Some are calling it rebuilding. Others are saying the Jaguars can be a surprise team this season, just as the Dolphins and Falcons were last year. Coach Jack Del Rio likes to use the word "commitment" when speaking of his expectations for the 2009 season.
"I don't care what you call it. I'm not concerned with the label, I'm concerned with the meat, the actual work. Full commitment is what we want. Sometimes that only occurs when you rebuild. We're going to push each guy to be his best and see if that wins for us in the fall," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars took the final steps on Thursday of the first phase of their new commitment. OTAs are over; long live OTAs.
It was a good spring for the Jaguars because they found reasons for hope, and that hope would seem to have sprung from a good-looking class of rookies and from an offensive line that promises to be vastly improved from the injury-depleted group that allowed David Garrard to be sacked 42 times last season.
"We aggressively tried to fortify the trenches," Del Rio said of offseason efforts to improve the offensive line personnel. "We should be able to put together a good offensive line.
"I told our guys I want to see that grit, that determination. When David has time, I think you'll see we'll complete some of those balls," Del Rio added.
Improvement would seem to be everywhere, which is expected from a team coming off a 5-11 season. Coming out of OTAs, however, there remains one area of considerable concern, the team's defensive line.
That concern begins with defensive tackle John Henderson, a controversial figure during OTAs due to a mysterious shoulder injury. Henderson did not participate in Thursday's closing practice, prompting this question: Will Henderson be fully recovered for the start of training camp?
"His shoulder will be fine," Del Rio said. "In terms of flexibility, conditioning, he's probably had one of his best offseasons. When you lose your flexibility, you lose your ability to play well."
What about his commitment? That's the question everyone is asking about Henderson. It's a question he'll have to answer in training camp.
"We had a good, solid, hard-working spring. We made headway in terms of conditioning, working on the system, the buy-in. We gave ourselves a start," Del Rio said. "We're going to push all of us to be better. I think that's going to create a real good environment."
Rookies Derek Cox and Tiquan Underwood ended the spring favoring hamstring pulls, but Del Rio said they should also be fully recovered for the start of training camp.
"We're going to enter camp healthy," Del Rio said.
That was not the case a year ago. July was a bad month for the Jaguars in 2008, as it was revealed that high-priced wide receiver Jerry Porter would have to undergo hamstring surgery, which followed the news that wide receiver Matt Jones had been arrested in Arkansas for drug possession.
"It's always a concern," Del Rio said of the gap between the end of spring practices and the start of training camp. "I didn't spend today's time addressing the team about that, but David Garrard talked to the team about it. We've got to come to camp ready to work. If your mind is focused on that, you're not focused on silly things."
This year's glitzy free-agent acquisition at wide receiver, Torry Holt, used Thursday's practice to leave little doubt he still has the tools to play at a high level. Heading into his 12th season, Holt didn't wear himself out in OTAs. On Thursday, however, he made sure he left a lasting impression, taking his regular turn in drills and catching a touchdown pass from Paul Smith on a route in which he froze the defender and then beat him to the inside.
"I'm trying to learn a new system. I'm not looking at myself being game-ready in OTAs. It's just a stepping stone to get you ready for training camp," Holt said. "I feel good. I can play the game, man, as long as my body feels good and I continue to take care of myself. I expect to be a team player. When my number is called, make plays. I see myself having a good year."
Newly-acquired quarterback Todd Boeckman joined the team for its final OTA practice, as did fullback/long-snapper Jeremy Cain, who was claimed off waivers from the Washington Redskins.
The Jaguars' offseason conditioning program will continue through July 17. Training camp begins on Monday, Aug. 3.
"We're a better conditioned team right now than we were at this time last year," Del Rio said.