Love 'em and kick 'em, too

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Jerry Sullivan knows there's work to be done – a lot of work.

But at the same time, Sullivan said that's part of developing a young group of wide receivers and taking them from one spot to a very different spot.

That's his job in his first off-season as the Jaguars' wide receivers coach, and as a result, Sullivan – one of the NFL's most-experienced, most-respected position coaches – said his approach is in essence many approaches in one.

"You've got to love them and hug them and kick them in the butt and get them going," Sullivan said.

Sullivan spoke Wednesday, the second day of the Jaguars' three-day voluntary mini-camp and a time that Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey is calling a veteran orientation.

The title of the camp may be particularly appropriate at wide receiver.

Because while wide receivers without question will be one of the most-discussed, most-analyzed positions on the Jaguars roster in the next few months – and while it will be a position of intense competition come training camp – right now it's a position getting used to a new coach and a new offensive approach.

The hiring of Sullivan was one of the most-high profile moves made by Mularkey, and much is expected of his upcoming work with a group that struggled at times last season.

Because he missed the first day of the mini-camp to attend the funeral of former Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano, Wednesday was Sullivan's first day on the field with the receivers.

Mike Thomas, the Jaguars' most-tenured receiver, said there was no question a different feel to practice with Sullivan around, but while Sullivan has a reputation for being demanding and tough, Thomas described Sullivan as "a cool-breeze guy."

"He's not going to break stride too much," Thomas said. "He pretty much stays the same, and I think you can kind of expect that from him. I think with his experience he's pretty much seen it all. You're probably not going to get him to blow a gasket too much. I think that's confident in a coach."

Thomas said that's a confidence the group will welcome.

"As players, you want a guy who's going to stay consistent," he said. "When you're right, you want a guy to tell you you're right. When you're wrong, you want him to coach you up. I think he's going to do every bit of that."

The group with whom Sullivan was working Wednesday is one that has changed in recent weeks. Not only did the Jaguars sign Laurent Robinson from the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in March, they signed veteran Lee Evans from the Ravens this past Monday.

Those two worked as starters Wednesday, with Thomas also working with the first group as the third receiver. Cecil Shorts, Jarett Dillard, Chastin West, Brian Robiskie and Taylor Price also have NFL experience, and Thomas said Wednesday he expects the team could add a receiver or two in next week's NFL Draft.

"We're all going to push each other," Thomas said. "We have a pretty healthy group, and I'm pretty sure they're going to bring in a couple of more. The level of competition is going to be grand, and when you're competing, you put your best foot forward and try to get better every day."

Sullivan on Wednesday called the receivers "A bunch of young kids that want to get better," adding, "I'm thrilled that there's a willingness."

"They've got a lot to learn and it's going to be a while until we get them the way I want them, but right now I'm just excited about the enthusiasm they've shown," he said. "We're just going to go out and see who gets better over time in what we're doing as things come easier to the guys and they get more comfortable in the offense.

"Guys are going to begin to see their playmaking ability and what they can do and what they can contribute."

Robinson, who worked with Sullivan last off-season and who attributed the 19-year NFL veteran coach with much of his improvement before what was a career season, said working with Sullivan gives a receiver group "a sense of security."

"He's been one of the best coaches ever to coach receivers," he said. "When he speaks, it speaks volumes. He's coached so many great players and put them over the top. That's what he brings to us. We have to learn from him every day. We have to listen to him because he knows what it takes.

Asked specifically what Sullivan brings, Thomas smiled and said, "A lot of wisdom, a lot of wisdom."

He's always going to coach you – that's the main thing to take from it," Thomas said. "You're not going to be able to get away with very much that's not right. If it's not right, you can pretty much count on him to tell you and correct you, but it's going to be in a coachable way.

"He's not going to be dog-cussing you or jumping you. He's going to tell you, 'You need to do it this way and this is how I want it, so you go from there.' Certain guys coach certain ways, but when you're coming from a solid place like Coach Sullivan, I don't think you have a choice but to be receptive to it."

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