INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Communication is critical around the Jaguars these days.
It's the franchise's first weeks with a new coaching staff, new systems and a new philosophy. And it's critical that all involved – coaching, scouting, General Manager Trent Baalke, Head Coach Doug Pederson, etc. – work as one.
Working as one must happen quickly – in days and weeks – and Baalke during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine said one word defined how the process must take place.
"Together," Baalke said this week.
Baalke, entering his second year as the Jaguars' general manager – his first working with Pederson and a mostly new coaching staff – said meetings with coaches and personnel officials for the past month have been key to ensuring the personnel department acquires players who fit the coaches' schemes and philosophies.
"We sit in the room together and the coaches go through their vision of what a rush linebacker is, what an inside linebacker is," Baalke said. "For us, that's our job on the personnel side. It's not to go get players that we like. It's to go get players we like as an organization that fit our system and fit our culture."
Baalke said the last part is critical to player acquisition.
"Those are the two key areas," he said. "They can fit our culture and not fit our system. Or they can fit our system and not fit our culture. It's getting guys that fit both of those needs and that's how you prioritize in free agency and the draft."
Pederson said the process of ensuring scouts and personal officials understood how to fit personnel into the system began before his February 4 hiring – and unquestionably has been and will remain a priority.
"That's huge for any new staff and general manager that has been in place," Pederson said. "How do we get on the same page early? That just goes through a lot of conversation – and even through the interview process, the questions I ask and he (Baalke) asked of me … it kind of started there. Being on the same page, having open communication and dialogue … for the last three weeks, that's what we've done.
"We start building our plan and implementing the ideas I have … all of that takes time. This is that time. We're putting all of those pieces together as we build toward the draft."
Baalke this week discussed the importance of the combine, emphasizing that the week represents part of the pre-draft player evaluation process – though not necessarily an overwhelming part compared to others. "No decisions are made at the combine – not by our organization and I doubt by many organizations," he said. "You get a little better view, another perspective, on how a player's going to react – whether it's to the physical challenges of the workday, or whether it's the mental aspect of meetings and the interview process. Here's what it (the combine) does: It takes you back to the film. Let's say a guy comes down here and you don't think he can run – and all of a sudden he runs a 40(-yard) dash time that you weren't thinking was possible. That takes you back to the film and you say, 'OK, what are we missing? Can he run better? Or is he just a great tester?' A lot of mistakes are made here."
Baalke and Pederson this week each discussed the Jaguars' ideal approach in free agency, which begins with the March 16 start of the NFL's 2022 League Year. Baalke said he expects the Jaguars to be "very aggressive," noting that aggressiveness in free agency must be "within reason" and identifying the "right players." Pederson discussed free agency in the same vein, saying, "Aggressive is good, but you have to have a systematic approach to free agency. You don't just go out and sign guys. They have to be a fit for us and the Jaguars program. That's one of the things we're looking at. We're kind of finalizing that now. That's kind of the process we're in now, but with the resources, we do have I think we can be aggressive and maybe get a couple of guys who can really impact our team this season."