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Challenge confronts Monachino


Ted Monachino's first coaching job was as a volunteer eighth-grade coach.

"My first act as a football coach was to teach kids how to put pads in their pants," Monachino said.

Monachino will be facing a much greater task this year as the Jaguars' defensive line coach. He takes over for Ray Hamilton, after having served as Hamilton's assistant for two seasons.

"The promotion means a great deal to me, but I will tell you that in the last 19 years I've taken a lot of risks that have had great outcomes. Coming to Jacksonville wasn't a difficult decision. When we did it, we jumped in with both feet and it's turned out very well in a short period of time. Sometimes it takes 19 seasons to be an overnight success," Monachino joked.

Monachino made several gutsy career moves in making his way from that eighth-grade team to the Jaguars and the NFL. He's always seemed to have a knack for moving up.

"The biggest one was the one that got me to Boise State with Dirk (Koetter). I was at Southwest Missouri State and I was out of a job and I took a head high school job at Columbia, Mo. About three weeks later I had a chance to go to Boise. I went site unseen and that was a great decision," Monachino said.

Koetter, of course, is the Jaguars' offensive coordinator. He had been the head coach at Boise State and at Arizona State, both stops on Monachino's move up the ladder. Jaguars assistant wide receivers coach Robert Prince also coached at Boise.

"You know, that is the cradle of coaches. Some people think it's Miami of Ohio but it's Boise State, when you're talking about the Jaguars anyhow," Monachino said.

If the move to Boise was Monachino's biggest, then this might be his most daunting move up the coaching ranks. The defensive line he's taking over is much different than the one Hamilton inherited when he came to Jacksonville with head coach Jack Del Rio in 2003.

Back then, the defensive line was the cornerstone of Del Rio's rebuilding efforts. It was brimming with young talent on the rise. Marcus Stroud was about to become a Pro-Bowler. John Henderson was a star on the horizon. Paul Spicer was in the prime of his career. Rob Meier was on the verge of becoming the league's best backup defensive tackle.

The line Monachino inherits represents the Jaguars' single-greatest offseason concern. Stroud and defensive end Reggie Hayward are attempting to make comebacks from career-threatening surgeries. Spicer will be 33; Meier 31. Henderson admittedly had an off-year.

"The first thing we're gonna do is get everybody back on the same page. We've got to come to an understanding of expectation; get 'em all back together and pulling the rope in the same direction. If they think you can help them play better, they're going to listen to you. I do have control over how well they're coached," Monachino said.

It goes beyond that. The Jaguars know they need new players, and it's expected the team will seek to sign a defensive end in free agency and, possibly, select one early in the NFL draft.

"We do have to infuse some young guys into our group, but all of those (veteran) guys have plenty of tread left. If we can make their roles such that they can do the things they do well, we can be successful with those guys. We have to get some guys in here who can create competition," Monachino said.

What's it going to take for Stroud to rebound from microfracture surgery on an ankle he injured the week of the 2006 season-opener and has compromised his performance in each of the last two seasons?

"What I see with Marcus is a guy who's highly motivated to play at the top of his game. He's going to do everything he can to get back to full speed. If he does, we'll have the player we had when he was making Pro Bowls every year. All we've got to do is get him back to as close to 100 percent as we can and we'll have a great player again," Monachino said.

Hayward, who was a one-legged player last season after missing nearly all of 2006 following surgery on a torn Achilles? Del Rio has said it's not likely Hayward will ever be the player he once was.

"Reggie, I believe, can still be a very, very effective pass-rusher and physical enough to be a run-stuffer. We've got to make sure he's as healthy as he can be going into training camp," Monachino said.

Henderson's decline was short-lived. He's already well into his recovery.

"He, without a doubt, at about week 10 completely turned around his season. The problem was he couldn't make up for weeks one through nine; dominating player, no doubt," Monachino said.

Spicer is coming off the best season of his career and "Rob Meier could start for a lot of teams. All of these guys were young five years ago when Jack and Ray came here. It's a matter of making sure we create enough competition in our group to make sure they don't take more reps than they should," Monachino added.

Rookie defensive tackle Derek Landri provided depth last season and was surprisingly effective late in the season.

"Landri is a complete change up to the other tackles we have. He beats blockers with smarts and technique. He's tough, smart. He's a guy we hope could gain some weight," Monachino said.

Tony McDaniel is coming off wrist surgery and it's hoped he'll make a full recovery, and Monachino will have a bevy of pass-rush specialists for whom it's hoped they can find a role. Clearly, however, much reconstruction and restoration must occur. Fortunately, Monachino shouldn't have to begin by teaching his linemen how to put pads in their pants.

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