JACKSONVILLE – The task is far from done.
That's one of the first things defensive coordinator Bob Babich will tell you about the Jaguars' defense, because improvements must still be made. But Babich will tell you this, too.
Compared to this time last season no question the Jaguars' defense is better.
"We're further ahead than last year because it was our first year," Babich said Friday before a short practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. "We have a long way to go. We have some new guys that are coming in and mixing in. Personality-wise we are developing. The guys are doing a great job of taking ownership of it.
"It's just been a lot of fun as we come together and rally together."
The Jaguars in the offseason made significant moves to improve the defense, signing ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons as free agents from Seattle and signing tackle Ziggy Hood from Pittsburgh. The Jaguars also signed linebacker Dekoda Watson to play the Otto outside linebacker position, meaning three of the front seven starting positions – Clemons, Bryant and Watson – could be new this season.
With Tyson Alualu expected to backup Bryant at the five-technique end spot, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is the only defensive starter who predates the arrival of Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley.
Babich said whereas last season a new coaching staff had to teach techniques, scheme and approach – pretty much everything – there is a different focus now.
"We can concentrate on the field stuff," Babich said. "With the spring, we hadn't changed the scheme a whole lot. We added some different things here and there, so just the second year in anything you're doing, you expect to take a step in the right direction."
The Jacksonville Jaguars on their seventh day of 2014 Training Camp.
Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson knows this isn't ideal.
But while the rookie is expected to miss at least two weeks with another hamstring issue, he said he remains confident that he can recover in time to play – and contribute by the start of the regular season.
Robinson, a second-round selection from Penn State, had been working with the first-team throughout the first week of training camp, impressing with his pass-catching ability and his ability to use his body and physicality to get open. He left practice with a hamstring issue Thursday.
"Things happen," Robinson said. "I've just got to take my time, get back and go from there. I have to stay positive, move forward and trust the trainers."
Robinson participated in rookie minicamp in mid-May and a week of organized team activities, and then missed the rest of the Jaguars' on-field offseason work with a hamstring injury. Though that injury was to the same hamstring, it involved a different muscle group.
"It definitely doesn't feel as bad as it was before," Robinson said. "It's a little reaggravation, so I've got to get the treatment I need to get better. I've got to take what I was going positive while I was out there, and continue to improve."
LOOKING ON . . .
*The Jaguars took a cautious approach with wide receiver Marqise Lee Friday, holding the rookie out of a light, short practice near the end of the first full week of training camp. Though the practice came in the wake of a series of injuries to the receiver position, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said the decision to rest Lee was about giving the rookie precautionary rest. Lee missed much of the offseason on-field work with an ankle injury. "We looked at it and said, 'If there are any signs of fatigue, before we get to that point, let's give him a day off,'" Bradley said. …
*Lee and veteran cornerback Will Blackmon – along with rookie wide receiver Nathan Slaughter – likely will handle punt returns in Saturday's scrimmage/mock game with Ace Sanders and Tandon Doss unavailable, Bradley said Friday. …
*Babich on reserve middle linebacker Nate Stupar, who got repetitions with the first team Thursday when starter Paul Posluszny had a veteran day off: "He really understands the game. If you listen to the practices, he's communicating a lot of different things. That's outstanding. I think that Nate has taken advantage of every opportunity that he's had."…
*Babich on Clemons: "First of all, he's an excellent pass rusher. He's proven that. He's been in the system. Let me tell you what I like about Chris Clemons, what I love about him. He is a leader. He's leading. He's talking to the young guys. He's talking to LaRoy (Reynolds). He's talking to (rookie defensive end) Chris Smith and those guys. I think he's taking it to the next level there." …
"The running game I know sometimes takes time. It does take time. We don't want to wait until Week Eight to where it starts to get going. Obviously we're trying to get that going now. So we've had a renewed emphasis on the run game, and we see some consistency starting to show up through it. We've kind of pared it down to how we're teaching the offensive line scheme. It's become easier for them to understand and in turn, we're seeing guys play faster. We feel like we're making great strides there because of the emphasis."
--- Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley
"I think the first step was the second half of last season. We got a lot better against the run. I think the guys are understanding their fits a little better. (End) Red Bryant is going to help with that type of stuff. He's big. He and Tyson (Alualu) playing that big end position will help us also. I think the guys have definitely taken a step in the right direction just with something as simple as the fit, where they belong."
A daily training camp thought from Jaguars.com senior correspondent Brian Sexton …
"The wide receiver position has become a concern. You now don't have a guy in Allen Robinson who was really playing well. He was impressive. If (Cecil) Shorts (III) comes back, you like what you have there, but right now it's kind of like the linebacker position. You're playing the 'what-if' game until you know more about their health."