.

3. Stay tuned. We’re six days removed from the press conference to announce the enhancements/renovations at EverBank Field, but combing through Jaguars Owner Shad Khan’s quotes from that day, one stood out: “I think that’s a process that we’ve started and I think you have to stay tuned.” Khan was discussing his interest in the Shipyards, but the quote is applicable to not only the enhancements, but the London initiative and a lot of goings on around the Jaguars these days. There is a palpable tendency among some fans – fueled by national media and speculation – to know the exact details of the Jaguars' future. The same is true of the team’s partnership and role in the city. People want answers as to how the Shipyards, London, the enhancements, will play out, and they want answers RIGHT NOW. The reality, it seems, is best found in Khan’s quote, that this is a process he and the Jaguars have started, and we have to stay tuned. Including the enhancements, Khan has invested $30 million in a publicly-owned and operated stadium. He also has improved the business side of the organization with a daily goal of enhancing the game day experience. As Khan said Wednesday, “actions speak louder than words,” and while every detail of the future may not be known, the trend is that Khan’s actions in a year and a half have been about strengthening the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

2. Buying in. If you don’t know by now that Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley is building the Jaguars on competition, you just, haven’t been paying attention. But when Bradley talks about it, he’s talking about something deeper than competing for a roster spot. He’s talking about competing at a level where players are driven from inside to improve every day. Cornerback Marcus Trufant talked about the topic shortly before the end of minicamp, and said while it takes time for a large group of players to completely buy into the concept he saw progress in the area in the offseason. Bradley agreed, saying, “There are different levels of where guys are at. Some guys are more internally driven to compete against themselves, and there are some guys who need a little boost. I think that’s where competition comes in. It provides guys who need a little boost a chance for them to say, ‘Ooh, here comes another guy in. I’ve got to elevate my play.’ I understand there a lot of teams that are like that. It’s the NFL. We’d like to evolve this team to where it’s more internalized, where they’re competing against themselves. That’s the direction we’re trying to take this team. I think they’re understanding that and I can see the transition with our guys starting to buy into that.” Bradley, speaking at the Jaguars’ caravan event last week at Flagler Palm Coast High School, also left little doubt that the revolving-door approach seen throughout the offseason could continue at some positions in training camp and preseason. “If another player presents himself that will add to our team, or add through competition, we’re always open to look at that,” he said. “I know we’ve got our core players who we’re really excited about, and we’re excited about a lot of guys on our team, but any time we can add to competition we need to do that.”

1. And finally, a word on the quarterbacks. Nearly two weeks after the final minicamp practice, the count on the Jaguars’ quarterbacks remains at five: Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Mike Kafka, Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers. The signing of Kafka late in minicamp raised questions about whether the team would indeed keep all five on the roster entering training camp. Caldwell and Bradley each said they had no issue with doing so, and there’s no indication the number will change before camp opens July 26. Gabbert and Henne seem likely to compete for the starting role, with Kafka perhaps having a chance to get into the mix, but perhaps more realistically competing for a backup role. Scott showed more than enough in OTAs and minicamp to make you think he can develop into a contributor, if not this season, soon. Rodgers got in just two practices before sustaining a sports hernia injury that required surgery, and it seems likely the Jaguars would want to look at him a few weeks in pads. Caldwell, in explaining the reasoning behind keeping five, said with the offseason roster now at 90 under the new CBA, it’s not a huge issue. Under the old CBA, which totaled 80 players, roster spots were more at a premium, but with 90, Caldwell said keeping five quarterbacks and extra specialists doesn’t realistically limit roster management entering training camp.

 

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