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Dave Caldwell expects defense-heavy draft


INDIANAPOLIS – Dave Caldwell was clear and upfront about his draft plans Thursday.

As clear and upfront as you could reasonably expect, anyway.

Caldwell, entering his fourth year as the Jaguars' general manager, offered no names, or even specific positions when discussing the draft with the media at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine Thursday. But when discussing direction he was quite specific.

"We have eight draft picks, and as you guy all know, we'll probably devote a large portion of those to the defensive side of the ball," Caldwell said at a podium at Lucas Oil Stadium. "We feel like the first two years, the first three years, we really focused on the offensive side of the ball.

"That side of the ball will continue to mature. Now, it's really time to focus on the defense."

The Jaguars finished 24th in the NFL in yards allowed this past season, ranking 31st in the NFL in third-down defense and points scored – and struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks in passing situations.

"The best way to get to where we want to be is to improve the defense and get that to be a Top Five defense," Caldwell said. "I don't think we're going to go from the 24th-ranked defense to the second-ranked defense in a year, but I think we can get to a point where we can be very successful and if we have a high-powered offense we can do some good things this year."

Caldwell also addressed other issues Thursday, including:

*The Dante Fowler Jr. video incident, saying he doesn't expect significant ramifications from the league regarding the issue. The TMZ website on Wednesday posted a video in which two women were involved in an altercation. Fowler also was in the video, but uninvolved in the incident. "I know the league is looking into it," Caldwell said. "From the information that we have, I don't expect much to come of it. We stand by our statement that we released that there's no place for violence in the NFL or in society. Dante's a great kid. He has a great spirit about him. He's a young person. He's going to learn how to handle situations. For the most part, he's been doing the right things and he's going to continue to do the right things." NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Wednesday said of the video, "These are disturbing images, and we will review the matter." Caldwell on Thursday was asked why the league made the statement. "Whatever we do, we do in the best interest of the team and our players," Caldwell said. "I guess for what the league did, they'll have to comment on what they released and why they released it."

*The upcoming free-agency period, which the Jaguars are expected to enter with at least a league-high $73 million in salary-cap space. "The fun is to know that you have it, and that you have it at your disposal if you need it," Caldwell said of the cap room. "The challenge is to be able to find players to spend it on. You just can't create players to spend it on. That's the nature of the beast. There's a limited talent pool of players, and there seems to be a large pool of money this year, especially in North Florida." ….

*The No. 5 overall selection in the first round of the April 28-30 NFL Draft, saying that while it's too early to know if trading up or trading back is possible he is "very confident" there will be a player he really likes available when the Jaguars select. …

*The development of quarterback Blake Bortles after two seasons. "He's kind of come on quicker than we imagined," Caldwell said. "We feel really good about that, and he has the mindset where he's not satisfied and neither is our young group of players." …

*The future of running back Toby Gerhart, who frequently has been injured in two Jaguars seasons and who has a year remaining on his contract. "When Toby's healthy, he has good value as a short-yardage back and he's a good special teams player for us," Caldwell said. "I think he has a role on our team."

*The future of tight end Marcedes Lewis, saying he expects to re-sign the veteran tight end before free agency begins. "I think he wants to be here," Caldwell said. "I think it's something we'll be able to accommodate on both ends." Lewis, a 2006 first-round selection by the Jaguars, is the longest-tenured player on the Jaguars' roster and is scheduled to become a free agent March 9. …

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