INDIANAPOLIS — Jaguars owner Shad Khan has spoken about the Jaguars’ self-image being delusional regarding their expectations last season that ended in a 2-14 campaign and a change of power in the front office.
New GM David Caldwell took to the podium at the Combine to clear up those comments.
“The delusional part came from the amount of money they spent in free agency last year thinking they may be one or two pieces away and then to come back and have the end result be a 2-14 season,” Caldwell said. “There is a good core of players here that we feel good about. We have our work cut out for us. We’re going to have a very young team this season, and it’s going to be built through the draft and through college free agency.”
That last point is worth digging deeper into. The Jaguars have 13 unrestricted free agents come March 12. There’s a chance that the majority of them will not be back in Jacksonville, even perhaps the most coveted of the bunch, CB Derek Cox.
The Jaguars are flush with salary-cap space; that’s not the issue. The issue is improving the overall talent of the roster, which needs a boost. Any veteran casualties that occur will be based on talent, not financial reasons.
“There are no changes coming that are financial, the changes will be based on performance,” Caldwell said.
It would not be shocking if the Jaguars are even younger in 2013 than they were last season. Caldwell stressed that “the veterans are important” and said the team has reached out to C Brad Meester, who could return on a one-year type of deal in the final stages of his career. The leadership quotient will be important, but Caldwell said that “the most important thing is to get the talent in there and guys that are committed to playing and competing (regardless of age).”
New head coach Gus Bradley made his defensive system thrive in Seattle with long-limbed and taller corners, namely Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Caldwell said those components could be an important piece of how the Jaguars’ defense is formed going forward.
“The main thing is Gus will never sacrifice speed and aggression for scheme,” Caldwell said. “It’s going to be a fast and very aggressive defense. That’s the main thing, and the fact we can plug in and play with young talent.”
The pass rush has been an issue for several years in Jacksonville, and the team was ranked dead last in sacks in 2012. Caldwell knows he and the team have to find solutions to this chronic problem, but they also can’t overreach for needs if the talent isn’t commensurate with the spot they are drafting at.
“What you need to do, you can’t be too overly urgent trying to fix a problem and reach in the draft or reach in free agency,” Caldwell said. “You have to be patient and when the opportunity presents itself to get a difference maker at a position and you need to be able to strike.”
If there’s something that long-suffering Jaguars fans can get behind as fresh and new, it’s that the Jaguars appear to be at the forefront of using Sabermetrics as a scouting tool. Caldwell described the statistical analysis as another tool the team can use to determine the best talent fits, but he also agreed that it was an important one.
“It’s something we’re heavily involved in and dealing with right now,” he said. “It’s just another part of the process – it can help us confirm some of the things we already know and can raise some red flags on some of the things we don’t know. It pretty much confirms what we’re seeing.”
The Jaguars appear to be entering yet another phase in their existence. The roster is not up to snuff, at the top or bottom, and change is once more coming down the avenue. Expect rookies to make up a large part of the roster next season.