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What a Difference a Year Makes

May 29, 2015 -- 9:19am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

A year ago at this time, Allen Hurns was just a rookie free agent who was signed by the Jaguars. Chris Clemons was MIA from OTAs. The jury was still out on Blake Bortles and Chad Henne was the team’s starter. And the belief by most in the Jacksonville area was this was a seven or eight win team.

OK, so we all drank the Kool Aid.

This year, Allen Hurns will be the second or third option in the Jaguars passing game. The running game appears to be stronger and better. Chris Clemons is preparing for the season on his own again, but this season, Gus Bradley seems more agreeable to it. Blake Bortles is firmly entrenched as the starter. And I can honestly say I think this team can win between seven and nine games.

Since we really have no idea what is happening at OTAs and the preparation of the team’s new offense is under protection of Fort Knox, all we can do is speculate, wish and pray to the football gods that this season will be better. Actually, it has to be better.

I asked a question a few weeks ago on another website – were the Jaguars a poor drafting team or were they snake bitten given the fact the past eight years have not been kind to this franchise. I’d like to think the team has been bitten by a rattle snake altogether given the state of events that have happened that turned the Jaguars into perennial losers. This season, however, we should see progress.

If you believe everything you read, then believe this – the Jaguars appear to be improved as a whole. Listening to Bradley and Blake Bortles after OTAs, you sense a change. We have all heard the same coachspeak from the always excited Bradley and the company line from Bortles last season. But something changed over the offseason. You sense it in their tone, their body language, their stance.

If you aren’t convinced, here is all you need to know about the changes at EverBank Field…

“Defensively, I thought (Wednesday was a) better practice compared to (Tuesday) – much better,” Bradley said. While the media cannot report on OTA practice specifics, Bradley mentioned second-year safety Craig Loston and rookie undrafted free-agent linebacker Thurston Armbrister as standing out Wednesday. “We had a couple of interceptions and guys were flying around,” Bradley said. “We are still in that installation phase so we are learning some new things with some younger guys.” Bradley added of the offense, which was in its second day of OTA work under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, “I see it just more precision; guys lining up, knowing the shifts and motions and right now that’s what we’re looking at because there is some newness to the offense.”

That excerpt was taken from Jaguars.com.

The Jaguars are moving in the right direction. It may not be the rags to riches type of move like Kansas City made in 2013 to the playoffs after a dismal 2012, but the move is being made. It’s more reminiscent of 1996 when the team jumped from 4-12 to 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wildcard team. That is the kind of progress we hope for and could possibly get. And that is the type of change that will do this team good this season and in the future.

OTAs Day Three: Picking Up Speed and Feeling Out the Competition

May 28, 2015 -- 7:33pm

During the third day of Jaguars OTAs, it was easy to see that players were a little fatigued from playing in the sun for three days straight, but that's not to say that players didn't practice hard.

Allen Hurns and Ace Sanders were two standouts from the day, including new signs of improvement from the offensive line.

Jaguars announce restructuring of personnel department

May 28, 2015 -- 3:00pm

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell today announced several changes to the club’s personnel department.  Chris Polian was promoted to director of player personnel and Chris Driggers was promoted to director of pro personnel.   John Idzik was named special assistant to the general manager after spending the last three months as a consultant for the club.  He previously served two seasons (2013-14) with the New York Jets as general manager.  In addition, Casey Belongia was named scouting assistant.

 

“We are excited about the restructuring of our personnel department,” Caldwell said.  “We feel it’s a great asset and a valuable resource to have two former NFL general managers on our staff.   I have a lot of respect and admiration for the work Chris Polian has done.  He will oversee our college and pro personnel departments while continuing to play a major role in our player evaluations.  Chris Driggers has been a part of the Jaguars organization from day one and has done a great job with our pro free agency and player acquisitions the last three years.   His promotion is long overdue.

 

“John Idzik will be wearing many hats for us.  He joined us in a consulting role earlier this year and I have been impressed with how he has assimilated himself into our culture the last three months.  He has a vast knowledge of the salary cap and has a history of negotiating contracts and that is an area we feel we could use an additional resource.  He will also be involved in the player personnel department.  He will work closely with myself, Chris Polian and Tim Walsh (Director of Football Administration) in his role.  Casey is a young professional that did a great job with us as an intern leading into this year’s draft.  We think he has a bright future in this business.”

 

Below are biographies:

 

Chris Polian, Director of Player Personnel –Polian joined the Jaguars in 2013, spending his first year as director of pro scouting.  Polian has 21 years of NFL scouting experience including three seasons (2009-11) as vice president and general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.   He spent the 2012 season with Atlanta Falcons as executive scout.  Polian first joined the Colts alongside his father, Bill Polian, in 1998 where he served as director of pro scouting for three seasons (1998-2000).  He held the title of assistant director of football operations from 2001-03, was promoted to assistant general manager/football operations in 2004 and spent five seasons (2005-09) as vice president of football operations.  From 1999-2009, the Colts posted a 128-48 regular season record, the best mark in the NFL by a margin of eight games, and earned playoff appearances in 10 of 11 seasons including seven division titles and a Super Bowl championship in 2006.  The club became the only team to win 12-plus games in seven consecutive seasons.  Prior to joining the Colts, Polian worked with the Carolina Panthers for four years (1994-97).  He was an assistant in the player personnel department for the Canadian Football League’s Sacramento Gold Miners in 1993.  The New York City native earned a bachelor’s degree in management from John Carroll University in 1993.  He and his wife, Debbie, have three children, Jack (12), Caroline (11) and Kate (8). 

