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Time well-spent


(The first of two stories talking to Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as coaches wrap up their off-season preparation for the 2011 season) . . .

Dirk Koetter couldn't be more prepared.

As the Jaguars' offensive coordinator sees it, considering the circumstances of the 2011 NFL off-season, that had better be true.

Koetter, entering his fifth season with the Jaguars, said because of the lockout, coaches have had more time than normal – perhaps more time than they ever have had or will have again – to analyze, evaluate, reevaluate and plan for the 2011 season.

It hasn't made for a thrilling off-season, but Koetter said there may be at least a small benefit.

 "With all this time, I'm probably the most confident that I've ever been that we're ready," Koetter said with a slight laugh recently. "We've got every scenario. Is it a full training camp with four preseason games? Is it two weeks?

"(Jaguars Head) Coach (Jack) Del Rio really asked us to sharpen our focus on what we wanted to install, and it has forced us to do that. So, from an 'Are We Ready' standpoint, it's the most ready we've ever been."

Koetter said the extra time for preparation, planning and film study also has allowed more time to evaluate how personnel is used, and the roles of various players.

"There definitely has been more time for it," Koetter said. "You always do that based on your last season – every team does it. Another thing we did because we had the extra time is something we called the 'four-year study.' Since I've been the coordinator and Andy Heck has been the offensive line coach the whole time, we've been together four years. We took every one of our concepts – run and pass – and studied not only the one-year thing, but the four-year thing.

"We learned a lot there: 'What is (quarterback) Dave (Garrard) good at? What's (running back) Maurice (Jones-Drew) good at?'"

Koetter said the major unknown entering the 2011 season is the wide receiver position. The team isn't expected to re-sign veteran Mike Sims-Walker, and Mike Thomas and Jason Hill likely will be expected to perform expanded roles from what they have played previously.

"It's no secret that offensively, with the exception of the wide receiver position, we pretty much know what we have," Koetter said.

Thomas led the Jaguars last season with 60 receptions for 820 yards and four touchdowns, while Hill caught 11 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown. The two could enter the season as starters, and there has been off-season speculation about the need to find a No. 1 receiver from the group.

"I let it play out, is the way I look at it," Koetter said. "I don't think in my time here we've ever really had that established guy that everyone in the league would look at the Jaguars and say, 'There's a one.' I don't think we've had that guy.

"With Mike Thomas' numbers and his improvement, there would be some people who would look at us and say, 'He's moving toward that.' Jason Hill could possibly be that, but I don't look at it that way as much as putting those guys in a position to do what they do best and see how it plays out. . . .  That position is evolving. I think you have to let it sort itself out."

The Jaguars in 2010 finished the season 15th in the NFL in total offense, third in rushing, but while many view the team's offense as a strength, Koetter said the reality is the Jaguars need improvement from nearly every aspect.

"We have a list of about seven things that are the key factors to winning games in the NFL," Koetter said. "Just on raw numbers, we need to improve on six of those seven things even though we did some good things."

Two of the main areas, Koetter said, are reducing turnovers and sacks. The Jaguars last season allowed 38 sacks, and committed 33 turnovers.  They had a minus-15 turnover ratio.

"We have to not only cut our sacks down, but we have to have our quarterback get hit less," Koetter said. "The quarterback getting hit less – that's not all the blockers' fault. That's a combination of the quarterbacks and the blockers, but if we just cut our turnovers down and cut our sacks down and continue to do well in the red zone and continue to do well on third down, we have enough skill and enough playmakers that we'll be a successful offense.

"But those two things (turnovers and sacks) kill you. Those two things kill you every time."

The Jaguars used their first three selections in the 2011 NFL Draft on offensive players – first-round quarterback Blaine Gabbert, third-round guard Will Rackley and fourth-round wide receiver Cecil Shorts. Those three players have at least one major thing in common with Jaguars veterans – that because of the lockout, they have been unable to practice with the coaches in attendance.

 "That's going to be the trick for everybody," Koetter said. "You look across the league. Teams with guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees – they're probably out there coaching their team. On our base offensive stuff, I'm sure Dave's doing a great job. He and (veteran backup) Luke (McCown) knew what we needed to work on in the off-season and I'm sure they're doing a great job putting guys through it.

"I'm not really that worried about that."

Koetter said of far more concern are the development and learning process of the three rookies.

 "Those guys are so far behind," Koetter said.

Koetter said while there are questions entering any training camp, overall he likes the Jaguars' situation offensively entering the 2011 season.

"I feel good about the guys we have," Koetter said. "We have really known quantities at every position except for the wide receiver position. We feel good about that spot even though some of those guys aren't household names. We like those guys. We like working with those guys. They're hard workers. They give us everything they have.

"We feel good about where we are on offense.  We feel good about the guys we have, so we're excited to get those guys in here and work with them. We feel like we've streamlined what we want to teach, what we want to cover. The staff is excited. We just need the go-ahead."

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