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Gus Bradley: Defensive flexibility a reality


BOCA RATON – This whole flexibility deal is a real thing.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked in recent months about the need to be flexible defensively as the team added personnel this offseason, and he reiterated that Tuesday during the AFC Head Coaches Breakfast at the 2016 NFL Annual Meeting at the Boca Raton Resort.

"We're not going to have good players standing on the sideline next to us; we've got to get them on the field," Bradley said Tuesday. "That's the challenge for us."

The Jaguars have added several front-line defensive free agents in recent weeks, a list that includes not only defensive tackle Malik Jackson, but also free safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamara. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. also is returning after missing his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

That's a lot of potential difference-makers, and it might mean slightly different looks defensively than in recent seasons.

"You have a scheme and that's really important that you have your foundation, but you have to have the flexibility to utilize the players you have acquired and developed on the team and utilize their skill set," Bradley said. "With that, there might be some subtle changes. I think it's great. I think it gives us some versatility. It will be a different look for offenses, so we'll see."

One new look could be Jackson playing at the same time as Sen'Derrick Marks, though both are technically three-technique defensive tackles.

"In third-down situations or in nickel situations, to get him and a guy like Sen'Derrick on the field at the same time is great," Bradley said.

Moving Fowler along the defensive front also is a possibility, and the team plans to use Otto linebacker Dan Skuta in a more extensive pass-rushing role at times.

"As you get players who play similar positions and they come into the scheme, that requires you to be flexible," Bradley said.

Other takeaways from Bradley at the coaches breakfast Tuesday:

*The offensive line continues taking shape, with Bradley saying the team likes second-year veteran A.J. Cann at one guard with third-year veteran Brandon Linder a "strong possibility" at center. "He could bring us a guy who could play the position for a long period of time for us," Bradley said of Linder at center. "We'd like to get some stability there; that's why it's a viable option for us." The team opted not to re-sign free-agent center Stefen Wisniewski, which means Jermey Parnell at right tackle, Cann at a guard and Linder at center are strong possibilities. Kelvin Beachum, signed as an unrestricted free agent from Pittsburgh last week, is expected to compete with Luke Joeckel at left tackle with the player who doesn't start at left tackle a possibility at the other guard. …

*Bradley likes Jackson's flexibility, and he cited on Tuesday the free-agent's ability to play multiple defensive line positions. "He's played three-technique, he's played four-B and he's played some six technique," Bradley said. "It gives us some versatility. We're a defensive line that likes to play a lot of guys. He gives us flexibility and he's a disruptive rusher." …

*The team is optimistic the addition of free-agent free safety Tashaun Gipson from Cleveland will help Johnathan Cyprien. While there has been offseason speculation about second-year veteran James Sample pushing Cyprien at strong safety, Bradley on Tuesday spoke highly of Cyprien's ability when playing in the box close to the line. The hope Gipson's ability as a ball-hawking, sideline-to-sideline safety will allow Cyprien – a second-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft – to flourish in what the team believes his ideal role. "As we went back at looked at cutups, and we were talking about getting Johnathan down in the box more, that's when we saw that he was at his best," Bradley said. "It [the signing of Gipson] gives us more flexibility to do that." …

*Marqise Lee's offseason health is a big issue. The team continues to have high hopes for the third-year veteran receiver, but the emphasis continues to be on his ability to stay healthy in the offseason. He has missed nearly all of his first two first NFL offseasons with injuries. "Hopefully, he gets a chance to get acclimated to it and we can see a full Marqise in OTAs and minicamp," Bradley said. …

*The Jaguars aren't going Tampa 2. While former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will work with the team as a defensive assistant, Bradley said that in no way signals a change in defensive philosophy. Kiffin was noted for the Buccaneers' "Tampa 2" scheme that featured two-deep "split safeties" and a conventional four-linemen front. Bradley said Kiffin's hiring won't in any way mean a fundamental shift from the hybrid-front, single-high-safety scheme the Jaguars have used the last three seasons. Kiffin will have input, but "not that much input," Bradley said with a laugh. …

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