Del Rio embraces hype

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PALM BEACH, FL—The media's heightened expectations for the Jaguars aren't causing coach Jack Del Rio to lower his own. He welcomes what he referred to as an "added awareness" for the Jaguars and hopes the league will reward his team with "more prime-time games."

Del Rio spoke to reporters on Tuesday morning in a "Breakfast with the Coaches" event at the league meetings. The media met with the AFC's coaches on Tuesday. The NFC coaches will have their opportunity on Wednesday.

"I was proud of the team; proud of the way we came together," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' return to the playoffs last season, which resulted in the team's first playoff victory in eight years. "I'm proud but not satisfied. We're looking to build on what we've accomplished the last five years."

The Jaguars are one of the AFC favorites for next season. Some media people have the Jags even making it to the Super Bowl, which is a far cry from what the national perception of the Jaguars was at this time last year.

When Del Rio met with reporters at last year's league meetings, he was fresh off having reinstated Byron Leftwich as the team's starting quarterback and a reconstruction of his offensive coaching staff. A year later, Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter is sharing the credit for a revitalization of the offense with David Garrard, who won the starting quarterback job and became a star.

Thirteen months after having reinstated Leftwich as the Jags' starting quarterback, Leftwich is gone and Garrard is thought to be on the verge of landing a big contract that would make him the team's quarterback for the long-term future.

"That means a lot to have clarity at that position; to have our trigger man settled. In David Garrard, we have an outstanding football player and an outstanding human being," Del Rio said.

Del Rio entertained a multitude of questions on Tuesday. The majority of those questions focused on the Jaguars' need for a pass-rushing defensive end.

"We're most definitely going to add (defensive linemen). I think we have a need for depth," Del Rio said.

Are the Jaguars' desperate for defensive linemen? "No," Del Rio said.

"People have run with speculation. We will continue to look at the prospects of acquiring players, whether it be through the draft or trades. Anything we can do to strengthen our football team, will we do that? Absolutely," he said.

"How are you going to rush the passer?" Del Rio was asked.

"We're going to do the best we can with what we have. We're not done collecting players. We're going to find a way to disrupt the quarterback," he said.

Defensive end will clearly top the Jaguars' wish list on draft day, but Del Rio said the Jaguars will not "reach" to draft for need.

"Football is a game of continual replacement. We're going to add a defensive end. We're going to add a defensive tackle at some point. No way does that mean we're saying that when we open in September are we going to be able to field a football team? It's important we not get carried away with a feeling of desperation and try to manufacture something. We're not going to force ourselves to take a guy at 26," Del Rio said, referring to the Jaguars' pick in the first round of the draft.

Del Rio also touched on these topics:

• "We feel we added a couple of guys who can really run," he said of the acquisition of wide receivers Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson. "I like to collect talented players and let them compete and sort it out. We'll expect to build on what we had last year," he added of the wide receiver position.

• New Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams has a reputation for attack-style defense, but Del Rio wouldn't put a tag on Williams. "Our philosophies are similar. At the core of what we do is putting our players in position to do what they can do," Del Rio said.

• The Jaguars could experience a makeover of sorts on defense, as they did on offense last year under Koetter. "We're doing the same thing defensively. We've been very good. We know we have a good system but you're always open to growing, to having some freshness," Del Rio added.

• It's expected Mike Peterson will step back into his starting middle linebacker's job, following a late-season wrist injury that caused him to miss the playoffs. Justin Durant stepped in as a rookie and played at a high level, which means the Jaguars have four linebackers and only three positions. "I think it's safe to say Mike remains a starter. Justin Durant is a good football player. Clint Ingram is a good football player. And Daryl Smith is an outstanding football player," Del Rio said.

• Asked if defensive tackle John Henderson's play has been compromised by personal issues, Del Rio said: "No; great football player. He's a human being. We all deal with issues from time to time. I don't think that's anybody's business."

• On the progress of tight end Marcedes Lewis: "Could we run the ball without Kyle (Brady)? Yes, we could," Del Rio said.

• "You don't have to be perceived as having everything in place. You have to come together at the right time," Del Rio said, using the Super Bowl-champion Giants as the example.

• Winning a division title remains the Jaguars' goal. "They're going to be very difficult to unseat but that's what we're after," Del Rio said of attempts to supplant the Colts as the AFC South champion. "That's something we've set out to do."

• Del Rio confirmed that negotiations to extend his contract continue. "We've had a great beginning in Jacksonville. I'm very pleased with my situation. I work for a great owner and live in a terrific city. It's been underway for some time," he said of negotiations.

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