Mel Tucker is convinced of several things.
And while two of those things are that the Jaguars' defense can and must improve in 2011, what he emphasized most on Tuesday night was something he said is more important.
That improvement? It needn't come from the outside.
Tucker, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator who will take on added responsibilities in 2011, said while outsiders discuss the Jaguars' adding defensive help in the April 28-30 NFL Draft, he remains convinced strides will be made whatever the off-season brings.
"We have a core group of guys we know we can win with," Tucker said Tuesday evening during the Jaguars' Evening With the Coaches presentation at Everbank Field. "We&39;re excited about adding to that and putting a winning product on the field. It&39;s an exciting time."
Tucker, who spoke to a crowd of about 550 fans along with Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter and Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough, said that's true even with the league's current labor uncertainty. Players are currently not allowed to be at the Jaguars' facility and are not allowed contact with team officials or coaches.
Tucker and Koetter each said despite that, preparations continue for the 2011 season with little change thus far from previous seasons.
"So far, it hasn&39;t been that much different," Koetter said before the presentation. "This is a time when we&39;d just barely be getting the players back (for conditioning and the voluntary off-season program). Usually in the off-season, we work hard preparing for the draft, then turn our focus to preparing with our players."
McDonough, who spoke of the team's plans for the draft and free agency, listed the team's needs as follows:
*Interior offensive line.
The Jaguars approach the draft with a Best Available Player philosophy, and McDonough said because of past decisions, free-agency will be used this off-season as a supplement to the draft. Ideally, he said, that won't be the case in the future.
"We don't know who we&39;re going to pick right now, but if you look at what we&39;ve done over the last couple of years, we will pick a guy with high character who loves football and is committed to winning and who will make the city of Jacksonville proud," McDonough said.
McDonough before the session said he considered eight quarterbacks in the draft Round 1-2 caliber: Cam Newton of Auburn, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, Jake Locker of Washington, Ryan Mallett of Arkansas, Andy Dalton of Texas Christian, Christian Ponder of Florida State, Ricky Stanzi of Iowa and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada.
I think that&39;s the consensus," he said, adding, "A lot of teams need quarterbacks, but I don't think any of them are there are the end of the third round."
While speculation has focused on the Jaguars adding defensive help, Tucker laughed when pressed about draft-day possibilities.
"We'll take someone," he said. "I can&39;t tell you who. I don&39;t know."
Tucker, as he has said earlier this off-season, said the focus remains on simplifying the defense enough for players to play faster while remaining complex enough to counter advanced offenses. He also said he believes the current players on the roster can improve to make the Jaguars a top defense.
The Jaguars ranked 28thin the NFL in total defense in 2010.
"I&39;ve talked to our staff from Day One about coaching the players we have, the guys who are on our roster," Tucker said. "We&39;re moving forward as though these are the guys we&39;re going to play with this coming season. If anyone is added to that mix, we&39;ll factor them in.
"We&39;re looking at the guys who are on our roster, how we can make these guys better. We'll see what happens in terms of acquisitions and things like that."
More from the Evening with the Coaches:
*Tucker on playing faster: "It means we'll identify what we do best. Those are the things we&39;ll do in practice and those are the things we'll call in a game. It will be complex enough that it can handle what an offense can throw at us, but it will be simplistic enough for us that we&39;ll know exactly what we&39;ll have to do on every play to be effective. Players play fastest when they know exactly what they&39;re doing. In football, you have to have 11 guys on the same page every play. Our goal is to get that more often. . . . Right now what we do best is with our guys we compete. We&39;re relentless and we give great effort. That&39;s something we can build on."
*Koetter on the difficulty of finding a quarterback in the draft: "Playing quarterback in the NFL&39;s a tough deal. There are not a lot of great ones out there."
*McDonough on Newton: "We&39;ve talked about him a bunch. We don't think he'll be there. He&39;s a long way away from where we are. But he&39;s an excellent football player. He&39;d be interesting. That&39;s for sure."
*Koetter on using Greg Jones and not Maurice Jones-Drew in short-yardage situations: "It's hard to take the best player off the field and not put the ball in his hands. We've got the best blocking fullback (Jones) in the league and a great tailback. I'm not a smart man, but my dad told me, 'If it ain't broke, don&39;t fix it.'''