These were not your father's Jaguars.
Forty new players, including 10 draft choices and 21 undrafted rookie free agents, signaled a year of change for the Jaguars this morning at the team's first mini-camp practice.
In keeping with that theme, reporters needed a map to find the players' lockers, as the locker assignments of all but a few have been changed. Only the four remaining players from the team's inaugural season, 1995, and Keenan McCardell have not been moved to new lockers.
"People around here want to see a little shakeup; something a little different. If we come together on the field, that's all that really matters," McCardell said of the new-look locker room.
Lockers have be re-arranged according to small, medium and large players. For example, quarterback Mark Brunell's locker neighbor is now first-round draft choice Marcus Stroud. In the past, Brunell had dressed alongside other quarterbacks, such as Steve Beuerlein, Rob Johnson, Jamie Martin and Jonathan Quinn. Tony Boselli is now next to Aaron Beasley,
Brunell, Boselli, Jimmy Smith and Mike Hollis are the '95 holdovers, while McCardell, who joined the Jaguars in '96, is the next-longest tenured Jaguars player.
Change is everywhere. Bob Petrino is the new offensive coordinator, Gary Moeller takes over the defense, and offensive line coach Mike Maser is wearing a new hat for the first time since the team opened its first-ever training camp in Stevens Point, Wisc., in July of '95.
"Some guys don't care; some guys do. I probably would've been upset if I had been moved," Brunell said of the locker room changes. "They probably want him to be a good influence on me," the quarterback added of the 6-6, 317-pound Stroud.
The Jaguars began their three-day mini-camp with a one-hour, 40-minute practice on a cloudless and comfortable day. "The enthusiasm was good. I'm not sure we knew what we were doing, but it was good," coach Tom Coughlin said.
For the first time in their history, the Jaguars are without punter Bryan Barker, who the team was unable to re-sign due salary cap problems. Fifth-round pick David Leaverton and free agent Aron Langley began their attempts to replace Barker.
"So-so," Coughlin said of his new punters' performances. "If you say on the first snap that we want directional punting, you don't get all you want. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt."
Meanwhile, the Jaguars' final pick of the draft, long-snapper Randy Chevrier, shot the ball back with impressive zip and accuracy.
R. Jay Soward, the Jaguars' first-round pick from 2000, was back on the field after having been placed on the reserve/non-football illness list for treatment of an unspecified illness prior to the final game of last season. Soward's speed remains impressive, and he caught the ball well early in practice, but he fell back into old habits late in the workout. Soward declined to speak to reporters.
"(Soward) has a real gift. I don't even think R. Jay knows how fortunate he is. He's got Jimmy (Smith) type of potential," Brunell said.
Seven players did not participate due to ongoing recovery from injury and surgery: Boselli, ankle; Zach Wiegert, Damon Jones, Mark Baniewicz, Erik Olson and Emarlos Leroy, knee; Jimmy Smith, abdominal surgery.
"We spent the offseason re-writing our playbook. Our defensive scheme is our defensive scheme, but there will be a good sprinkling of everything," Coughlin said when asked what changes Moeller will make to former defensive coordinator Dom Capers' zone-blitz scheme. "You'll see (Moeller's) personality develop. You won't see us use as many (zone blitzes), but you'll still see a lot of them."
Petrino, formerly the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach, takes over the offensive reins from Coughlin. "At our first meeting, Bob said, 'Let's be the best offense in the league.' I hadn't really heard that statement since '96. If you think like that, it'll happen," McCardell said.
The Jaguars' thoughts are on resurrecting their playoff hopes from the ashes of a 7-9 season last year, when the team missed the playoffs for the first time since its inaugural season. However, much must be accomplished before the Jaguars can realistically begin entertaining thoughts of the postseason.
"I think these guys have to speed up, and the guys who do speed up will stick around," Brunell said. "These are the guys we have. We're not going to complain about it."
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.