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Deception and excitement


The excitement is palpable, with quotes to support it.

Clint Session used the phrase "Greatest Show on Turf" recently, and though the veteran linebacker did add the caveat that the show was being compared to last year, his point was clear:

The Jaguars' offense? The one that ranked last in the NFL last season?

It may be early, but it looks better. A lot better. Don't just ask Session.

Ask Derek Cox. Or Dawan Landry.

Ask around the Jaguars' defense, and they'll tell you. This is a group that saw what the offense was last season. They have seen what it has been during organized team activities. And though there's still much work to be done, the early stages of installing Mike Mularkey and Bob Bratkowski's offensive scheme have gotten positive reviews all around.

"Being that they do have a new offensive package and offensive coordinator (Bratkowski), they've adjusted just fine and transitioned well," Cox, the Jaguars' starting cornerback, said this week. "It seems to be operating pretty smooth considering the new adjustments."

Yes, there's a long way to go, and yes, it's still spring, but that's something the Jaguars – not to mention their fans – have been waiting to hear for a while.

And the early enthusiasm isn't just from the defense.

The offensive players, the ones involved last season when the Jaguars finished last in the NFL in passing, like what they see early, too.

Mularkey, the Jaguars' head coach on whose past offenses the new Jaguars' offense is based, said this week about half the system is installed. Being a coach, he is understandably less giddy than Session, who last week said, "They're looking like the greatest show on turf right now compared to what it was last year. I'm excited about that."

Mularkey smiled when told of Session's quote last week. Eyebrows raised, he said his focus isn't about comparing things with last season. His concern is efficiency. When he has talked about the offense in the OTAs ongoing at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields, he has talked about eliminating mistakes, doing things the right way.

But within that framework, Mularkey offered an underlying philosophy to the scheme.

"We want to be deceptive," Mularkey said. "We would like to put defenses a little bit on their heels as where are they and where they're coming from and what's going to happen when the ball snaps, and make a lot of people do a lot of thinking really fast."

Mularkey said a key to deception is discipline.

"We've got to be really good at what we're doing in order to do what we do without the pre-snap penalties, the alignments, the shifts, the illegal shift— there are a lot of things that you are vulnerable to if you're not very good doing it," he said. "I know it would put a burden on defenses if you can do all of those things."

If the offense is only half in, Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said there's much to like in the half he has seen. The tight end position, he said, has 10 times the routes in this offense than in the previous offense. Asked to describe the offense, the 2010 Pro Bowl selection said, "Excitement."

"Excitement and creativity," Lewis said. "Exploiting matchups – that's what this offense is about. As much moving around as we do before the play to get the defense off balance and have to think about more than lining up and teeing off, we will have a lot of defenses on their heels this year. I'm very excited."

Among those most excited – while being cautious at the same time – is Lee Evans.

Evans, who played for Mularkey from 2004-2005 when Mularkey was the head coach in Buffalo, knows from experience that when Mularkey's offense is right the deception and creativity can be productive and exciting.

He also knows that the scheme's complexity can make for an extended learning period, and said that's where the offense is now, two weeks into the period.

"It's early," he said. "The reality of it is, there's going to be an acclimation period. Now, you're trying to hone in on the really small details. Now, each day each week, you have to take a step forward. You have to be able to do it, digest it and come back and refine it. That's the process now. Guys are digesting it, taking it all in, so when you come back in training camp things aren't foreign to them."

Evans said that learning period can take longer than some want – even into the regular season – but he said the benefits are such that the wait is worth it.

"You have to be on the same page," he said. "There are a lot of shifts, a lot of movement, and a lot of moving parts. It takes a little time together, but once you get it, it's a tremendous advantage for the offense.

"Being in this offense before, sometimes things don't look the way it's supposed to look. You keep grinding and once you get it, it's like a light going on. That's the biggest thing to remember. There's a lot going on. Once you get into the heat of the battle, bullets start flying and there are some adjustments.

"Once you get comfortable hearing everything, why it's called, things come a lot smoother, and the offense gets that much better."

And even though it's just spring, that's something the Jaguars – not to mention their fans – have been waiting to hear for a while.

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