When it comes to the Jaguars' defense, Jack Del Rio says he knows the expectations are for dramatic improvement and immediate results, and he said that's fine with him.
His expectations are the same.
Del Rio, entering his ninth season as the Jaguars' head coach, said Tuesday that despite a limited time available for a slew of new players on defense to adjust to a new system, there won't be any excuses entering the season.
Del Rio said he defense needs to be better. And it needs to be better immediately.
"We've got preseason to get that ironed out," Del Rio said Tuesday between a pair of Jaguars training camp practices.
"I'm not looking for any grace period to assemble this defense."
The Jaguars in the last week have made dramatic changes to the defense, signing linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Drew Coleman as free agents. Posluszny, Session and Landry are almost certain to start, and rookie safety Chris Prosinski could make a push to start at an uncertain free safety position. Coleman will play extensively in passing situations, as could rookie corner Rod Issac.
Session, Posluszny, Landry and Coleman have yet to practice, and may not do so until August 4. That means they will have about five weeks to develop into a cohesive unit before the September 11 regular-season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
"The guys we're counting on for the most part are veterans – the guys who are working right now," Del Rio said. "The guys who are working right now are doing just that – working right now on getting better to understand the system inside and out.
"There's not going to a built-in cushion of (an) acceptable (time) below high standards because of this time crunch. There's a time crunch all across the league. We're going to expect to play coming out of the gate as a football team playing winning football. Defensively, we have a lot of work to do."
The Jaguars, after ranking in the Top 10 in the NFL in total defense from 2003-06, ranked 28thoverall and 28thagainst the pass a year ago. As such, the area has been an off-season focus.
"There are many specific things we're hammering home," Del Rio said, adding that the Jaguars are emphasizing being a "complementary football team" where the offense, defense and special teams play "complementary football."
"We're working diligently to get that done, to getting back to playing the kind of defense we expect to play here."
Del Rio also mentioned two factors beyond the recently-acquired players that he expects to yield improvement:
1)Off-season focus from the coaching staff on scheme."That won't be just simplifying," Del Rio said. "Part of that will be having a design that effects people and causes issues, but there certainly will be a narrowing on things we think our guys are capable of and things our guys can do well."
2)Improvement from young players on roster.Del Rio said players such as defensive ends Austen Lane and Aaron Morgan have looked good early and must continue to progress, and that players such as cornerback Derek Cox must turn experience into improvement. "Last year, when our offense took a step forward, (tight end) Marcedes Lewis had a breakout year," he said. "(Wide receiver) Mike Thomas had a breakout year. (Running back) Rashad Jennings had a breakout year. (Guard) Uche Nwaneri played a little better. We're going to need those types of things to occur from some of the young players on defense."
Del Rio said a combination of scheme, new talent and improvement from within can turn the Jaguars into one of the top defenses in the league.
"That's what our goal is," Del Rio said.
Del Rio said he's not yet certain how the need to become cohesive on defense will affect preseason playing time, adding that several issues could be a factor, including time lost because of the lockout and the lighter nature of practices.
"I suppose the lack of time in May and June puts more of a premium on the work we're doing now," he said, "but in terms of how we approach it we haven't solidified exactly how we're going to go about it in terms of sharing time. I know we'll have an opportunity to discuss that going forward.
"It will be interesting to see how certain teams play that. I know there is a certain amount of work to be done. There is always that balance between arriving at the regular season as healthy as possible and getting all the work that you need. We'll be working through that."