Paul Posluszny says he's looking for little things.
Not a victory necessarily, or a shutout or even a big play. For Posluszny, the Jaguars' new starting middle linebacker, the preseason opener is more about fundamentals.
He wants to read his keys. He wants to be in the right spot at the right time.
That's basic stuff, but in the preseason opener, that's what the Jaguars want to see from their newest players. Is progress being made?
Are the pieces fitting?
"I hope to get a decent amount of reps, because I want to get back in the swing of things," Posluszny said as the Jaguars prepared to play the New England Patriots in the preseason opener at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
"I hope to get some live reps against some live competition. All the little things that make players great, I still have a lot to learn (within the Jaguars' scheme)."
Posluszny will get his repetitions, but likely not many.
According to Head Coach Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars' recently-acquired free agents – Posluszny, linebacker Clint Session, cornerback Drew Coleman, safety Dawan Landry, punter Matt Turk and offensive guard/center Jason Spitz – should play, but likely not extensively.
The aforementioned players, because of rules involving the recently signed Collective Bargaining Agreement, did not begin practicing until this past Friday. Del Rio said while the group has been working extensively with the team less than a week, "one thing is obvious:"
"They fit," he said. "They're going to help us. We're going to be a lot better. We're very happy with their approach, the intensity they bring, the attention to detail in the meetings, the communication. They're good football players, really each one of them."
Del Rio this week also said running back Maurice Jones-Drew and defensive end Aaron Kampman will not make the trip, and that while Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis will make the trip, he almost certainly will not play.
Also making the trip and not playing will be starting quarterback David Garrard, who hasn't practiced since this past Thursday because of a back injury. That means rookie Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, will start in his first preseason game.
Del Rio said with 90 players on the roster and with the off-season lost because of the lockout, this week's game will mostly be about evaluation, but in the limited time starters are expected to play, the Jaguars' defensive players want to see essentially what Posluszny wants to see.
They want to see some basics, and they want to see the good signs they have seen the past week since the unrestricted free agents began practicing translate onto the field, and onto the film.
"We missed OTAs with the lockout, but this is the time for us to get that chemistry and that trust we need," veteran linebacker Daryl Smith said. "It's going to be a great opportunity the rest of this week and that first preseason game. It's going to be big.
"They're vets. They've been doing it a while. They've seen a lot of stuff in their years. They're picking up the playbook quick. Now, it's just gelling together."
For the veteran acquisitions, it's been learning on the fly.
"It's been a lot of stuff to learn in a short period of time," said Posluszny, who is relearning the details of playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 after playing inside linebacker in a 3-4. "That's been tough, because it has been a lot of information to process."
Smith said he is optimistic not only about what he has seen early from Session and Posluszny in the linebacking corps, but from Landry, with whom he played at Georgia Tech.
"They're veterans," Smith said. "They know what they're doing and they've been doing it. They're all leaders and we're just excited to have them, really."
These early weeks of camp are key to the process of gelling and learning, a process Smith said he believes can lead to a defense that rivals those of the early Jaguars teams on which he played, a group that was among the league's best from 2004-06.
"I want to be a part of it to get it back like that," Smith said. "You want to dominate and have fun, and the only way you're going to have fun is if you are dominating, if you are doing the things you're supposed to do – getting the ball to the offense, creating turnovers.
"We've been lacking that here lately. That's where our focus is this year, to get that going."
Smith said progress was made toward that last season, and that despite the team's 28thranking in overall defense, a foundation was built with young players that should improve with experience. He said a defensive line that was young last season isn't anymore, and is showing signs of improvement that must continue. He said that will only help a back seven that added veteran free agents that figure to be automatic upgrades from last season.
What he wants to see Thursday, he said, is the same thing Posluszny and others around the Jaguars want to see from a young defense.
The basic stuff. Is progress being made? Are the pieces fitting?
All indications early in training camp are that they are. The preseason opener will be another test.
"Let's go out and get to a real game: This will be our first opportunity," Smith said. "We've been stressing tackling, taking the ball away – all of those things. If we can see some of that, it would be a great step toward where we want to go."