The Jaguars' new emphasis on special teams has forced them to bring in outside help to improve the "core four" units.
One of the new special teams aces added to the fold this offseason is former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Audie Cole.
Over the last five seasons, Cole has been a standout in the game's third phase. According to the NFL's Game Statistics Information System, Cole has produced 21 special teams tackles throughout his career.
His presence has a lot of value to a Jaguars special teams unit that offered up the third-most punt return yardage in the league last season.
“I think special teams is a very important part of the game," Cole said during a phone conversation with First Coast News.
"Sometimes it gets overlooked," he added. "When special teams aren’t up to par, it’s tough for teams. Hopefully this year, we can take care of business on special teams and win that phase, so offense and defense can do the rest.”
The Jaguars have struggled on special teams over the last few years. Coverage units have underwhelmed and specialists have been forced to alter their technique to effectively curb the instability.
With Cole added to the mix, the special teams unit should be able to be a bit more creative. New special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is among the best in the business at what he does and adding Cole to his unit should lead to some relief.
The 6-foot-5, 248-pound player has a lot of length, which is an asset that DeCamillis can use to his advantage.
“I definitely think it helps,” Cole said. “I think being long definitely helps in some situations. I’d also say sometimes it doesn’t help too much. It just depends on the situation. I’ve got no complaints about my size, I guess. It’s helped me in my career to get me where I am now.”
While Cole has played mostly special teams throughout his career, he would like to play on defense. Cole was a force at linebacker for the NC State Wolfpack during his college career and he has aspirations that reach beyond special teams at the NFL level.
“I think you have to have that mindset and I’m hoping I can prove myself and get to play some defense, but that’s not really up to me," Cole said. "I’ll just be out there doing what I’ve got to do, whether I’m playing on defense or special teams. I just want to play as much as I can.”
After five-year stint in Minnesota, Cole was ready for a change in scenery. While he made several connections within the Vikings organization, the Jaguars offered Cole the opportunity to expand his role.
“You get comfortable and you make friends and relationships and that’s hard [to leave], but you need to move on from that,” Cole said. “I’m excited. I’ve been ready for it and I was excited when I got the call from Jacksonville - come down with probably a little change in climate - but I’m looking forward to it.”
Cole visited with Jacksonville on Saturday. The meetings with went well and he signed a two-year contract.
He wants to take what he learned from his experiences in Minnesota and bring his veteran leadership to the Jaguars.
“I liked the coaches, I talked to the coaches and it seemed like a great fit,” Cole said. “It feels like a good situation. I feel like I can help out with things that I’ve learned over the years in Minnesota. I feel like I had a great special teams coach [Mike Priefer] through my time in Minnesota and I feel like I can continue to keep playing well and help out in Jacksonville now.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.