A month in, Mike Mularkey says the pace is increasing – in a good way.
With the coaching staff set at last, Mularkey – hired as the Jaguars' head coach January 11 – said Monday the focus has turned in a major way to what the early days of an NFL off-season are supposed to be about: roster evaluation, and preparing for free agency and the NFL Scouting Combine.
But for the Jaguars' offensive staff this off-season there's also the ongoing, daily process that will continue into the foreseeable future:
Constructing a playbook.
"Now, they're full speed ahead," Mularkey said Monday, shortly before appearing at the 2012 Team Teal kickoff event at EverBank Stadium.
Mularkey, as he has several times in recent weeks, said the playbook installation continues in productive fashion. He also said while the Jaguars likely will add offensive talent not only in free agency – which begins March 13 – but the late April Draft, the additions won't drastically change the offensive approach.
Certainly not enough to alter the playbook significantly.
"It's basically the meat and potatoes of an offense," Mularkey said. "We'll evaluate our offensive personnel and fit the scheme around them, but if you look around the league a lot of people do the same thing. It's just a matter of what personnel they have and what do they do best.
"We have to build it first, then fit it into the group we're going to go with."
Mularkey said he and Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith have had discussions regarding free agency, and said a priority will be re-signing the team' own free agents.
"We'll do whatever we can to do that," Mularkey said. "That will be more Gene than me. I am involved with it, but before we move on to any other free agent around the league, we'll address our guys first."
Mularkey said as free agency approaches, preparation is key.
"There are a lot of things that can happen," Mularkey said. "You have a list of guys who are potential UFAs (unrestricted free agents). You basically have to go evaluate all those not knowing. They may be signed back. They may be (given the franchise tag).
"Then, you have to rank them and you have to be prepared so you're making the right decision."
Mularkey during a brief meeting with the media Monday evening also:
*Said he plans to hold a voluntary veteran mini-camp beginning April 16. "That will be the first time we have to sit down with our team," Mularkey said, adding the camp will "literally be an orientation" at which players will be coached on such basics as where to line up in the huddle. "It will be a slow process," Mularkey said.
*Said while the rules in the new CBA prevent coaches from talking football with players before the off-season program begins in April, assistants are being encouraged to meet players and get to know them on a personal level. "All of our coaches are making a conscious effort to get around our players so they can get to know us as quickly as they can," he said. Mularkey said while the CBA limits what can be done, "We're not going to cross the line in anything we do. We're going to do it exactly the way it's written to do it and we're going to keep it that way."
*Addressed comments he made late last week about Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Mularkey told the Florida Times-Union "I don't want to get into the things that took place last year, but there were things in his head even before the ball was snapped. He knew there may be a chance the rush could get to him for a variety of reasons. I don't want to step on any toes, but I've got to get that out of his head." On Monday, Mularkey said of Gabbert, "There are some things I think we can help him with when it comes to executing the play, doing his job, making sure everyone around him is doing their job. Hopefully, the scheme we have will help him have a little confidence when he's going into the huddle, coming out of it and ready to execute a play."
*Reiterated that despite five coaches on staff with NFL coordinator experience – Mularkey, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and running backs coach Sylvester Croom – the process of putting together the playbook remains productive and smooth. "There are a lot of creative minds," Mularkey said. "This is a great opportunity for egos to show up, and I haven't seen it. And I've been in the meetings with them."