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Evaluation time


MOBILE, Ala. – The scheme will remain the same.

That much Mel Tucker knows – that the defense that improved dramatically this past season will remain a four-three and there will remain an emphasis on playing fast and being relatively simple.

Beyond that? Well . . .

Tucker said with meetings scheduled in the coming weeks with new Head Coach Mike Mularkey, the details and future direction of the defense that ranked sixth in the NFL last season will be determined in the near future.

"Everything that we have is on the table for evaluation," Tucker said during a recent practice for the Senior Bowl, which will be held at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., Saturday at 4 p.m.

"We're going to be an attacking 4-3. We know that. Everything else we've done is on the table. We're going to break it down and see what we need to do to get better.

"We're going to see what we need to keep and see what we need to move away from."

The Jaguars improved from a No. 28 ranking in the NFL in overall defense in 2010 to No. 6 last season, Tucker's third as defensive coordinator, his first with significant control of the defense.

He served as interim coach the last five games of the season, and after interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings opted to return as the Jaguars' assistant head coach/defensive coordinator.

Tucker said when the Jaguars' defensive staff returns to Jacksonville Monday, time will be spent next week reviewing every defensive play from this past season.

"We'll start going through the cut-ups," Tucker said. "We'll make sure we get (secondary coach) Tony (Oden) up to speed on our communication, our language – all that stuff. We'll see what input he and (assistant secondary coach) Marlon McCree have and we'll look at every play and say, 'Hey, this was good. This was not good. This is something that can be corrected. Is this a flaw in our system?'

"Once we do that, we'll say, 'These are the areas we need to improve.'''

Tucker said while the Jaguars indeed improved last season, he expects there to be changes – and not just because of a new head coach.

"Will we do things differently?" Tucker said. "You have to. If you can't adapt, you're going to lose. It's our job as coaches to make sure whatever we bring to the table our players can execute. That's part of the challenge in the off-season."

Tucker said the defensive coaches also will study other NFL teams in the coming weeks.

"We have to decide how we go forward," Tucker said. "Some stuff will be the same. Some stuff will be different. Some stuff we'll move away from and some stuff will be new.

"You get a lot of studies and you see what other teams do, then you have to pare it down and say, 'OK, what fits our players the best?' You move forward with that, because at the end of the day you still have to execute."

The reason for the off-season evaluation is simple, Tucker said. There's a cliché in the NFL that if you're not getting better you're getting worse, and Tucker said it's an adage in which he believes.

Circumstances often change drastically in the NFL from year-to-year. In the case of the Jaguars, there already are differences and more are possible. The team has a new secondary coach, and while Mularkey kept much of the defensive staff intact, 2011 season-opening starters such as cornerback Rashean Mathis and defensive end Matt Roth are scheduled to become free agents in March.

"It's a new team," Tucker said. "You have a different mix of players, and the game is always changing. You can't say, 'We'll just pick up where we left off.' That's a big mistake. You have to almost say, 'We're going to start over.' You keep your basic principles and philosophies intact.

"That's your framework and that's your foundation, but you don't want to assume anything."

And over the next few weeks, Tucker said that approach will be put to the test.

"It has to be simple for our players so they can be physical, play fast and be decisive, but it has to be tough on the opponent," Tucker said. "Our overall philosophy is our guys play fastest when they know what they're doing.

"We'll be a 4-3 and we'll be attacking, but other than that? Cover 3, Cover 2, Cover 1? I don't know. A lot of what we do is based upon necessity and what we can execute and what our players can do. Whether there's more Cover 2, more man, more pressure, more coverage – it all depends.

"Every team, every season is a new team. You have to start with that."

Also at the Senior Bowl:

*Tucker said while he never previously has worked with new secondary coach Tony Oden, he long has followed Oden's career. Their coaching relationship dates to the late 1990s, when Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State and Oden held the same position at Boston College. Oden told Tucker he needed to attend the AFCA Convention in Dallas. "I was kind of following him around the convention," he said. "He was introducing me to guys. We never got a chance to work together, but we stayed in close contact. Everywhere he's been, he has had great careers. People think highly of him in college and the NFL and he's definitely paid his dues."

*Asked what he hopes improves in the secondary under Oden, Tucker said: "We have an interesting mix of players. We have some very young players and then we have some medium guys who have been in the league a little bit, the Derek Coxes. Then, we have the Rashean Mathises of the world, the Drew Colemans and the Dawan Landrys. With the older guys, you want to say, 'How can we make you better? How can we sharpen the saw?' So, you want to have a plan for those guys. With the guys who have been in the NFL three or four years, you say, 'How can we take it to the next level?' With the young guys, it's really development. We're big on building through the draft and if you're going to do that, you have to be able to take players from Point A to Point B and C. We have a significant amount of players who have potential to be solid players for us, but we have to develop them. That's what this out-of-season is about, putting forth a plan for those players. We can get better between now and September."

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