"WE'RE GOING TO BE GOOD"
Jeremy Mincey doesn't bother hiding his optimism. As he sees it, there's no reason.
Mincey, the Jaguars' fifth-year defensive end and sacks leader last season, was asked Tuesday as 2012 organized team activities opened about realistic expectations for next season.
"I think we can be very good," Mincey said. "You'll never catch me talking down on guys I believe in. We have what it takes. We just have to come to work, which we've been doing, and things can fall right. That's a realistic expectation for us – to be good. We're going to be good."
Asked why he believes that, Mincey replied, "Guys are growing up. Our quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) is a year older. We're more experienced, with better players, better coaches, team atmosphere – a good owner (Shad Khan) . . ."
Asked if those things weren't there last year, Mincey replied, "Let's just say they're better."
Mincey said one reason he expects improvement overall is he expects improvement from a pass rush that produced 31 sacks last season.
"I think we're getting there," Mincey said. "A tree just doesn't grow overnight. It grows leaves and branches. We're finding the right pieces to the puzzle."
THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Mike Mularkey saw progress, and that's what he wanted to see.
Mularkey said much of his first off-season as the Jaguars' head coach is about not only installing schemes, but establishing philosophy, practice schedule and expectations.
Overall, he said, Tuesday's first day of organized team activities was better in that area than the first veteran mini-camp in mid-April. He said that was to be expected, because that mini-camp marked the first days of installing the new system.
"You could tell the guys were a little more comfortable with the system," Mularkey said, adding that the coaching sessions that have been held at EverBank Field in the weeks since have helped.
"It was definitely an improvement from the first time we had them in here," he said.
Mularkey said two areas that must improve are fumbles and penalties. Mularkey said there were two fumbles at the end of plays Tuesday – one at the end of an interception and another at the end of a big play offensively – "that cannot happen."
"We love when the defense strips it," Mularkey said, "but we can't have the ball on the ground regardless."
Mularkey said those areas are a constant emphasis.
"We have an emphasis every day in these OTAs," Mularkey said. "Today's emphasis was first and second down, but really, there's an emphasis every time we walk on the field and that's ball security: keeping the ball and taking it away defensively."
Mularkey, too, said there's an emphasis on pre-snap penalties and penalties the Jaguars can control. Mental errors, he said, will be not be tolerated, adding that there will be officials at practice every day in OTAs, mini-camp and training camp and that penalties will be posted in the locker room daily.
"You don't want your name up in that locker room," he said.
WHAT MULARKEY SAYS
"It's May. Everybody knows what kind of shape they're in. Everybody has their own way of getting into it. When they leave here June 14, they've got to do something to come back here ready to go (for training camp July 27). I told the whole team today, 'You have to gauge your conditioning right now. It's May 15. See where you are today. See where you are after 10 OTAs. I can't tell you how much to sleep. What to drink. You have to know your own body. You better be in shape. If you're not in shape, you're going to get exposed in this camp coming up in July and August.' "
WHAT DE JEREMY MINCEY SAYS ABOUT SECOND-ROUND DE ANDRE BRANCH
"I like him. I like the kid. He's a high-energy guy. He works hard and is very respectful. That alone will take you a long way as a football player. The kid's going to be a really good player."
WHAT WE SAW
Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was working with the first unit in practice Tuesday. He sustained a shoulder injury in the season finale against Indianapolis, underwent surgery shortly thereafter and did not practice in the team's mid-April mini-camp. Also, the Jaguars' first-team offense on Tuesday appeared to be quarterback Blaine Gabbert, running back Rashad Jennings, wide receivers Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas and Justin Blackmon, tight end Marcedes Lewis, offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, guards Will Rackley and Uche Nwaneri and center Brad Meester.
The 90 Jaguars players on the off-season roster will participate in OTA practices Wednesday and Thursday, with OTAs scheduled to run through June 1. The team will then have a veteran mini-camp June 12-14 with training camp scheduled to begin in late July.
The big news on Day 1 of Jaguars 2012 OTAs took place before the first practice when defensive tackle Terrance Knighton spoke to a group of media for the first time since he underwent emergency eye surgery April 8. As might be expected from a player who typically is as humble, honest and up front as any in the Jaguars' locker room, Knighton was forthcoming about the incident that led to his injury and also was remorseful, apologizing to the organization and the city for his actions. Knighton said he expects to be ready when the Jaguars open training camp in July, and while it's far too early to know whether that will be the case, it was a positive step Tuesday to hear that he is ahead of schedule and optimistic about a full recovery. He handled Tuesday well, which is unsurprising from a likeable, classy kid whose return is obviously critical to the organization.
*The following players did not practice Tuesday: defensive end Aaron Kampman (knee), cornerback Rashean Mathis (knee), defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (knee), wide receiver Taylor Price (foot), defensive end John Chick (knee), Knighton (eye) and Ashton Youboty. Mularkey said the hope is that Mathis – who sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in November – will be able to practice in June. He said the hope also is for Alualu – who underwent surgery in January – will be able to work some in practice then, too. He said he believe Kampman is a bit behind Mathis. None of the players not working Tuesday are expected to practice this week.
*Mincey, who long has had a reputation as a high-energy, maximum effort player, on why signing a long-term deal won't change his approach. "They took a chance on me. It's only right for me to go out and give my all."
*The Jaguars on Tuesday signed rookie linebacker Joshua Jones and waived rookie running back Joe Banyard. Jones (6-feet-1, 234 pounds), who had 17 tackles for loss and four sacks for Elon last season, participated in the team's May 4-6 rookie mini-camp on a workout basis. Banyard signed with the Jaguars as a rookie free agent after the draft.
*Mularkey said he is pleased that Knighton has been able to return to working out earlier than expected, something he said will be important to the defensive tackle being in shape for training camp. "He has weighed in every day," Mularkey said. "He's very aware of his weight and we are, too. We're trying to do as much as we can without putting strain on him (or the eye)."