Week in focus: Run to win

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the week that was around the Jaguars last week with a focus on Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin's pre-NFL Scouting Combine media availability Friday

A FOCUS ON THE RUN

Tom Coughlin definitely talked tough Friday.

But while the need for increased mental and physical toughness unquestionably was the main thread that ran Coughlin's Friday meeting with the media at EverBank Field, there were other threads, too.

One significant thread was an increased emphasis on the running game.

If it has seemed since Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone were hired on January 9 that running likely would be a big part of the reshaping of the Jaguars, Coughlin made that even clearer Friday.

Coughlin talked early in the press conference about the need for running backs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon to play better, and he was asked how much the Jaguars' run-pass imbalance last season bothered him.

"A lot," Coughlin said.

Coughlin also on Friday talked about Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, saying the third-year veteran "had work to do." He said the pending trade for Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert had to do with improving the team around Bortles. A stronger dedication to the run also fits that concept of improving the quarterback's chances to succeed.

"I don't think you're helping the quarterback at all when you don't rush the football," Coughlin said. "I think for our team to be successful in this division – noting that there are teams who will come in and run the ball and try to hold the ball, keep your offense on the sideline – we need to be able to do some of that as well."

The emphasis on the run feels like an offseason theme. Acquiring Albert is the first move in that area, and a move to acquire a veteran guard makes sense considering the availability of players such as Larry Warford of Detroit and Kevin Zeitler of Cincinnati in free agency.

How deep and wide will the theme reach? Will the Jaguars draft a running back such as Dalvin Cook of Florida State or Leonard Fournette of Louisiana State? Will there be further personnel changes on the line?

Coughlin didn't get deep into details Friday, and until such moves occur, they're just speculation. But the speculation here is that Friday's emphasis on the run is only the beginning.

 

THE GM SAYS …

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell joined Mike Dempsey and John Oehser on Jaguars Today on 1010XL radio Monday. A look at some of Caldwell's pre-combine thoughts:

*Caldwell discussed Bortles, emphasizing that the third-year quarterback has accounted for 64 touchdowns the past two seasons. Caldwell was asked if Bortles definitely will be the Jaguars' starting quarterback next season. "I would say that he would be the front-runner," Caldwell said. "We're going to have to find a way to make up 64 touchdowns if he's not our quarterback. … Like Coach Coughlin said Friday, he has to play better. I think he knows that. We all know that. …"

*Caldwell said the 2017 NFL free-agency class "is probably not the best we've seen. You can't manufacture players. I think that's probably a function of the 2013 [NFL] Draft, too. The 2013 draft probably wasn't the best draft on record, either. You're seeing the second part of that in this free-agency class." Free agency opens March 9, the start of the new league year. "What you see is there's maybe one player at each one of the positons that you'd maybe like to have, and then there's a drop-off and then you have your next tier," Caldwell said. "That's the way it is every year. We're not going to fill all of our needs on March 9. We may fill one or two, and then see where we're at."

*Caldwell said he likes the right side of the offensive line, saying that guard A.J. Cann can be a top-level NFL guard and "is still trending forward," and that right tackle Jermey Parnell improved as he got healthy in the second half of last season. "He played really well those last four or five games of the season," Caldwell said of Parnell. "We feel good about the right side of the line." Caldwell also said either Cann or center Brandon Linder can play multiple spots on the interior of the line if offseason acquisitions merit such a change. …

NOTES AND QUOTES

A couple of other highlights from Coughlin's Friday presser:

*Coughlin addressed the possibility of a fullback on the roster, but stopped short of saying the team absolutely will carry one. The Jaguars played the last two seasons without a true fullback on the roster. "Fullbacks have been discussed," Coughlin said. "I believe there's a place still for multiple personnel combinations and the ability to utilize the fullback. There are different ways of doing that as you know. The third tight end many times can accomplish that. … You can accomplish that a couple of different ways."

*Coughlin also on Friday left no doubt about the need to improve special teams. The area slipped in production last season, allowing multiple key long returns and committing costly errors during the final two months of the season. The Jaguars hired long-time NFL special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis as special teams coordinator in January. "There will be more emphasis on playing special teams," Coughlin said. "I think for our players to recognize it properly, every man on the roster must be supportive and be prepared to play on special teams. Even starters can play one or two special teams. That's a strong message, but it's a good message and that is necessary here." …

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