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10 things: GM edition

Posted Jan 10, 2013

10 key issues facing David Caldwell in the coming weeks as he begins his role as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new general manager

JACKSONVILLE – The search is over. Now, David Caldwell looks ahead.

What are the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new general manager’s plans? What is his philosophy? What will be his first moves?

We’ll learn a bit more about that Thursday afternoon. That’s when Caldwell, hired Tuesday as the Jaguars’ new general manager, will speak to the media for the first time since taking the job. Then, we’ll begin to get a clearer idea about philosophy, approach, beliefs and all of the other things we will undoubtedly spend the following days analyzing.

We may not get much in the way of specifics. Caldwell likely knows the roster fairly well, but not as well as he will in the coming days and weeks, as he and his staff begin the process of preparing for free agency and the draft.

Those will be key times, hectic times. There is much ahead of Caldwell, but at the same time, there is time to get done what’s needed to be done.

What are the priorities? Well, in keeping with our regular-season pre-game tradition here on jaguars.com, here are 10 things Caldwell must do in the coming days and weeks as he prepares for his first season as the Jaguars’ general manager.

1. Solidify the coaching situation. Will Mike Mularkey return as head coach? That question may not get answered Thursday, but it likely will get answered sometime in the next few days. The word before Caldwell’s hiring was that Jaguars owner Shad Khan would allow the new general manager to make the call on the coaching staff and reports the last two days are it’s doubtful Mularkey will return. All indicates a change, but if anything is certain about January in the NFL it’s that nothing is certain.

2. Determine defensive philosophy. There are some who believe the team should switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme, and there appear to be talented players in the draft who would fit that scheme. There are positives and negatives to any scheme, and the key to any scheme is having talented personnel. Whatever direction the Jaguars choose could dramatically affect the moves in the coming weeks.

3. Get the staff in place. A general manager often wants his “own guys.” That often means his own head coach, and just as often means his own people in the scouting department. Caldwell almost certainly will bring in new people in scouting, but this won’t necessarily be a dramatic overhaul. Despite the team’s struggles, the Jaguars’ scouting department is well-respected in league circles, and there are strong people in the organization who could be part of the new direction.

4. Determine the course at quarterback. Is Blaine Gabbert the starter going forward? Chad Henne? It’s quite likely Caldwell doesn’t know yet, and much may depend on how free agency and the draft play out. A word of caution to those wanting clarity on this decision: it may not come for weeks, or even months.

5. Answer the “Tebow” question. Well, it ain’t like it’s not gonna come up. It will be asked Thursday, and the response will be that Tebow is under contract with the Jets and therefore can’t be discussed. But there’s a good chance at some point in the offseason Tebow will be available. If he is, is signing him a priority? If it’s a priority, how much of a priority?

6. Fix the pass rush. Signs point to a pass rusher early in the draft. That’s because of the availability of pass rushers, and the apparent lack of availability of a quarterback. We’ll see, but it’s undoubtedly a priority to get faster on the front seven.

7. Address Derek Cox. You’d love to say, “Signing Derek Cox is a priority,” but his injuries the past two seasons make it an uncertain area. He is near-elite when healthy, but his health has been enough of an issue where he’s a risk. The franchise tag is an option, but the price is very, very high. This may be the most-pressing pre-free agency question facing the team.

8. Decipher the pass protection. The offensive line played better early in the season than it did late, and, there was a lot of inconsistency in this area. Right tackle Cameron Bradfield didn’t play as well late in the season as he did early, and neither did left tackle Eugene Monroe. Overall, the line allowed 50 sacks, third most in the NFL. Does the area need an overhaul? Tweaking? A new approach? Stay tuned.

9. Address Daryl Smith. Once again, you’d love to know for certain this was a priority. And four years ago, you would have. But Smith is entering his 10th season and re-signing him isn’t as easy as throwing a big contract his way. He was the team’s best defensive player in 2011 and the team played better in two games this season with him than 14 without, but age and price have to be weighed here.

10. Gauge Laurent Robinson’s future. The veteran wide receiver sustained four concussion-related incidents last season. Linebacker Clint Session never returned to the Jaguars after his concussion issues in 2011, so there’s a legitimate question regarding Robinson. He could be an effective third receiver if healthy, but if he’s not, that position could be a priority.

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