 

Chris Driggers, Director of Pro Personnel – Driggers is in his 21st year with the Jaguars and his 18th year in scouting.  He is one of six current staff members who joined the Jaguars in 1994.  Driggers spent the last six seasons as a pro scout after nine seasons scouting the southwest region of the country.  He began his career with the Jaguars in football operations before moving up to salary cap administrator, assisting in player contract proposals, salary cap administration and negotiating player contracts.  He became a scouting assistant in 1998.  A native of Jacksonville, Driggers graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in finance.  He and his wife, Alyson, have three sons, Thomas, Travis and Tyler.

 

John Idzik, Special Assistant to the General Manager – Idzik joined the Jaguars as a consultant prior to the 2015 NFL Draft.  Idzik previously spent two years (2013-14) as the New York Jets general manager.  Prior to joining the Jets, he was with Seattle for six seasons as the vice president of football administration for the Seahawks.  He was active in both pro and player evaluations with the Seahawks while also overseeing player negotiations, the team’s salary cap, all football operations budgets, staff and team contracts and team travel.  The Seahawks won two NFC West Division titles during his tenure.  He spent three seasons (2004-06) as director of football operations with the Arizona Cardinals.  Idzik entered the NFL in 1993 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he spent 11 years.  He began as a pro personnel assistant and then was elevated to director of football administration in 1996 and assistant general manager in 2001.  During that span, the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII, played in two conference championship games, won two division titles and qualified for the playoffs five times.  His career began in coaching in 1982 with SUNY Buffalo and spent time with the Aberdeen Oilers in Scotland in 1990 before serving as a graduate assistant at Duke University from 1991-92.  Idzik graduated magna cum laude and earned Phi Beta Kappa honors from Dartmouth College in 1982, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, while also lettering at wide receiver.  He later earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from Duke in 1992.  He and his wife, Carol, have two sons, Bryant and Bradley, and one daughter, Holly.

 

Casey Belongia, Scouting Assistant –  Belongia served as an intern in the Jaguars personnel department following the 2014 regular season and through the 2015 NFL Draft.  He was an intern with the Jaguars equipment staff for the 2014 season.  Belongia served as an equipment staff intern while in high school with the Green Bay Packers in 2007 and spent seven seasons assisting the club’s equipment staff.  He graduated from St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wisconsin) in 2014.

OTAs Day Two: Cleaner Cuts and Finding Ways to Gel

May 27, 2015 -- 7:12pm

Day two of organized team activities continued for the Jaguars today. Blake Bortles seemed to be just as comfortable as yesterday, and Julius Thomas looked sharp, too.

One thing that Coach Bradley wants more of is constistency with his offensive line. The leadership is there, but it hasn't quite been established yet.

 

2015 second-round pick T.J. Yeldon signs contract

May 27, 2015 -- 2:42pm

The Jacksonville Jaguars today signed 2015 second-round draft pick T.J. Yeldon to a contract, the club announced.  Yeldon is the seventh of eight draft picks for the Jaguars to sign a contract. 

 

“I’m glad to get this part of the process completed and sign my first NFL contract,” Yeldon said. “Right now, I’m focused on learning the playbook and improving as a player. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m excited about my opportunity in Jacksonville and getting to work with my teammates and coaches.”

 

Yeldon played three seasons at Alabama and compiled 3,322 yards on 576 rushes with 37 touchdowns.  His career rushing total ranks fourth in school history while his rushing touchdowns are the third-most.  Yeldon played in 39 games for the Crimson Tide and made 21 starts.  He was the only player in school history to run for 1,000-plus yards in each of his first two seasons and was only the fifth player in the program history to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

 

A native of Daphne, Alabama, Yeldon rushed for a team-high 979 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries in 2014.  A second-team All-SEC selection, he posted four 100-yard rushing games and had 19 rushes of 12 or more yards. 

 

As a sophomore in 2012, Yeldon registered a career-high 1,235 rushing yards on 207 carries (6.0 avg.) with 14 touchdowns along with 20 receptions for 183 yards.  His play earned him first-team All-SEC honors by the league’s coaches.  He led the SEC with 123.5 rushing yards per game (988 yards and 11 touchdowns) in conference play.

 

Yeldon attended Daphne High School in Alabama where he was named Alabama’s Mr. Football following his senior season.  He totaled 31 touchdowns and 2,193 rushing yards in his final season.

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