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NFL Annual Meeting: Jaguars talent base growing


PHOENIX – The feeling is different for Gus Bradley. A lot different.

Entering his third season as the Jaguars' head coach, Bradley still talks a lot about culture. He talks about improvement, doing things right and letting results take care of themselves.

But Bradley, attending his third NFL Annual Meeting, talked about more than those things Tuesday morning. He talked about a significantly improved Jaguars roster, and he also talked about the optimism that brings.

"I'm very pleased how it's all coming together," Bradley said at the AFC Coaches Breakfast early Tuesday at the Arizona Biltmore, adding, "We're more talented by far than we were two years ago. Now, it's meshing that together and building consistency and taking it from there."

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell spoke Monday about the roster being close to not having to fill needs through the draft. Bradley agreed with that assessment, though he said there were still clearly areas to be addressed.

"We still have some needs at some spots, and we're hoping to fill those in the draft," Bradley said. "But it's not like it was two years ago. We've had 17 draft picks and 15 have started. It's a high number of guys we were drafting just to have a starter.

"Now, I think they're going to be added to the mix and there's going to be some great competition."

Bradley said the goal the past two offseasons was to have an idea this offseason about strengths and weaknesses of the roster, and to be able to pursue players in free agency accordingly.

"We wanted to say, 'OK, we need this and we need this … let's address those things,'" Bradley said. "We couldn't say that two years ago, so I think it's paring down."

The Jaguars won four and three games the past two seasons respectively, and Bradley said while the need for improvement is evident, it remains important to maintain the goals from his first two seasons. Those goals involve a long-term approach to building a consistent winner rather than making decisions for the short term.

"To me, I think (Owner) Shad (Khan) had a vision when he hired me and it's my job to see it through and keep it about that vision," Bradley said.

Bradley, who said he has been given no specific timetable for specific numbers of victories and losses, said he very much likes how the recent free agent class – a class that included tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick, right tackle Jermey Parnell, safety Sergio Brown, cornerback Davon House and linebacker Dan Skuta – could mix with the roster.

 "We definitely have a plan, how we're putting it together," Bradley said. "The first two years were heavy on the draft, with some additions of free agents. This year, we felt like as we get settled in and we find our young players – who's doing well and who we can count on – now we can filter in some Tier One-type free-agent players.

"I'm excited about the group we're bringing in. Not only are they good players on the field, but I think there will be a good mix of what we're looking for in the locker room."

Also on Tuesday:

*Bradley said first-year offensive coordinator Greg Olson's system is developing with West Coast principles and said it is similar to last year's offense in the sense that it can incorporate zone and gap run-blocking schemes. He said the scheme will lean toward zone or gap based on what players do well. …

*Bradley said Olson's scheme will ask players to absorb more while learning the system – particularly in the area of protections – but will stay consistent week to week. "There's a bigger package initially the guys will have to learn, but it's going to be the same package week in and week out," Bradley said. "It initially will be a strain on the players, but once they feel it they should get into a rhythm and a real system. After you go through it and see what they do well, you can pare it down but you have that ability to be flexible." …

*Bradley called the recent release of defensive end Red Bryant difficult, praising the veteran's leadership in his lone season with the Jaguars. Bryant played for Bradley when Bradley was the defensive coordinator in Seattle from 2009-2012, and signed with the Jaguars as a free agent last offseason. He started 16 games at strong-side defensive end, but the team signed veteran Jared Odrick from Miami in free agency this month. "He did exactly what we were looking for, and did a great job in the locker room," Bradley said of Bryant. "We just felt with a guy like Jared Odrick we had a chance to really elevate that. We felt like he did a good job on film playing very similar positions that Red did." …

*Bradley discussed the addition of running back Bernard Pierce, claimed off waivers from the Ravens after Baltimore released him last week following his arrest for driving under the influence. "We need more depth in our running back room," Bradley said. "His intensity and love for the game are all attributes we like." …

*Bradley said first-year assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach Doug Marrone is optimistic about third-year left tackle Luke Joeckel, adding that Joeckel – the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft – has begun to add weight and lower-body strength in the offseason. "He's really intrigued about Luke," Bradley said of Marrone.  "He really sees the arrow up on him."

*Bradley said while former Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was discussed in free agency, the conversations were casual and the idea of bringing him in for a visit was never discussed.…

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