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Zone reaction: One cool team


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's three quick thoughts on the Jaguars following Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft

  1. The perception of the Jaguars has changed – and if you didn't know it before, you knew it listening to DJ Chark on Friday. Chark, a wide receiver from Louisiana State University, clearly was ecstatic Friday to be selected No. 61 overall in Round 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft – not just by any team, but specifically by the Jaguars. Chark was familiar with the Jaguars in part because of his collegiate teammate and friend, Jaguars second-year running back Leonard Fournette. But Chark when speaking to the media following his selection showed knowledge about the Jaguars' persona and style. "It's hard to put in words the way I feel right now about being the newest member of this team; I can't wait to get to Florida," he said. "I can't wait to get out there with that team, I love the way they play – so much energy and youth. I just can't wait. I can't wait." It makes sense that young players would feel this way. The Jaguars are loaded with talent, youth and personality – and they also made the AFC Championship Game last season. Still, it's a notable development for a team that struggled for nearly a decade before last season. Are the Jaguars cool at last? Apparently so.
  1. The Jaguars weren't lying at the 2018 pre-draft luncheon. Remember? Eight days ago? Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager Dave Caldwell that day talked about the ability to select in the '18 draft without regard to need. It's evident through three rounds they meant it. Not only was University of Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan not a need selection at No 29 overall in Round 1, Chark wasn't a need selection in Round 2; there's every possibility he will be the fourth or fifth receiver next season. Third-round safety Ronnie Harrison of Alabama continued the trend; while he likely will play extensively on special teams next season, he likely won't start unless starters Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson are injured. This thought may have a repetitive feel. We talked a lot in the wake of the Bryan selection about the Jaguars clearly drafting him because he was the best available player. But when it's turning into the major theme of the draft, it's a point that bears repeating: good, contending teams that stay consistent draft as much as possible without regard to need. The Jaguars appear to be doing just that.
  1. Bryan and Harrison may be more important in 2019 than they are next season – and that may be true of second-year defensive end Dawuane Smoot, too. The three are defensive players selected in the first three rounds of the last two drafts. As such, they are players the team needs to develop into quality starters. That doesn't need to happen next season. In fact, it's likely none of the three will start next season. But with the possibility that either Church or Gipson won't be on the roster past 2018 – and with the equal possibility that at least one front-line veteran defensive lineman won't be around after this season – the Jaguars' reality is they will need young, recently-drafted players to play key roles in 2019 and beyond. The underlying truth when the Jaguars went so heavy in free agency to build the current defense was they couldn't continue to spend so heavily in free agency to maintain the defense. At some point, you must draft and develop to have a sustainable formula. Smoot, Harrison and Bryant must be those developing players in the foreseeable future.
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