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More pieces to the puzzle


INDIANAPOLIS – The week, while important, is not the end all.

Not that what will go on during the coming week at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis isn&39;t important. Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough (pictured) said without question the NFL Scouting Combine is a critical part of the draft evaluation process.

But McDonough said this much is true, too:

It is absolutely only a part.

And in some cases – indeed, most cases – perhaps not the most important part. That&39;s because McDonough, entering his ninth off-season with the Jaguars, said however a player fares in Indianapolis this week under intense physical, psychological and medical evaluation one factor overrides all else.

*     Can the guy play?*

"The guys we draft are going to play well on film first," McDonough said as the Jaguars prepared for the 2011 Scouting Combine, which will be held Thursday through Tuesday in Indianapolis.


Football players are football players, and if a player possesses certain measurables, a player who makes plays on one level has a good chance to do so at the next.

"They have to have certain height, weight, speed or a combination of all of them," McDonough said. "But if they don&39;t play well on film and they go to Indianapolis and test well, that won&39;t factor into our process."

That philosophy, McDonough said, is the core of the Jaguars&39; player-acquisition philosophy under General Manager Gene Smith.

Still, while not the end-all, the combine is important. Scouts and personnel officials spend the college football season scouting players in person, and on film, but the process of meeting and learning about players intensifies beginning in January.

Post-season All-Star games are important, McDonough said. There, teams begin interviewing players face to face, but the combine offers the most extensive player pool – and therefore, best opportunity to gather the most accurate information.

Perhaps the most important part of the week, McDonough said, is the medical examination. That process, along with player interviews, allows the Jaguars to compile key information not available from an in-person evaluation or a look at film.

"It&39;s a piece," McDonough said. "If it&39;s a puzzle, you probably have the puzzle halfway done. You keep adding to the puzzle, and the next couple of months, you head down the stretch. You have the on-campus workouts, then we come back for more meetings, then we get together as a staff and we finalize a plan. But Indy&39;s very important."

McDonough said from a scout&39;s perspective, Indianapolis also serves as a testing point – not only for players, but for the scouts themselves. If it&39;s not the end-all for scouts, it&39;s at the least a time of high interest – and sometimes highs, lows and nerves.

"If you go out in the fall and you grade all these players, you want the guys you like and have the nice grades on to test well," McDonough said. "If you don&39;t like a guy, it&39;s the competitive nature: you hope he doesn&39;t test well. It&39;s the scout&39;s chance to flex his muscles a little bit and say, &39;OK, I know what I&39;m talking about.&39;

"If you love a guy and he runs an awful time, it&39;s a little embarrassing. If you don&39;t like a guy and he runs a blazing time, regardless of what he does on film, you always get nervous.

"People start talking to themselves. It&39;s kind of funny."

And to McDonough, that&39;s hardly the only fun of the combine. While the NFL goes on year after year, for the college players, it is their only combine, and their first – and sometimes best – chance to sell themselves to the league about which they have dreamed.

McDonough said those hopes are present in most of the players at the combine, making the event a reaffirming event – even if it&39;s just a part of the overall pre-draft process.

"If a guy&39;s a good player and great person and he&39;s in your room, you get a little excited about that," McDonough said. "You meet him as a staff and he does a great job in the interview and you say to yourself, &39;Boy, I&39;d love for this guy to be a Jacksonville Jaguar.&39; It doesn&39;t always work out that way and the other side is that you like a guy on film and he comes in and he&39;s not the nicest guy in the world.

"Then, you have to reevaluate your situation. You say, &39;What is this?&39; You go out and you do a little more research. You want to be sure you don&39;t make a mistake on character."

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