JACKSONVILLE – Bob Babich likes a lot about the Jaguars' defense.
Babich, entering his second season as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator, said that's true from scheme, to coaching staff, to individual players, to the unit's overall potential to improve. Babich said that last part may be what he likes best, and what has him most optimistic.
It's a common refrain that players improve most from Year One to Year Two.
Babich said Wednesday that can be true of overall units, too.
"We were very pleased last year with our effort," Babich said this week on Jaguars.com LIVE, which airs Wednesdays at 12:30 on jaguars.com. "We weren't always right schematically and sometimes we'd have breakdowns here and there where we may have made a mistake. But our effort was fantastic and we feel like that's something you can build on.
"Most people say the biggest jump you can have is from your first year to your second year, so we expect schematically to get better as the guys understand it. If we continue with that effort, that will be a big plus.
"You're always going to get better when you're in a scheme from your first year to your second year."
Babich also said Head Coach Gus Bradley's knowledge of the defense should help the development. Bradley helped implement Seattle's defensive scheme as defensive coordinator there from 2009-2012 and the Jacksonville defense applies many of the same principles and approaches.
"It's very exciting, because this defense we're using – he knows it inside and out," Babich said. "He's been a great teacher for me, to help me get better at it. It's been exciting. He's an extremely talented teacher. He just doesn't give you the information. He understands how to team and we pass that on to the players."
Babich on Wednesday also said he was pleased with the improvement shown last year by several young players, a group that included 2013 second-round draft selection safety Jonathan Cyprien. Babich said Cyprien improved significantly in the second half of last season.
"We're really excited about his future," Babich said. "We think he's not only taken a step as a football player, but as a leader in the locker room and the maturity you need to play at this level. I think in all of those things he has grown immensely. We're excited to get him back."
Babich said defensive end Andre Branch, who registered six sacks last season – including five in the second half of the season – also figures significantly in the Jaguars' plans.
"We really enjoy him," Babich said. "We think he has an outstanding personality and his effort was fantastic. He showed some playmaking ability and that's all you can ask for."
The Jaguars addressed the rest of the defensive line last month, not only signing former Seattle defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant as free agents, but signing defensive tackle Ziggy Hood as a free agent and re-signing pass-rushing defensive end Jason Babin.
Bradley said upon signing those players a huge reason for the moves was to reduce the number of snaps played by starters such as tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks, as well as Babin and end Tyson Alualu. Babich on Wednesday agreed that will be a benefit.
"That was a big emphasis, getting Ziggy Hood in the middle and Red Bryant there at end," Babich said. "I think it's going to eliminate some of those snaps those guys had to take. That just keeps you fresh throughout the season and allows you to perform at a higher level."
Babich said he and the coaching staff spent much of the offseason splitting duties, spending half of most days evaluating talent and the other half of most days reviewing the playbook and schematic approaches. Babich, for instance, said a position coach might look at 25 college prospects to provide input on players, with Babich looking at players from all defensive position groups.
Coaches typically evaluate free agent talent early in the offseason, then move into college evaluation as the draft approaches.
"We really enjoy evaluating the talent that's out there," Babich said. "It's all something we've been through as we come up in the profession."
With the draft approaching next week, focus turns more to preparation, which for the Jaguars this season will mean meshing rookies and new veterans with a core that began forming last season.
"Any time is a guy is really talented, you may have to adjust your scheme," Babich said. "But we would like the combination of guys being talented and fitting into the scheme we're using. That makes it an easy piece of the puzzle to fit in there."