A good place to start

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Mike Mularkey wasn't shocked with the results, exactly.

Still, to say the Jaguars' first-year head coach absolutely expected as much progress as the offense made from April through June wouldn't be accurate, either.

Even with a limited schedule, and even with a new coaching staff working to learn each other and the Jaguars' players, Mularkey said the work done in the offseason program that ended last month was significant. And he said that's a big reason he's optimistic about the coming weeks.

"To be where we are with less time is a good thing," Mularkey said Monday.

Mularkey, who this week is at EverBank Field preparing for his first training camp with the Jaguars, said Monday while there is the normal, expected anticipation as he prepares for players to report Thursday, he feels the team is as ready for camp as possible.

"I think they see a bunch of coaches who are a lot like me," Mularkey said. "I think they see how well we communicate, how well we get along. I think they see we're competitive, so I think our message has gotten off to a good start."

Mularkey, entering his 28th NFL training camp as a player, assistant or head coach, said he likes the roster, likes the progress made by quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the offseason, and likes how players approached learning the offense in the offseason.

The Jaguars, after ranking 32nd in the NFL offensively last season, spent the offseason installing an offense based largely on the one used by Mularkey as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh (2001-2003), as head coach in Buffalo (2004-2005) and as offensive coordinator in Atlanta from 2008-2011.

The Jaguars' offensive staff this offseason featured five former offensive coordinators – running backs coach Sylvester Croom, quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, Mularkey and wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan. That group spent much of the offseason installing, then teaching the offense, and Mularkey said what could have been a tricky process was in fact smooth and productive.

"I was pretty pleased," Mularkey said. "We did some things here faster than we did in Buffalo, but for sure in Atlanta. We were ahead of where I was when I got to Atlanta with basically the same installation. I felt good about the way the guys picked it up."

Mularkey said that progress is even more notable considering the Jaguars, like all NFL teams, were limited this offseason by rules in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement governing time coaches can discuss football with players.

Mularkey said key to the process was the ability of the offensive coaches to teach a new offense to individual position groups.

"I thought the coaches did a good job," Mularkey said. "This wasn't a staff that knew the offense. They had to learn the offense. The staff, when they go a separate ways, has to teach consistently with what everyone else is saying without a lot of experience working with each other.

"For them to do what they did, they did a great job. It was consistent. When you're given some time on your own, and you go in there, you have to teach it like you invented it. The players have to see that you know it as well as the coordinator knows it.

"I think that's what happened. We have a lot of good teachers in here."

Mularkey said another major reason for the offseason progress was second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. An offense can't work efficiently in any environment without a quarterback working efficiently, and Mularkey said Gabbert – criticized by many last season during a difficult rookie season – during the offseason was an "impressive individual to be around."

"I've been around a lot of quarterbacks where you've had to repeat the call, especially if it's a brand-new play," Mularkey said. "I don't remember him ever going, 'Give it to me again.' Not once. He's one of the reasons offensively why we could do what we did (in the offseason).That guy who walks into the huddle and calls the play, you either believe it or you don't believe it.

"There was improvement and I foresee it getting better going forward."

Mularkey said he saw significant improvement in pocket mechanics from Gabbert and other Jaguars quarterbacks, with Olson focusing on that area throughout the offseason.

"The way we practice with our tempo, we had people in his face," Mularkey said of Gabbert. "You could tell it wasn't a distraction at all to him. He was stepping up, making the throw. Again, there was no tackling. There were no sacks, but his throwing motion is going to get better and better the more we talk and the more we're around each other. I saw an improvement for sure.

"The guy wants to be good, and at that position that's so important."

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