Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey, entering his fifth NFL season, has emerged in the last two seasons as one of the core players on an improving defensive unit. Last season, in his first full season as a starter, Mincey led the Jaguars in sacks and pressures, registering a career-high eight sacks. He also finished fourth on the team with 57 tackles. Mincey (6-feet-4, 265 pounds), originally a sixth-round selection by New England in the 2006 NFL Draft, signed a long-term contract extension with the Jaguars this offseason. He recently sat down with jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser to discuss his thoughts as the 2012 season approaches:
You and the defense are going into your second season in Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker's system. How will being in the system for a second season help?
When you know what's expected of you, you can prepare for it mentally and physically. Now, we just kind of have to master it. It's kind of like playing tic-tac-toe. You master it and know the pattern. If it's this way, you find a way out this way. If it's this other way, you find a way out the other way. Once you learn the angles, you know the game. That's about being veterans. We're not as young as everybody thinks we are.
What about you personally? As training camp approaches, where are you in terms of preparation?
I've got to drop a good five pounds, so I can get back to that speed I had at the end of the year. Everybody forgot we had the lockout last year. I didn't feel in shape until Game 9. That's why my play went up (late in the season). My weight went down to what I'm used to.
Since signing your contract extention, you've talked openly that you know you've got to step up, that there's more expected of you . . .
I know I have to step up. I was thinking the other day, 'I can't stay the same Jeremy Mincey. I have to reinvent myself all over again.' That's the nature of this business. I love being a Jaguar and I love playing football, so I see the role they want me to play. They've handed me this role that I've always wanted, but now it's here.
You don't mind having to reinvent yourself. It's not as if you haven't done it before . . .
I've done it probably four different times. I did it in high school, in junior college, at Florida (where he played collegiately). Each team I was on, I tried to find something I could get better at. This year, I know I'll have strength. I'm not worried about, 'Weight room, force, power.' I'll have that. I have to get my endurance so good where I can think and see the overall aspect of the game. That's what held me back years ago. I tried to learn it all at once instead of taking it step by step. When I got it, I got it. Now that I have it, I have to keep my body in tune. I'm working on that now.
You're expected by observers to be more than an eight-sack guy this year, but it sounds as if you expect that from yourself . . .
I think my standards for me are higher than any coach, or any sportswriter. I feel like if I just keep doing what I do I'll continue to get better, then I can walk away from this game saying, 'I gave it my all on the field.' That's how you have to be in order to stay hungry as a man and an athlete and a father and anything. You have to keep resetting yourself, saying, 'OK, when I reach this I can go higher.'
You had a lot of quarterback pressures last season. Your feeling must be, 'If I can get just that half a step and get home on those, the sack numbers go way, way up.'
I made a lot of plays, but there was so much I left on the field. I felt bad after the season. Even though I got a nice extension, I still felt bad. I felt guilty to a point, because I felt like had I worked out efficiently and done the things I could have done, I could have easily had a 13-, 14-sack season.
You always hear people talk about guys signing contracts and getting complacent. You sound as if you're anything but that.
No way. What I'm doing is analyzing what I can do better and getting ready for the roller coaster ride for the season.
You talk a lot about not being content, about continuing to want to build on what you've done . . .
God put us all here for a reason. We're all here for a reason. You can't be content. Whatever I do, I have to be the best at it. If I raise my daughter, I have to be the best dad and have to be better than this dad over here. Playing chess, I have to be the best. Checkers, I have to beat you. Every day is a challenge. I really feel bad when I let myself down. A coach can tell me I did good on a play, but if it wasn't up to my standards on a play I don't feel like it's good enough. I think I have that coaches' mentality, because it's never good enough. You might look back and see your accolades and think, 'I was good,' but while you're doing it, you can't think about it. Then, when it's all over – Year 11 or 12,when old Mincey is retired – then I can look back at everything I did and say, 'Wow.'
You sound like you're excited about more than you. You're excited about what's going on around the franchise.
That's why I stayed. I want to be a part of something good, a new beginning that I helped redefine. A lot of people said, 'Well, if you had gone to Chicago, you would have had Julius Peppers on the other side.' I had opportunity. No one can say I didn't have opportunities. I did. I didn't want that opportunity. It sounded good and I appreciated it, but I believe in building my own legacy. I want to be a part of this. When people say, 'Remember when the Jaguars got revamped,' I want to be a part of that.
And even after signing your contract extension, your approach remains the same.
May the best man win – that's the nature of this business. Over time you weed out our competitors and you start knowing that, 'Hey, this kid is deserving of being here.' Don't ever get it misconstrued for me thinking I made it. I hate when people think that I think that I made it. Because I didn't. Now, it's a whole other ball game. Now, they're thinking, 'If I can get something cheaper out of this kid as opposed to him.' People don't get that, but I do. Now, I have to fight with the young guys. Now, the stakes are higher. It's time for me to not only take it up as a football player, but take it up as a man and spread it throughout the team.