Senior writer John Oehser takes a look at four topics around the Jaguars two weeks into 2012 organized team activities . . .
4) A question of efficiency. We're two weeks into 2012 organized team activities – essentially halfway through the on-field off-season – so we'll kick off this Fabulous Four 2012 Memorial Day edition by examining a main task of OTAs: the installation of the offense. While the development of quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the receivers is the most-high profile off-season storyline, from Head Coach Mike Mularkey's perspective, as important may be installing the offense to a level where it can run efficiently. As we discussed on jaguars.com this week, the offense is pretty complex – more pre-snap movement and creativity than the previous offense, to hear many players tell it – and because of that, Mularkey is focusing on eliminating errors. Mularkey said because there's so much going on in the offense pre-snap penalties are a real possibility if the players don't really know what they're doing. Because of the limitation on practice time in training camp and OTAs, that makes each practice – and these sometimes low-key days of late May and early June – particularly important. In that sense, what wide receiver Lee Evans said this week was particularly pertinent. Having played for Mularkey in Buffalo from 2004-2005, Evans said he very much believes in the offense, but that because of its complexity it can take some time to reach high efficiency. That means patience may be needed early in the season, but indications are the result will be a far more productive offense than seen around Jacksonville lately.
3) A moment of appreciation.We had a chance to talk with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton late this week. He had started wearing a helmet with a dark eye shield in practice, which he was excited about because he likes the idea of playing with the dark eye shield next season but more importantly because it was another step in his recovery. The fourth-year veteran has been a polarizing figure among fans since the early April incident that led to emergency eye surgery. Many believe Knighton put himself unnecessarily at risk by being at the nightclub where the incident happened. He has since apologized for the incident, but what was striking this week was how fortunate he feels to be making a quick recovery and to be on what he believes is a path to playing next season. He said he was particularly moved hearing former Jaguars left tackle Richard Collier speak to the team Thursday. Collier played two seasons for the Jaguars before a shooting incident left him paralyzed in 2008. "I was thinking, 'That could have been me,''' Knighton said. "It's in the same ballpark, the situation. You have the Colliers, then you have someone like me, who has the opportunity to learn from mistakes." Knighton, who originally had 14 small stitches – smaller than an eyelash, he said - in his left eye, said his doctor this week told him the eye looks "phenomenal." Many of those stitches have been removed, and Knighton said this week he has been lobbying coaches to allow him to practice. Instead, he has been limited to working on the side – sometimes hitting heavy bags – and Mularkey said while Knighton is ahead of schedule he likely will remain limited until training camp. Mularkey said his vision, while still blurry, continues to improve. "Right now, it's just healing," he said.
2) RIP Oklahoma.In case you missed it, the Oklahoma Drill – a long-standing Jaguars training camp tradition – is no more. As long had been suspected this off-season, Mularkey said he doesn't plan to use the drill, which had become a fan favorite and a franchise tradition under former Head Coach Jack Del Rio. Mularkey said the reasoning behind not continuing the drill was pretty simple: he didn't like it when he was a player with Pittsburgh, where it had been a tradition under Steelers Head Coach Chuck Noll. Although some Jaguars fans related to the drill, and although it made for a popular, electric scene for one night each year during training camp, the reality was the Oklahoma Drill was destined to be no more once the Jaguars changed head coaches. Teams at all levels more and more in recent seasons have eliminated the drill because of the potential risk of injury. While entertaining, to use it just once did make you wonder how much was really gained from the drill beyond entertainment value. Therefore, it moves into the category of Jaguars history. Certainly, for all of those who saw and looked forward to it, it's a history they will remember fondly, but realistically, the time was right for the tradition to end.
1) And finally, a word on the quarterback.Once again, we'll talk about Gabbert last in the Fabulous Four, and while that someday will end, Mularkey spent some time late in the week discussing Gabbert's development. It was some good, detailed stuff that merits a deeper look. Mularkey talked positively Thursday about the progress Gabbert has made, noting that he has been impressed with Gabbert's ability to grasp the offense. That meshes with what long has been said about Gabbert – that he has a strikingly high football IQ. Mularkey also said Gabbert's balance in the pocket – particularly on his deeper drops – has been an area of focus for quarterbacks coach Greg Olson and that Gabbert has made strides in those areas. Mularkey also said Gabbert has improved in his progressions on each throw. Mularkey said Gabbert still has to get more consistent, but he also noted something that often is forgotten – that Gabbert's not supposed to be perfect right now. This is the off-season and everyone knew Gabbert was going to need to progress during it. We're two weeks into the extensive on-field work so to think we'd be hearing about perfect practices and mastered fundamentals is unrealistic. This is the time when Gabbert is supposed to be making mistakes, to be working through the lessons, and Mularkey said that's what he's doing. Gabbert, as Mularkey also noted, didn't get a chance to do that last season, which he missed because of the NFL lockout. Because of that, Mularkey said Gabbert not only didn't get a chance to work on fundamentals, he didn't even get a chance to identify areas he needed to work on while transitioning from a spread offense in college to a pro-style offense in the NFL. That was what made the off-season now ongoing so important for Gabbert, and Mularkey said two weeks in, it is apparent that it's time well spent. "Once you get into the season, as everyone knows, there's not a big installation," Mularkey said. "It's 'This is the play, go out and practice it and play it on Sunday.' There's not a lot of time to teach like there is right now. This has been absolutely great, even with the restrictions on our time, we've gotten a lot done."