For the first time (and the probably last time) this summer, the Jaguars coaching staff was made available to the media during the final day of the offseason program.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, defensive coordinator Todd Wash, special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis and the position coaches all fielded questions on Thursday.
From scheme hints to individual analysis of players, the discussion produced plenty of noteworthy nuggets.
1. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles needs to limit his turnovers this offseason.
Interceptions have been an issue for the fourth-year quarterback. In three seasons, Bortles has produced 51 interceptions.
New quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich, who once played in the league, believes limiting Bortles' interceptions will come down to his awareness during individual situations.
“It’s decision-making, it’s knowing the offense, there are plenty of things that go into it,” Milanovich said. “It’s protecting him, most of all it’s decision-making. A competitive guy like Blake needs to understand when it’s time to be too aggressive, when you have to be aggressive in a game, when sometimes it’s better to just check it down and punt the ball. I think that comes with experience, I think he’s still a young guy in the NFL."
Hackett praised Bortles' work during the offseason program. However, he believes Bortles still has plenty of work to do this summer.
“He did good. It’s always kind of an up and down thing with any quarterback. There’s some things he definitely still needs to work on and it’s great to have been with him for two years, so our communication and giving him the system of how I want him to look at it has been a very easy transition for anybody coming into this role full-time and installing a new system. It’s been good. He’s really grasping well and I think that’s the exciting thing, the big key is for us to see the same, see everything the same. And as long as we see everything the same, we’ll be able to continue to get better.”
2. Fans no longer need to worry about the OTTO or LEO positions because they no longer exist.
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash is a pretty honest guy. He doesn't need fancy names for his defensive positions.
Under the previous regime, Wash was forced to stick with calling the SAM linebacker position "OTTO" and the weak-side defensive end "LEO."
Well, he isn't working under Gus Bradley anymore, so he won't use those names moving forward.
"We have an end and we have a big end," Wash said. "We don’t have a LEO. We’re doing some of the same things, but they are defensive ends, so why don’t you call them a defensive end?”
Wash also said that the SAM linebacker position in his new defense differs from the way the OTTO was used in his old one.
“No, what we ask the SAM to do and what the OTTO was asked to do last year is quite a bite different. Quite a bit different. He is a true stack backer. He will play a little bit on the line of scrimmage and all of the systems that we have been in prior to coming here and changing it to an OTTO; he was a SAM. I feel comfortable calling him a SAM and we’re asking him to do linebacker stuff, which is what a SAM linebacker is.”
Veteran Paul Posluszny will man the SAM linebacker position for the first time in his career. Wash said he was a good fit for the position, but it was a tough decision to move him from middle linebacker.
"He can play some man-to-man coverage on some tight ends that we like," Wash said of Posluszny. "It was a situation where we can get him out of those deeper route concepts that we have seen and he can be a leader, a little bit more in the underneath type stuff that we have had. It’s a good move for Paul. He’s still going to be playing some stack linebacker. That’s some of the positioning stuff that we have changed within our defense from OTTO to SAM. We’ll have three stack backers, which we have not had in the past. Just because he is the SAM doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be playing the stack backer.”
3. Myles Jack is making progress at middle linebacker.
New Jaguars linebackers coach Mark Collins has seen improvement from Jack this offseason. Collins has seen Jack grow in his ability to relay plays to the defense.
“I think from OTA 1 to OTA 10, he’s made great strides from a communications standpoint,” Collins said of Jack. “In recognition, pre and post-snap communication, but he’s still got a long way to go. He needs a lot of work but he’s a willing participant, he wants to do well, but he’s still a young guy that needs a lot of work. He’ll learn from the burn a little bit.”
Jack is making the switch from "the position formerly known at OTTO" to middle linebacker.
4. Tell me if you've heard this before: the Jaguars really want their best five offensive linemen on the field on Sundays.
New offensive line coach Pat Flaherty won two Super Bowls in New York with football executive Tom Coughlin. He knows what a strong offensive line looks like. He has coached many different blocking schemes and he understands the importance of versatility.
Flaherty is completely sold on head coach Doug Marrone's decision to shuffle the offensive line throughout the offseason.
“You do look at guards different than tackles,” Flaherty said. “There’s not a whole lot of difference in the sense that we want the five best offensive linemen playing. Generally at the tackle position, you have guys with more length than at guard. When we got together as an offensive staff, we wanted to find out about all of these guys from where they are able to give us versatility. That’s one thing you do in the offseason, you’re able to do that. Once you get closer to the season, you want to get those guys playing together. It’s really going to be the best five guys.”
Flaherty also believes there is versatility to the Jaguars' offensive play-calling. He wants his blocking scheme to reflect that. He is not afraid to switch up the scheme based on the weekly game plan.
“Our offense, the Jacksonville Jaguars offense is versatile,” Flaherty said. “We want to keep the defenses – want to be able to make them defend multiple things – but at the same time we want to do what we do best. Do we know that right now? Probably not. We need to get into training camp, go against New England, go against Tampa Bay. That’s what the preseason is for, as much as for getting players ready, [finding out] what we do best with our personnel.”
5. Marrone believes a physical defense will lead to turnovers.
The Jaguars struggled to pick up turnovers last season and Marrone wants to change that this year.
While he wasn't able to implement live contact during the offseason program, he does believe physicality is the key to creating turnovers. He will look to bring out that physicality during training camp in July.
"I’ve always been a firm believer that if you think of yourself as a physical defense, you know when we’re actually going out there and you’re actually able to hit and get a lot of people to the football, those are the ones that I think cause the most turnovers. So a physical D is when you can hit, hit, hit people, jolt that ball loose and then we’re having that second person going, and do it so a lot of that is going to be developed. The technique’s developed now and we’ve worked on it, but I don’t think we’ll see it for sure until we get out there and start hitting and start stripping. Again, I believe in physicality to force turnovers and pressure on the quarterback. How many times does a DB make a great play, you always go back and look to see the duress the quarterback was under. As long as we can do that and we can get a good pass rush, as long as we can be physical and I think obviously we can create some turnovers."
The Jaguars produced just seven interceptions last season. That total ranked last in the league.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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