Raw with a lot of upside

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It is early May, and stifling heat or not, it's early in the evaluation process.

So, when it comes to rookies such as Ryan Davis and Kendrick Adams, defensive line coach Joe Cullen is quick to say that rookie mini-camp in the first week of May might mean little come August. But Cullen will tell you this, too:

It is a start, and there are things you can see and evaluate. With Davis and Adams, each of whom signed as undrafted free agents after the 2012 NFL Draft last weekend, Cullen said there are things to like in what he sees.

"They're very raw, but there's a lot of upside," Cullen said during the Jaguars' 2012 rookie mini-camp, which is being held Friday through Sunday at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields adjacent to EverBank Field.

"They're really two good – I think not good, great – free-agent signings."

Asked if the two had elements you look for that make you say, "maybe this is a guy who can make it . . ." Cullen smiled.

"A strong 'maybe,''' he said.

How strong that maybe becomes remains to be seen, but Cullen said each has physical attributes needed in a pass rusher. He said Davis, who played collegiately at Bethune-Cookman, has "super quick hands. He has closing speed and is powerful." Of Adams, who played at Louisiana State, Cullen said, "He's very, very raw.

"He can run and he's long – a lot of upside," Cullen said.

Adams (6-feet-5, 244 pounds) played two seasons at LSU after transferring from Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College, starting 23 of 25 games and registering four sacks. He said while he hoped to be drafted last weekend, "Whatever happened, I was ready for it."

"There are a lot of things I have to get better at, and a lot of potential I have to reach," he said. "I feel like I can get those things done out there. This is a dream, but at the same time you can't come out there dreaming. You've got to work hard, because you've still got things to accomplish."

Davis (6-2, 261), who had 22 career sacks, was the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, when he had 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He said he absolutely expected to be drafted, but once that didn't happen, his relationship with Cullen and Jaguars assistant line coach Paul Spicer made signing with Jacksonville an easy decision.

This was a player the Jaguars wanted, and Davis said weekly phone calls from Cullen reinforced that. He also knew Spicer from when Bethune-Cookman defensive coordinator Yogi Jones had Spicer speak to the team.

"I knew both of the coaches pretty well before I got here," Davis said. "They always told me this is the place to be.  I have a great chance of making an impact here and making the squad.  I just really liked their attitude. They were down to earth and real humble guys, easy to talk to. They will get after it on the field and push you but at the same time you can step to them and talk to them like a man.

"That's what I really appreciate about it.  It's not just on the field.  It's about off the field also.  I'm going to spend all my time with them, basically, so that was just as important as anything."

And while the Jaguars wanted Davis, and while he has real chance to be part of the final roster, he said having a chance in May and having a job in September are different.

"All I can do is keep my head down and keep grinding and be fortunate enough to make the squad so I can one day help the pass rush or anything like that," he said. "That's all I can do. I don't have the right to say I can do this or that because the veterans are ahead of me.

"All I can do is keep humble and just keep playing."

For any rookie drafted last weekend or signed to free agent contracts, the weekend is about learning the system and getting acclimated as much as being evaluated. Though that means learning what a position coach wants, having gone through a Pro Day workout with Cullen, Davis said he had an idea what to expect before Friday.

"They let us have it," Davis said. "That's how he was at our Pro Day.  At our Pro Day, it was just me and my other teammate working out.  He went at us at the Pro Day like he did out on the field.  He doesn't take days off. That's what I really appreciate about Coach Cullen.  He will give it to you straight up."

And when Cullen was asked this week what the two rookie free agents must do to make the roster, his answer was, well, straight up.

"No. 1, they have to impress (special teams coordinator) John Bonamego," Cullen said. "They have to do that, because those spots if they're going to make the team have to play a lot of special teams players, and they have to be a fourth end, sub-rusher – whatever there might be.

"They have to be smart and know their stuff – that shouldn't be hard; we don't have a lot – but they have to know what they have to do and just go fast. Then, my job is to coach them."

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