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Can Julius Thomas be a Team Leader?

Apr 17, 2015 -- 9:06am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Last year following the NFL Draft last season, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley issued a challenge to now jettisoned wide receiver, Cecil Shorts.

He told the often-injured pass catcher he wanted him to be a solid performer on the field, but he challenged him to be the leader of a young corps of wide receivers who were neophytes by NFL standards. Shorts was asked about the responsibilities Bradley had just given him, and to his credit he said he welcomed the chance to show he could be a leader on and off the field for the Jaguars and show Marquise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns how it was done in the Jaguars organization.

Now, Shorts is in Houston. The receiving corps is a year older and the players who looked to the fourth-year pro for guidance need a new leader of the band. Julius Thomas needs to be that player.

Thomas is an accomplished tight end, receiver, and touchdown maker – all things the Jaguars have lacked. And despite the fact 2010 was a Pro Bowl season for Marcedes Lewis, this is an organization that has never had a superstar at the position. Now the team does and Thomas’ message off the field needs to be as strong as the one on the field.

Great players in the NFL lead by example. They have a common thread their teammates see, pick up on and tend to gravitate towards. It’s not a learned concept, it’s instinctual. In the NFL, you either lead or you follow. Those who lead are the ones with the highest salaries, the biggest paydays and the most exposure (for the good) in the league. The Jaguars still need that type of player. I have harped on it many times before.

With an offense this young and this inexperienced and figures to get younger after the NFL Draft, there has to be a veteran willing to step forward. Besides Blake Bortles, who will take a giant leap this season with his leadership and on-field ability, Thomas has to be the obvious choice – not because the head coach asked him – but because he was brought in to do more than catch footballs.

So far, it appears Thomas is willing accept this “understood” challenge from the team and the fans who are in dire need of a winning franchise.

If Thomas becomes as valuable to the team in the locker room and on the practice field as he is in live action, then maybe the price for his services will be viewed as a bargain. Thomas has to want to be the “man” in this offense. He has to be the “man” who takes everyone under his wing. For that to happen and be successful, there have to be a common thread that winning breeds winning. If losing is like a disease, then winning is like an elixir. Maybe Thomas has just the right prescription to make everyone on this offense a winner.

Jaguars Agree to Contract Extension with Linebacker Paul Posluszny

Apr 16, 2015 -- 4:32pm

The Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to a contract extension with ninth-year linebacker Paul Posluszny, the club announced today.  Posluszny joined the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in 2011 and has played in 54 games for the Jaguars over the past four seasons.

 

“We are excited to get an extension done with Paul,” Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said.  “Paul is a true pro in every sense of the word.  He is a valuable asset on and off the field and has done a great job mentoring our younger players while also performing well on the field.  He has worked extremely hard rehabbing after his injury last year and will be ready to go for our offseason conditioning program beginning next week.”

 

“I can’t say enough about Paul and what he means to our team,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said.  “He is highly respected by his teammates and our coaching staff. You don’t measure a guy like Paul with just his stats but the overall impact he has on our team.  He has earned the respect of everybody in the building with his preparation, determination and drive to get better each and every day. 

 

Posluszny has played in 99 career games after being selected in the second round of the 2007 draft by Buffalo.  The former Penn State standout has totaled 1,063 career tackles, 12 sacks, 11 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 30 passes defensed. He has registered 100-plus tackles in six of the last seven seasons including a single-season franchise record 231 stops in 2012 with the Jaguars. Posluszny has posted double-digit tackles in 40 of 54 games for the Jaguars.

 

Posluszny started the first seven games for the Jaguars in 2014 before he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the second half against Cleveland on October 19.  He was placed on injured reserve on October 21.  He totaled double-digit tackles in five of seven games and added two sacks and one fumble recovery.  Posluszny earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013 after leading the club with 161 tackles which ranked second in the NFL.

Do Jags Have Another Draft Day Surprise in Store?

Apr 16, 2015 -- 9:11am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

While every online publication seems to have Dante Fowler Jr. as the overwhelming choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third pick in the NFL Draft, don’t be surprised if Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley have another trick or two up their sleeve.

Remember this time last year, there was plenty of talk about the team needing a quarterback, but there was so much emphasis on wide receiver Sammy Watkins and linebacker Khalil Mack. Both had fine rookie seasons for other teams. The real “shock” came when Roger Goodell made his announcement.

“WITH THE THIRD PICK IN THE NFL DRAFT, THE JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS SELECT BLAKE BORTLES, QUARTERBACK FROM UCF.”

A veritable hush came over the crowd at EverBank Field. And a fan base eager to bring in new and exciting talent got the shock they needed to prove both Caldwell and Mack were serious about winning football.

If the brain trust of the organization can be as controlled as it was last season, throwing out smoke screen after smoke screen over who would the pick in last year’s Draft, don’t you think it stands to reason the same thing could happen this year as well?

I’m not saying the pick will not be Fowler or Leonard Williams or even Vic Beasley of Clemson. What I am saying this is a team with many holes to fill and a lot of great talent to pick from. Even with the 20 players who came to EverBank Field last week, there are still plenty of players Caldwell and Bradley spoke to at the Combine and at Senior Bowl Week that have made an impression on this franchise and would not be surprised if someone who we may not have thought of will hear his name called on April 30.

This won’t be like the Atlanta Falcons selecting Jamaal Anderson or the Oakland Raiders taking a chance on someone like Scott Davis or the Miami Dolphins surprising us all with John Bosa or Eric Kumerow. This will be a pick like an offensive lineman (Andrus Peat or Brandon Schreff) or defensive back (Trae Waynes) who will make this team better.

I point out this team has won seven games in the last two seasons – there are plenty of holes to fill and more than enough depth needed everywhere.

