BOCA RATON – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned about the Jaguars during the 2016 NFL Annual Meeting at the Boca Raton Resort …
1.Momentum remains strong.You can't be around NFL people these days and not feel this. While it understandably gets overshadowed by recent on-field struggles, people who follow the league closely believe the Jaguars fundamentally have done things the right way during the long, difficult building process. Those people also believe results could come soon. Really soon.
2.Shad Khan's not delusional.Momentum is well and good, you say, but what about winning? Isn't that more important? Yes, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan understands this. When asked this week about the team's successful free-agency period earlier this month, he expressed optimism and also added: "I guess we'll find out this fall." Khan in late January said a winning record was a reasonable expectation for the 2016 season; nothing he has said since indicates he believes otherwise. "You can have gratification, but we haven't won a game yet," he said. "The signs point in the right direction, so it should give us confidence and cause for optimism."
3.Khan believes in Caldwell and Bradley.Since hiring David Caldwell and Gus Bradley as general manager and head coach in January 2013, Khan has remained steadfast in his support of the duo. Asked this week about being patient despite a 5-11 record last season, he said, "To me, I can see the big picture. … Regrettably, this is something you have to go through to have something sustainable and winning for the long term."
4.Khan is a visionary. Remember? Three years ago? When many observers questioned the wisdom of Khan committing the Jaguars to a yearly London game? Well, the NFL is planning a regular-season game in Mexico City in 2016 with more games in London and a future eye on Brazil, China and Germany. Khan called the idea that more teams want to play outside the United States "refreshing," adding "What's interesting is there are a lot of volunteers now to play these games."
5.The overseas focus remains singular.Don't look for Khan to push for the Jaguars to play in China. Or Germany. The yearly home game in Wembley Stadium in London and the accompanying United Kingdom presence are key to the Jaguars' stability in Jacksonville, and Khan expressed no interest this week in the Jaguars playing anywhere internationally other than London. "Our commitment is London for many, many reasons," Khan said, chief among them "to supplement what we're doing in Jacksonville."
6.Groundbreaking for the indoor practice facility could be soon. Khan said work on the proposed indoor practice facility adjacent to EverBank Field should begin soon, though he said he doesn't know if it will be completed by the season. "Our goal is to get it done as soon as possible and have minimal interruptions for the football season," Khan said.
7.Caldwell is willing to trade.Caldwell this week said he is comfortable with the possibilities with the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, but also said he would be willing to trade in either direction. Caldwell hasn't traded the first-round selection in any of his first three offseasons with the team and said he wouldn't want to trade further down in the first round than the early teens.
8.Offense is still a possibility.The Jaguars appear likely to draft predominately defense with their eight selections next month, but Caldwell said he would consider offense if the value was right.
9.Sen'Derrick Marks could be limited in organized team activities.Caldwell said he wasn't sure if the veteran defensive tackle – who missed the last seven games of last season with a triceps injury – would participate 100 percent when organized team activities begin in May. Caldwell also said the team will be cautious with the offseason returns of players such as wide receiver Allen Hurns (sports hernia) and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (anterior cruciate ligament).
10.The offensive line is coming together.The Jaguars aren't ready to post a depth chart on the World's Largest Video Boards, but strong indications are Brandon Linder will play center with Jermey Parnell at right tackle and A.J. Cann at a guard spot. Newly-signed Kelvin Beachum will compete with 2013 No. 2 overall selection Luke Joeckel at left tackle with one player playing tackle and the other a strong possibility at guard.
11.Beachum could be ready early in training camp.Beachum, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from Pittsburgh, is rehabilitating a torn ACL that cost him the last 10 games of last season. He reportedly is doing well in rehabilitation, and Caldwell and Bradley both said this week he could be ready early in training camp in August.
12.Extending wide receiver Allen Hurns is a possibility.Caldwell said while the team could approach the third-year receiver about a contract extension, such talks wouldn't likely take place until after the draft.
13.Rookie minicamp could look different this year.The team is looking at ways to reduce injury risk during May rookie minicamp. A big reason is the season-ending injury Fowler sustained on the first day of minicamp last May. Drafted rookies often spend the pre-draft period training for combine-type drills and traveling, which doesn't necessarily prepare them for a three-day camp devoted to football. "We'll maybe take a little different philosophy than we have," Bradley said, adding that minicamp now could feature more meetings and individual work.
14.Caldwell isn't sweating pass rusher.Yes, Caldwell said he would like to add depth at the edge-rusher position. But no, he's not panicked over the position. He believes the pass rush will improve next season with the presence of newly signed defensive tackle Malik Jackson, Fowler and Marks. "If you have those three guys, we're considerably better on third down – and on first and second down – generating pass rush," he said. Caldwell also said edge rusher in the draft is an option.
15.The defensive feel will be different.That continues to get clearer. The Jaguars will still play the hybrid-front, single-high-safety scheme they have used three years under Bradley, but it's clear it will adapt to personnel. "We're not going to have good players standing on the sideline next to us; we've got to get them on the field," Bradley said, adding, "There might be some subtle changes. I think it's great. I think it gives us some versatility."
16.Marks and Jackson will be on the field together.The Jaguars haven't depended a lot on multiple defensive tackles in pass-rushing situations the past three seasons. That's going to change with the presence of Marks and Jackson.
*17.Dan Skuta's going to rush the passer. *The more you listen to Caldwell and Bradley, the more you realize Skuta – primarily an Otto linebacker in his first season with the team last year – is going to have a role as a pass rusher.
18.The team is hopeful for Johnathan Cyprien.Cyprien has struggled at times, but the team believes the addition of free-agent free safety Tashaun Gipson will allow Cyprien to play a true, in-the-box, strong-safety role. The belief is that's his best role and that the 2013 second-round selection can excel there.
19.Bortles remains a focus.We'll close with this because the quarterback is … well, the quarterback. Blake Bortles remains the key to the Jaguars' future, and Bradley said his improvement/development remains an offseason focus. Efficiency is key for Bortles, with reducing interceptions and costly turnovers a priority. Bradley also said a focus is not overloading Bortles in the second year in offensive coordinator Greg Olson's offense. "I think it's a big mistake, to add more to his plate," Bradley said. "I think [the objective] is to stay the course with the offense we run, find out what he does well and stay to that portion of the offense. We're definitely not looking to add to it – just to refine it a little more."