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Inside the Jaguars: Setting a standard


JACKSONVILLE – David Caldwell wouldn't say there isn't more work to be done. A lot more.

Gus Bradley wouldn't, either, but before focusing on that work and the future, the Jaguars' General Manager and Head Coach took time Tuesday morning to discuss the 2013 season, which ended two days before with a loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis.

The Jaguars finished the season 4-12.

That marked a two-game improvement from the previous season, but both Caldwell – the team's first-year general manager – and Bradley, the first-year head coach, talked of the season that just ended as being about more than victories or losses.

Yes, more victories would have been ideal.

But the priority was establishing a culture and a foundation for the organization, establishing what Caldwell called "a standard of acceptability."

Each said Tuesday that in that vein, the season was a success.

"This was really our first step in this journey, in this process," Caldwell said during a season-ending press conference at EverBank Field that featured both he and Bradley speaking to the media for a little more than 40 minutes.

"Our first step was to build a foundation, to figure out our strengths and weaknesses, to set a standard of acceptability and to kind of figure out where we stand among the 32 teams.

"I feel like we've made good headway with that."

Caldwell said not only did the rookie class improve through the season, but that the team established "tremendous leadership" from the coaching staff and veterans. He also said while the team struggled with consistency and experience early, he was pleased with how the team responded to a 0-8 start.

The Jaguars won four of their last eight games, including four of the first five after a Week Nine bye week.

"Nobody gave us a chance to win a game and for our players just to stay focused and stay the course and our coaching staff, I'm really proud of them," Caldwell said. "They just kept fighting and battling and knowing that the results would come. For us to be really competitive that last half of the season was probably the best moment."

Bradley, too, said established a standard was the key accomplishment of the season, "to recreate that and say, 'Hey, this is what's acceptable.'"

"And I think after our first year going through it, now we just re-set that bar," he said. "We say, 'Okay, now here are the improvements that we made; now we re-set the bar.' Now we're on that journey. We just keep elevating and keep challenging."

Bradley added, "Believe me; I would like to see some victories too. That's important but I just have so much conviction that in order to get those we have to do it this way and we have to really stay true to it and have conviction in this. That conviction is going to be tested and we have to be strong in this in order for those results to come."

Also around the Jaguars Tuesday:

*Caldwell began the press conference Tuesday by reiterating that he, Bradley and Jaguars owner Shad Khan are "really aligned in our philosophies and our beliefs," adding, "I've really grown to appreciate how important that is, not only to me but to this organization and this community. To have all three of us aligned with a similar vision and similar goals, I think is critical for the growth of this organization for us to continue what we started this year."…

*Caldwell cited second-round rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien as improving through the season. "We forget that he missed training camp too with an injury, so he was set back a little bit, but really came on," Caldwell said. He also said rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz, rookie wide receiver Ace Sanders and rookie safety Josh Evans played well, and that the team anticipates improvement from rookie running back Denard Robinson and rookie cornerback Demetrius McCray. …

*Caldwell focused on the running game as an area that could be improved significantly next season. The Jaguars finished 31st in the NFL in rushing and rushed for fewer than 100 yards in 12 of 16 games. He said offensive line is an area that can be improved in the middle rounds of the draft and free agency. "With another year in our system, (improving the running game) is a feasible thing for us to accomplish going into next year," Caldwell said….

*Bradley said the team remains committed to a zone/gap approach to run blocking. "I think it's just more challenging," he said. "You're creating more issues on a defense whenever you have the ability to do both. Some of it will be based on the personnel that we continue to evolve to. We'll use the strengths of our offensive line."…

*Bradley said while a secondary that started three rookies –Cyprien, Gratz and Evans – can improve, "One of the biggest areas you can improve the secondary in is with (pass) rush. It just happens that way. It has to be a primary focus with us, how are we going to get (pressure)? Yes we improved, we can hang our hat on that, but it's still not good enough. We need to affect the quarterback, and not only on third down but on first and second down. I think when you have that opportunity to affect the quarterback those things will come."…

*Caldwell also said while pass rusher is always a priority, premium players at the position "aren't easy to find."…

*Caldwell also lauded veteran cornerback Alan Ball, and said rookie defensive lineman Abry Jones showed positive strides late in the season. He also said tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor "did a nice job," and that the team feels good about offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor.  Bradley said fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou played well….

*Caldwell said while free safeties Winston Guy and Evans alternated snaps in the second half of the season, addressing that area in the offseason isn't a high priority….

*Caldwell said among the first offseason priorities will be evaluating the Jaguars' own roster and determining whether outside upgrades are needed. "I think it's important to look at not only to look at the guys on our roster but what's available and make sure that we don't get worse," he said….

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