JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the week that was around the Jaguars, with an eye on Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin's thoughts on the leadership of the 2017 free-agency class …
Tom Coughlin's enthusiasm was evident.
The Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations, Coughlin on Wednesday appeared with J.P. Shadrick and John Oehser on Jaguars.com LIVE. As might be expected, a major topic was the Jaguars' 2017 free-agency class.
When the subject turned to Calais Campbell, Coughlin first discussed the veteran defensive end as a player. Coughlin then veered in a direction that was perhaps as significant.
"He's very good in the locker room," Coughlin said. "He's been a two-time captain with Arizona, just as Barry Church has been a four-time captain with the defense over at Dallas."
Those comments are more than throwaway lines about a couple of new players. Campbell having twice been a defensive captain with Arizona and Church having been a captain four seasons with Dallas mattered very much to Coughlin.
Coughlin long has valued leaders in the locker room. He loved drafting former college captains during his time as the Jaguars' head coach from 1994-2002, and this week he discussed why former captains may have particular value in the Jaguars' current situation.
"These are the kinds of people that you want," Coughlin said. "We have a young team, a young team that hasn't had a lot of success. It's a young team looking for direction for how people perform and play and practice and finish. This is a heck of a start."
It's not fair to call the 2016 Jaguars devoid of leadership. Players such as Paul Posluszny and Roy Miller III were strong locker-room presences, but Miller missed the last 10 games of last season. Besides, it takes more than one or two to lead.
Church in the secondary, Posluszny at linebacker, Campbell at defensive line, left tackle Branden Albert on the offensive line …
That gives the Jaguars at least four potential strong leaders at four different position groups.
That doesn't fill every position, and it doesn't guarantee on-field success. It also doesn't mean the Jaguars are done looking for leadership for what remains a young roster. But as Coughlin said …
It's a heck of a start. It's also one he considers very, very important.
AROUND THE JAGUARS
*The Jaguars continued to add free agents this week, and while the moves since last Friday haven't been as high-profile as Campbell/Bouye/Church/Albert, they continued to give clues about the team's direction. The biggest tell continues to be the obvious emphasis on special teams. The team not only signed defensive end Lerentee McCray of Buffalo early in free agency, it added linebacker Audie Cole from the Vikings last weekend and linebacker Josh McNary from the Colts late this past week. The Jaguars in recent seasons largely have focused on rookies and second-year players for depth and special teams. That appears to be changing. …
*Coughlin during his tenure as the Jaguars' coach often targeted free agents from teams within the teams' division, reasoning that the moves not only made the Jaguars stronger but weakened division rivals. The team during the 1990s signed free-agents such as right tackle Leon Searcy (Pittsburgh), wide receiver Keenan McCardell (Cleveland), cornerback Deon Figures (Pittsburgh), linebacker Eddie Robinson (Houston) and defensive Gary Walker (Houston) using this approach. Coughlin said this week the signing of Bouye from the Texans fits this approach. "We had him targeted," Coughlin said. "It's always great, to be honest with you, in the division when you have great respect for a player and you know how they played against you. It reminds me of Keenan and Searcy. It's always a good way to go. That fulfills a great question because you prepare for those players and those teams twice a year. You've seen them in all kinds of situations and reacting in all kinds of situations." …
*Draft chatter:Coughlin as expected didn't get into draft talk this week, but ESPN's Todd McShay introduced a wrinkle into pre-draft talk when he projected Alabama tight end O.J. Howard to the Jaguars at No. 4 overall in the April 2017 NFL Draft. That would make Howard the first tight end ever to be selected so high. The move makes sense for a pretty basic reason: Howard appears to be an impact offensive player and the Jaguars sorely need impact offensive players. Does he fit that description better than, say, running backs Leonard Fournette of Louisiana State or Dalvin Cook of Florida State? The decision at No. 4 still seems like it could come down to a choice. Do you take the best overall player, which could be a defensive player such as linemen Jonathan Allen (Alabama) or Solomon Thomas (Stanford) or do you take a player who could potentially breathe life into an offense that needs it?
*Coughlin on the 2017 free-agency class:"The thing that was most impressive to me – whether it was A.J. Bouye, whether it was Barry Church, whether it was Calais … the guys came in with great enthusiasm, great excitement. They're looking forward to the challenge and realizing what they could do. They talked very confidently as a group and individually about what they thought they could accomplish."