JACKSONVILLE – Mike Caldwell likes one thing above all about his new situation.
Yes, the Jaguars' defense must improve in many ways.
And yes, forcing turnovers is among the ways.
But when the Jaguars' new defensive coordinator studied how the unit played this past season, he said one trait stood out from the rest – and that trait made him optimistic moving forward.
"The one thing when I turn on the film watching them is they play hard," Caldwell said last week during his first meeting with local media since being named coordinator. "They really do. From the front guys to the linebacker to the secondary, they play hard. If you're a true football player, that's something you're going to do. You're going to play hard.
"Now, it's this coaching staff's job to get them to play hard, play the right way and play the Jags' way. That's our job, to get it done."
Caldwell added, "If you have the effort and way they played hard, that's something you can take and you can build on and you can run with."
Caldwell, the inside linebackers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the last three seasons, coached the last decade under Buccaneers coordinator Todd Bowles. The Buccaneers under Bowles played aggressively and creatively, a trait Head Coach Doug Pederson said he believes Caldwell will bring to the Jaguars.
The Buccaneers ranked fifth in the NFL in turnovers forced each of the past two seasons.
"We were together 10 years, sitting in the meeting rooms together 10 years and understand when you're watching film what you're looking for, breaking it down, understanding, developing a game plan to attack the offense," Caldwell said of Bowles. "You sit in there for 10 years, something is bound to rub off."
The Jaguars this past season ranked 28th in points allowed and 20th in yards allowed. They created a league-low nine takeaways, something Caldwell said will be a focus moving forward – and an area where aggression could be a major factor.
"Turnovers are such an important part of the game," Caldwell said. "Every defense is going to work it, but you have to work it a certain way. You have to stress getting the ball out, stress the different types of coverages you're going to play. It goes back to attacking – affecting the quarterback.
"When you affect the quarterback and speed his processes, that enables you a chance to break on the ball and get a pick, or break on the ball and knock it down, or get a ball tip and get a turnover."
Caldwell last week addressed multiple positions on the Jaguars' defense, including edge rusher. The Jaguars in 2021 ranked 27th in the NFL with 32 sacks. Edge defender Josh Allen led the team with 7.5 sacks and edge defender K'Lavon Chaisson registered one. Chaisson played in at least 43 percent of snaps in the first five games of the season, playing in more than 40 percent four games after that. "I look at ability, someone that can make plays and someone that can process," Caldwell said of Allen and Chaisson. "We talked about going back to keeping it simple. If you've got a guy that has this skill set that does this real well, let him do this. If he's better going forward, let him go forward. If he needs to go back, we'll let him go back with every blue moon. But if he's going forward, let him get after the quarterback and let him go."
Caldwell on Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack: "I spoke with him [Thursday]. I could see it through the phone that he's eager and ready to go. You could hear the passion in the voice. He said, 'I want to win.' That's what we're about here. We're trying to get guys in the best position so they can go out there and win games."
Caldwell on the Jaguars' secondary: "I think there's a good mix back there. There are guys that have played, they have young guys with talent, and I think there's an opportunity for a lot of growth back there with the veteran guys being able to grow, learn this system, and keep honing their skills and teaching the young guys how to do it. When you do that and you build that accountability in a room, then that's when the defense takes off."