JACKSONVILLE – A lot is new, and that's good for Shaq Quarterman.
You can see that watching the Jaguars' second-year linebacker play these days – and you can feel it when he talks. Gone is a difficult rookie season. In its place:
A new chance to be the player he expects himself to be.
"Going into this year, where I have more opportunities, I feel like my impression is being felt – definitely," he said during Jaguars 2021 Training Camp, which continued Friday with a Day 17 practice at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.
That has been particularly true in recent days. The Jaguars last week traded veteran linebacker Joe Schobert to the Pittsburgh Steelers. One reason was veteran linebacker Damien Wilson, who is expected to start inside alongside Myles Jack.
Another reason has been the development of several young linebackers. That group includes third-year veteran Quincy Williams and second-year veteran Chapelle Russell, but also very definitely includes Quarterman – who the Jaguars selected in Round 4 of the 2020 NFL Draft from the University of Miami.
"It's a good feeling," Quarterman said. "(Defensive coordinator Joe) Cullen came to me, and a lot of coaches came to me and gave me that type of reinforcement."
Quarterman, who played 12 games with no defensive snaps as a rookie, said that confidence had been growing since well before last week. The Jaguars early in the offseason hired Head Coach Urban Meyer. The hiring of Cullen brought a new coordinator, new decision-makers, a new defense – and a new opportunity.
"Starting in OTAs (during the offseason), being able to reassure myself that I am who I am – that I play the game the right way, that I respect the game …" he said. "When they made that move (to trade Schobert), to me it was maybe the stars aligning. But as far as giving me more confidence, I'm already confident in who I am."
Quarterman called his relationship with the new Jaguars coaching staff "amazing."
"Just to be able to show and prove," he said. "That's my favorite part."
He also said he likes how he fits as an inside linebacker in what is a three-lineman, four-linebacker scheme in base defense.
"I think I fit it very well," Quarterman said. "From communicating to everybody, to running sideline to sideline, to being physical at the point of attack, to plus-two mentality … that's something I embodied at the University of Miami. When it comes to linebacker at any level, I will make sure I'm in that conversation of those who do it right."
Not being able to show that as a rookie was difficult, and Quarterman said pretty much everything about his rookie season was difficult. He also said he never really stopped believing the opportunity that has come this year would happen.
"It's been a whole bunch," Quarterman said, "but I think one of the best traits I have is my ability to adapt. COVID[-19] came and it threw everything into whack: No preseason games and your coaches really don't have time to develop you. Coming from college, I played every down. If you needed a win, the commander in chief – Shaquille Quarterman, was always out there.
"Now, in the NFL, it's just a different level. It was tough at one point, having to look in the mirror and come up with the answers about how things were going, but at the end of that, I never lost myself. I am definitely at the utmost a ballplayer.
"As long as you have that mentality, you're going to find a home somewhere."
Quarterman: "COVID threw a lot of things out of whack last year. But getting it back on track this year … I'm definitely having fun, definitely enjoying it – just enjoying the whole process. Last year, COVID took away the process of football and I love football to the utmost. Getting back to the process is something I enjoy."