The Jacksonville Jaguars are in the midst of rebuilding, and it showed in 2012. The team was inept in nearly every facet of the game en route to a franchise-worst 2-14 season that saw them finish last in the AFC South for the third time in five years.
After the worst season in the club's 19 years, owner Shahid Khan cleaned house, firing general manager Gene Smith and head coach Mike Mularkey. They were replaced by David Caldwell and Gus Bradley, who are hoping to turn around the team and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. That likely won't happen in 2013, though.
The Jaguars are still overhauling their roster and have a ton of work to do as they try to fix years of mismanagement by the old front office.
The first thing Caldwell and Bradley did after taking over was trim the roster. They allowed defensive mainstays Rashean Mathis, Daryl Smith, Derek Cox and Terrance Knighton to leave in free agency. Fullback Greg Jones was also allowed to walk while several of the previous regime's free agent mistakes were also shed as Laurent Robinson, Aaron Ross and Dawan Landry all left.
As is the case with most rebuilding teams, the Jaguars focused on the draft. They selected Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick with the hope that he can improve the offensive line. Five of their remaining seven picks were defensive backs, led by second round pick Johnathan Cyprien and third round pick Dwayne Gratz, who could step in and make an impact as rookies at safety and cornerback respectively.
The Jaguars brought in veterans Marcus Trufant and Alan Ball to provide some leadership for an inexperienced cornerback group, but neither can be considered major signings. Trufant will have to battle to make the roster and Ball hasn't found a home in his six-year NFL career, shuffling between corner, safety and nickel corner.
Jacksonville was able to improve their defensive line by signing Kyle Love, who was unexpectedly released by the New England Patriots. Love will help aid the Jaguars' transition to bigger, stronger defensive tackles who excel in controlling the line after spending the last few years using smaller, quicker players to collapse the pocket. Roy Miler, who spent the last four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, should do the same.
Training camp location and schedule
The Jaguars will hold training camp at their practice facility next door to EverBank Field. The team announced plans to build an indoor facility last year, but they were preliminary and there hasn't been any significant progress made on it so the team will be outdoors all training camp. That is especially problematic in Jacksonville, where rain and lightning often forces the Jaguars off the field during training camp.
Camp begins on July 25, when the players are expected to report, and they will be on the field for the first time the following day. Eight practice sessions will be available to the public in the first nine days of training camp. That includes a scrimmage at EverBank Field on August 3 that will bring the open sessions to a close.
The open practices are:
- Friday, July 26 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Saturday, July 27 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Sunday, July 28 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Monday, July 29 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Wednesday, July 31 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Thursday, August 1 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Friday, August 2 - 9:55 a.m. ET
- Saturday, August 3 - 6:45 p.m. ET (EverBank Field)
Admission to the open sessions is free and parking is also free of charge.
Cornerback - Alan Ball and Dwayne Gratz enter training camp as the team's two starting cornerbacks, but neither has done much to justify their spots; Ball has never been a consistent starter at the position and Gratz is a rookie. The Jaguars are hoping that Ball's physicality will allow him to blossom in a press scheme, while Gratz's athleticism and physicality convinced Jacksonville to select him a round or two higher than most expected. The physically gifted Jeremy Harris can give them a push, too, while Mike Harris will have to hold off Marcus Trufant at nickel corner in this overhauled cornerback corps.
LEO - The Jaguars get a new position this year in the LEO, which is essentially a designated pass rusher. Bradley's system relies on the position to generate pressure on the quarterback and there will be an intriguing battle at the spot as Justin Babin tries to hold off Andre Branch for the starting spot. Babin has been a dominant pass rusher before, but he had an awful 2012 season and has to prove he can get to the quarterback or he will lose his job. Branch was unimpressive as a rookie, but he has the physical tools to be a dominant LEO and could surpass Babin if he has a great training camp.
Weak side linebacker - The Jaguars signed Geno Hayes this offseason, reuniting the linebacker with Bradley, who coached him as a rookie in Tampa Bay. But he hasn't grabbed a hold of the starting job yet. As fast as Hayes is, he has trouble in coverage, which opens the door for Julian Stafford. After spending his rookie season primarily on special teams duty, the athletic Stafford could take the starting job from Hayes if he picks up on the new defensive scheme quickly.