JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser spent time this week with strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, discussing three topics as the Jaguars prepared to play the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday
The topic: Improvement in 2016
The background:Cyprien, a second-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, has started at safety for the Jaguars for three and a half seasons. He has started all but four games during that span, leading the team in tackles in 2014 and finishing second in 2013. After struggling at times with consistency, he has played exclusively strong safety this season – and has turned in perhaps the most consistent season of his NFL career.
The quote:"I guess I would say I'm playing better. It's hard for me to say I wasn't good back then. I think that I was, but I think this year I'm playing better. I would say I'm more consistent. As the years went on I definitely grew in the knowledge of the game. It helped me – from route concepts to how the run game works. With that, I think I'm able to play a little faster."
The background:Cyprien's play has helped the Jaguars get perhaps their best secondary play since Gus Bradley took over as head coach in 2013.
The quote: "Our defense definitely has the capability of shutting down offenses. When a quarterback knows he has the Jaguars on the schedule, dating back to Week 1 [of this season], it's definitely not an easy task for that quarterback. We're doing a lot of great things and a lot of things to be excited about. That said, we've definitely only scratched the surface. There are a lot of plays to be made out there we have missed – and we want to make even bigger plays."
The topic: Tashaun Gipson
The background:The Jaguars signed free safety Tashaun Gipson as an unrestricted free agent from the Cleveland Browns in the offseason. In addition to improving the free-safety position, the idea also was to improve strong safety by allowing Cyprien to play more of a box-safety, run-defending role. That's the roles many believe Cyprien most-suited to play.
The quote: "It has [helped him]. Tashaun is a good player. He's out there trying to do his job and I'm out there trying to do mine. We're both trying to help each other, because we need each other for it all to work. We're the last line of defense. I believe with us two back there there's nothing we can't do. We have a relationship on and off the field that's cool. That's been great. Week by week since camp, Gip has been a cool guy."
The topic:Team confidence
The background:The Jaguars at 2-6 haven't fulfilled expectations as a team this season. Cyprien was asked the confidence level as a whole moving into the second half of the season.
The quote:"It isn't easy. In a situation like this you can pick positivity or negativity, you know? Your mindset about things really controls the body – how it reacts and how you live your life day by day. So, I try personally – and I believe everybody else on the team does – just tries to pull the positive out of things. We understand that our record is unacceptable. Not finishing and not competing in games is unacceptable. You have to take that and definitely work at it, but at the same time: don't be miserable. This is a game. That can be easily forgotten, but games should be fun. Mostly games are fun when you're winning them. There are highs and lows in football games and we're going to continue to try to make more highs than lows."