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Offseason update: Cann looking ahead to 2016


JACKSONVILLE – A.J. Cann can't wait for next season.

He's far from alone in that feeling among Jaguars offensive linemen, a group that as a whole strongly believes its immediate future is bright.

But Cann is anticipating 2016 for a slightly more personal reason.

"Now that I know what's going on, I feel a lot more comfortable," Cann said recently.

That's often the difference between an NFL player's second season as compared to his first, and it's often the reason players take a huge step in their second seasons.

On that front, Cann said he absolutely believes he can be better next season.

"As a player, there were times I second-guessed myself mentally," he said. "That's one of the biggest things I can get better at."

Make no mistake:

The Jaguars already consider Cann pretty good, and they see him as part of what they believe is a young, improving offensive line that is close to having the right pieces in the right places.

The Jaguars' starting offensive line next season isn't yet exactly certain. It's apparent that Jermey Parnell will start at right tackle, and Brandon Linder could move to center with Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum competing at left tackle.

One thing that also seems certain is Cann will start somewhere – and almost certainly at left or right guard.

"Wherever they have me at, I'm going to try to compete my tail off and be the best I can be," he said.

Another thing that seems certain is that Cann is ready for the role.

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley have spoken highly of him since season's end, and he has the look of a long-term starter. He started 13 games last season, with Caldwell after the season saying Cann had played "as well as any rookie offensive lineman I've been around."

Cann said he saw positives, but also said his rookie year was far from perfect.

"I'm really hard on myself, so I saw plays where I was like, 'Man, I've got to get so much better,''' Cann said. "That's just me. If they say I can be a great player, I've got to take that in and work to be a great player. I've got to take the bad stuff, get better at that.

"I got more confident as my play went along. I think in this coming year that trust in myself and that confidence level is going to be really high because I'll know what to think and I'll know what to do."

Cann said in one way his rookie season played out as might be expected. A third-round selection from the University of South Carolina, run-blocking was considered his strength, and he indeed was comfortable in that area from the beginning.

"As the season went on, I felt more comfortable at pass (protection)," he said. "I was able to hold my ground and compete against a lot of good players. I feel I'm getting better at everything each and every day."

And yes, overall, the mental aspect of the game remains his major area of focus. While Cann said he never felt overwhelmed, reaction time is key in the NFL. A tenth of a second can be a major difference, and it's that difference where Cann said he hopes to improve.

"As a player last year, me second-guessing myself is one of the biggest things I can get better at," Cann said. "I knew what was going on, but at times I wasn't sure about it. In this league, you have to be good enough to not think and do things" – he snapped his fingers – "at the drop of a dime. You have to be really quick."

Cann said he noticed improvement there throughout his rookie season, and that he gained confidence at the same time showing himself he indeed belonged in the NFL. At the same time, he said he also learned quickly that ability isn't enough and that a player must prove he belongs "every day."

"In this league, people are judging you every step of the way in everything you do," Cann said. "You've got to prove to everyone and the coaches that you're willing to do what it takes to play in this league and willing to stay. That's the way I look at it, you just have to come to play every day and be prepared."

That's Cann's focus now – that, and helping the Jaguars' offensive line be what it believes is possible.

"I love this group," Cann said. "It's a great group of guys and we talk all the time how good we can be. We were talking [recently] and guys were saying, 'Man, I can't wait.' Everybody's confident and they're just ready to get the ball rolling. We know what we're capable of. We just have to show we can do it."

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