A new coach, a new philosophy and a new defensive end are giving the Jaguars new hope for improving their pass-rush.
Joe Cullen met with his defensive linemen on the first day of offseason conditioning on Monday, and Cullen delivered a strong message: "We're going to be really good at the things that take no talent, and that's fundamentals and effort," Cullen said of what he told his players.
"Coach Cullen told us straight up this is what we're doing and this is how we're going to do it," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "He knows getting to the quarterback is a priority for the defensive line and I feel he's going to get us there."
The Jaguars were last in the league in sacks (14) in 2009. Getting to the quarterback was the defense's major failing during a four-game losing streak at the end of the season that kept the Jaguars out of the playoffs. The Jaguars had no sacks in the final three games of the year.
Cullen's charge is to improve the pass-rush and the Jaguars signed defensive end Aaron Kampman in free agency to help Cullen achieve that goal.
"We're going to be an attacking front. We're going to be relentless and we're going to do the little things right. We're going to play with proper pad level. We're going to be the hardest working unit on the field," Cullen said of his defensive line philosophy.
Kampman is coming off knee reconstruction in early December. This will clearly be an important offseason conditioning program for Kampman, if he's to have any chance of being ready for the start of the season.
"I'm doing everything everybody else is doing. I'm not going to squat 400 pounds, but everything else you couldn't tell," Kampman said.
Kampman is coming out a scheme-heavy philosophy in Green Bay. Cullen's scheme is attitude-based.
"There are two ways you can approach football," Kampman said. "You can scheme people or you can line up and beat people fundamentally, beat them with effort. That's what we're going to be about this year."
Knighton emerged in his rookie year last season as the nucleus of the Jaguars' defensive line of the future. He's the perfect combination of talent and attitude.
"We were in a good position last year. We were 7-5 and lost four straight. We wore down a little. We know how coach Del Rio feels and his expectations. I still have a bitter taste in my mouth and I can't wait to get started," Knighton told reporters on Monday.
Start they did and strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson reported full attendance, except for cornerback Don Carey, who is completing his college degree.
"I'm real excited about being in a new locker room. It's good to get to know all of the guys. That's how you build camaraderie," Kampman said. "There's a great buzz and I think this is going to be a lot of fun. Flying under the radar, maybe we'll surprise a lot of people."