To Drew Coleman, there's as much optimism as urgency.
Coleman, a cornerback who signed with the Jaguars as a free agent early in 2011 Training Camp, said that's the reality for the players who have joined the defense in the last month and who now share the task of ensuring its improvement.
It's not an easy, ideal situation. But among Coleman and the rest of the Jaguars' defense there is an agreement that while the pieces put into place in the last month must fit together rapidly, the process is pretty much on schedule.
"I definitely like how it's gelling right now," Coleman said this week as the Jaguars (1-1 in the preseason) began preparing to play the Buffalo Bills (0-2) in the third preseason game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We're still going to have some communication things, but that's stuff you have to work on during the week. Once we're all on the same page, this group is special and we're going to enjoy it."
Once we're all on the same page . . .
If there's a key phrase for the Jaguars in the coming two weeks – and indeed, if there's a phrase that defines the unit's preseason – that's it.
The Jaguars believe they're going to be better defensively. A lot better. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has been saying it for weeks, and it continues to be an emphasis pretty much every time he speaks with the media.
"It's coming together," Del Rio said. "We're going to be a good defense, I'm very confident of that. I think our guys are confident of that, and so it's coming together really nicely."
But while training camp and preseason always is a time for coming together for any team, it's particularly true of the Jaguars this season.
After ranking 28thin the NFL in total defense a year ago, and after being hurt defensively in several key games late last season, the Jaguars made bold moves to shore up what they considered weaker areas of the defense.
The Jaguars early in unrestricted free agency signed middle linebacker Paul Posluszny from Buffalo, and linebacker Clint Session from Indianapolis. The goal in free agency was not only to solidify a thin linebacker corps, but to improve the entire back seven, and toward that end, safety Dawan Landy (Baltimore) and Coleman (New York Jets) also were signed.
Two weeks into camp, shortly before the first preseason game, the team signed defensive end Matt Roth, a player they expect to solidify an improving pass rush.
Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis said there are positives to the newcomers beyond on-field talent. The free-agent signees were unable to practice during their first week in camp, but Mathis said the group defined itself during that period.
"Even before they were able to get on the field, there was communication in the meeting room," said Mathis, in his eighth season the most-tenured player on the Jaguars' defense. "They were receptive to the people who already were here in the system, and they were willing to learn from the people who were already in the system."
Said Coleman, "You have to take time out for film study with your team so when you get into games you don't have the excuse, 'Oh, we didn't have April or May together,' or we didn't have June together. We just want to get together so we're playing fast once we get to Sunday.''
Mathis said a willingness to fit into a new system is not guaranteed from high-profile free agent signings, but he said just as important has been current Jaguars players and coaches accepting input from newcomers.
"They're willing to learn from the people in the system, and the people who were in the system are willing to take heed and learn from the new guys, what they learned in their old systems," Mathis said. "They brought new ideas, and to add those ideas to what we already have and what we know we already can do is just going to make it better as a whole.
"Guys don't always come in ready to accept, because they're used to a whole system, and likewise, coaches are not always willing to be receptive to the things they're bringing from their old system. We have come together and united. We're on one accord, saying, 'OK, if this worked in your old system, then we can try it and see how it works with the system we already have.'
"To have that leeway, and to make guys feel comfortable, that was the main thing."
Mathis said early results could be seen in a 15-13 preseason victory over Atlanta. While the defense did not produce a sack, the line got consistent pressure and was dominant at times. Defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton controlled the inside, and veteran end Jeremy Mincey got significant pressure from the outside.
The Jaguars allowed the Falcons 264 yards for the game and 140 in the first half, more than half of which came on Atlanta's lone touchdown of the game, a 76-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to wide receiver Harry Douglas.
"Those one or two plays are going to decide the game, and we need to make those plays," Mathis said. "All of the guys are bought in and ready to make that happen where we're clicking on all cylinders and don't have that one or two plays every game that costs us the game."
Coleman said the adjustment process is more than plugging numbers into a roster and names on a depth chart.
"All of us came from different systems," Coleman said. "Dawan and I are on the same page with a lot of things, different signs and things like that – but then you have Clint and Paul, there are different terminologies these guys use."
"We're still going to have some communication things, but that's stuff you have to work on during the week. You're going to make mistakes. We just want to play fast. Hopefully, we get on the same page from the front seven to the back end."
And while Del Rio is the first to tell you that improvement must still be made, he also said he continues to see significant signs that the high level the old and new defensive players must reach together is attainable sooner rather than later.
"Things that you're seeing that you get excited about is you're seeing an understanding of what we're trying to get done," Del Rio said. "You see the communication being very strong. You see them playing off each other in a way that can take some time but when you have veteran guys it can come a little quicker.
"I think we're gelling and obviously we've got a lot of work yet to do but there have been some positive signs in terms of coming together."