JACKSONVILLE – His role is new – really, really new.
And when safety Dwight Lowery looks at the players with whom he's playing, practicing and attending meetings? They're young. Really, really young.
But Lowery, entering his third year with the Jaguars, is not only projected as a starter, he has something of a new role as a veteran leader at a position very much defined by youth. And Lowery's OK with that. In fact, he likes it.
He likes it quite a lot.
"They bring me a lot of energy," Lowery said recently during Jaguars 2013 organized team activities, which continued Wednesday with the eighth of a scheduled 10 OTA practices at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields outside EverBank Field.
"The youth really brings the youth out in you. We're not there yet, but there may be a day you're not feeling up to it, and these young guys, they have endless amounts of energy. You can kind of feed off that energy, so that helps."
Make no mistake:
Lowery, a six-year veteran who joined the Jaguars in a trade from the Jets shortly before the 2011 season, is more than just a veteran leader. He likely will start at one safety alongside rookie Johnathan Cyprien, and the Jaguars liked enough about what he brings that he stayed on the roster while the team implanted a dramatic changeover in the rest of the secondary.
But "veteran" is without question a role for Lowery this offseason, too.
Since taking the head coaching job in January, Bradley has approached several veterans about the importance of having leadership roles in the locker room – Lowery, tight end Marcedes Lewis, defensive end Jason Babin, to name a few. The Jaguars are in a year of transition, and by definition, that means gearing toward youth. But wise, experienced heads are still needed.
Lowery said he was eager to accept the role.
What he said he didn't realize at first was just how young the Jaguars' secondary would be.
"It's the youngest group I've been around or heard of," Lowery said. "Envisioning it before, I didn't expect to be this young. Usually, you have three or four guys – starters – who have been around a long time. We've got two guys coming in expecting to start right away."
The Jaguars early in the offseason opted against re-signing free agent cornerbacks Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis and Will Middleton and released cornerback Aaron Ross. They also released strong safety Dawan Landry, beside whom Lowery started the past two seasons.
That left the Jaguars low in numbers in the secondary, a situation they addressed early and often during the late April NFL Draft.
Cyprien, a second-round selection and the No. 33 overall pick in the NFL Draft, is far from the only rookie expected to contribute next season. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz, a third-round selection from Connecticut, also is expected to start, and the Jaguars also selected three other defensive backs in the seven-round draft – safety Josh Evans (sixth round, Florida), cornerback Jeremy Harris (seventh round, New Mexico State) and cornerback Demetrius McCray (seventh round, Appalachian State).
That's young. Really, really young, but Lowery said they don't act as young as they might, particularly on the field.
"I remember coming in that age, the types of things I was thinking about, but they approach it as professionals," Lowery said. "I don't want to say, 'I see their youth,' because when they play, they don't have a young mentality. They don't make as many mistakes as you would expect a rookie to make. I attribute that to our communication. Now, every once in a while things don't end up how they should. That's expected when you have guys come in as rookies, but they're doing an outstanding job.
"The guys they brought in here really have caught on."
Lowery said the group has another attribute – that while they're young, they are also good. Cyprien, he said, can be as good as he wants to be, and Gratz has shown the potential to be solid as a rookie at a difficult position.
Lowery's role, along with cornerback Marcus Trufant, is to be a leader on that group.
The secondary in Bradley's defense plays a crucial role. When Bradley speaks of aggressiveness, he largely means cornerbacks playing press coverage and the secondary as a whole helping the defensive line have time to get to the passer. It's a large task for a young group, but Lowery said from what he has seen thus far, it's a group that can play the role.
"At the end of the day, we're a unit," Lowery said. "Guys have to understand their role. The more we are around each other in meetings and on the field and talking and communicating, we'll play to our full potential. There's no doubt about it at all."
And there's no doubt in Lowery's mind that he likes his role within that unit. Quite a lot.