Also, don’t rule out a wideout, but Kevin White hearing his name rather than Amari Cooper.

There are 14 days remaining until the Draft. There are plenty of anxious soon-to-be rookies waiting for their chance to make some noise on the next level. There are also plenty of fans waiting to make some noise here in town. Let’s just hope the noise the fans make is the sound of jubilation and not the sound of tears over someone who cannot help this team win and win now.

Is Greg Jennings a Good Fit for Jaguars

Apr 14, 2015 -- 9:09am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Let’s not read too much into Greg Jennings’ visit yesterday. This was really just a meet and greet of sorts.

Jennings is on a “Show Me the Love” tour with his third stop being here in Jacksonville. He has stopped off for a drink of water in both Carolina and Miami before coming to our great city. I am sure there are other franchises on his list of stops in the offseason. This is an opportunity for him to feel special, get courted and for one of these teams, the Jaguars included, to come up with enough money in what amounts to his final contract for him to stop off for a year or two or maybe three.

Yes, he is 31 years old and can still catch a football. But the reality is, if some team really wanted him – say New England or New Orleans or even Dallas – they would have thrown Fort Knox at him. Players who can catch a football and already have a Super Bowl ring on their finger are mighty valuable in a locker room full of young and inexperienced players.

That is what this team needs, but it need not look greedy in the process. Greg Jennings is a good player, just not a great player. The same can be said for Hakeem Nicks and Wes Welker, two other name receivers who are still on the open market looking for the “right” deal.

The wide receiver position has to be the most “diva-crazed” unit in football. Players who think that by catching a football, they are doing something more than what they have been taught and paid to do. It’s a glamorous life living on the outside of the offensive line, looking to take off at the snap of the football and run past a defender with the hope the ball is placed in your bread basket or you have the chance to make some Sports Center highlight.

But, honestly, for right now, the Jaguars would settle for a little less flash and more leadership for its youth movement. A little bit of knowledge is powerful in this game. The Jaguars certainly need it on the offensive side of the ball where it seems players who aren’t playing defense can barely shave they are so young. Youth is served sometimes, but in this case, a little age and wisdom is what we need. Jennings could provide that, but if he really wanted to be with any of the three teams he has visited, the contract would have already been signed.

There has been talk since he was released by Minnesota (in was said to be a cost-cutting move) that the Jaguars would have interest in him. Team general manager Dave Caldwell said he would be interested in signing Jennings to become the elder statesman of the offense. He and Julius Thomas, along with Allen Robinson, Marquise Lee and Allen Hurns would comprise a pretty nice group for Blake Bortles to play catch with.

But the fact remains that Jennings was here, as was the case in Carolina and in Miami, and no contract was signed. It makes you wonder if a player who is a veteran and knows there isn’t a strong showing for his services should be playing the waiting game. In the end, the team who retains his services may be paying for less than they bargained for.

Will History Repeat with Dante Fowler?

Apr 10, 2015 -- 10:49am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Maybe the best thing about Dante Fowler, Jr’s Pro Day in Gainesville was his message to the fans here in Jacksonville.

"I'll be surprised [if the Jaguars don't draft him], but that's how the draft goes. I'm just happy that I'm getting drafted and I'm getting drafted on the first day."

The comments, which spread all over the radio and on websites and television were a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone wants to dance with us as much as we want to dance with him.

There is no secret the No. 3 spot in the NFL Draft is now one of the more coveted positions to be in, mostly because a handful of needy and greedy teams need a quarterback or want a shot at Amari Cooper or Kevin White. But knowing this team needs a pass rusher and needs someone who can become the face of the defense and better yet, “wants” to be that guy – well HALLELUJAH!

There are two problems that might exist with this scenario. What happens if someone who the team has ranked higher on its draft board is sitting there with the third selection (Leonard Williams)? And what kind of player will the defensive end/linebacker be?

I am more worried about the second question than the first. Having options at No. 3 is a great thing to have, mainly because it makes you that much more desirable. If the NFL Draft goes according to plan, which means Jameis Winston goes first to Tampa Bay and Williams goes second to Tennessee, then the Jaguars are faced with having to make a choice among Fowler, Vic Beasley, Cooper or maybe someone we have not heard of yet being on the team’s radar.

Let Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley deal with that.

I worry about the player Fowler will be. The team has not had the best of luck with players from Gainesville over the years – and I am not talking about this because I am an FSU graduate.

When his career is over, will Dante Fowler, Jr. be Wilbur Marshall, or will he give this team nightmares about a reincarnation of Derrick Harvey. For my friends and fellow fans who think I am a bit nuts, I caution everyone about this pick. Fowler is a work in progress, just like every other draft pick. There are similarities to each player. Harvey had a great final season in Gainesville and impressed in his workouts – so much so the Jaguars gave up the house essentially to move up with Baltimore to get him.

Harvey turned out to be one of the three worst picks in team history. The Ravens wound up with Joe Flacco.

Fowler is an edge rusher, outsider linebacker who is slow in helping the run and will be counted on to pressure the quarterback and continue to help the defense grow. But after an impressive junior year and a solid offseason showing, does he prove to be the Florida player who pans out for these Jaguars?

It’s a burden in some respect. Yes, all players in this Draft are gambles with no Andrew Luck on the board. There are plenty of Jadeveon Clowney-type players – all the talent in the world, but questions about their ability on the next level.

I suspect three weeks from today, the Jaguars will select Fowler and the fan base will erupt with approval. I hope he is everything the team needs as a pass rusher and a building block for the future. But, in the back of my mind I cannot help but think there is some truth in the fact the unpolished product may not be the best for this team in the long run.

And it may or may not have to do with the fact Florida Gator players do not fare well with this franchise. Is history repeating iself?

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