Jaguars going through another rebuilding project
Don't expect a quick turnaround for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After the worst season (2-14) in franchise history, the Jaguars fired general manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey and started revamping the roster. New general manager Dave Caldwell and first-year coach Gus Bradley parted ways with more than two dozen veterans - and several others could be on the chopping block as training camp opens Friday.
The turnover has left the Jaguars with one of the youngest teams in the league.
Although coaches and players believe anything could happen in 2013, the reality is that the Jaguars are in the early stages of another rebuilding project. They want to mold the roster through the draft, which takes time, and owner Shad Khan is willing to be patient.
That could mean another long season for the Jaguars, who have missed the playoffs 11 of the last 13 years.
''The stage we're in at this point is going to be a rebuilding process,'' Khan said. ''We're in a very, very different position. The fans, I think, we have to absolutely balance hope and expectation. I think we definitely want to be better, but it's going to take a little bit of time.''
Five things to know as Jacksonville opens camp for its third rebuilding project since 2008.
1. GABBERT'S LAST CHANCE: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has shown little improvement in two seasons. But the Jaguars aren't ready to give up on the 10th overall pick in 2011, saying he hasn't been afforded the best situation. They point to three coaching staffs in as many years, an inexperienced receiving corps, a porous offensive line and the fact that he played most of last season without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Nonetheless, everyone agrees that this is a make-or-break season for the former Missouri standout. If Gabbert doesn't show signs of developing into a franchise QB, the team certainly will switch to Chad Henne and draft another quarterback in April.
2. MJD'S RECOVERY: Jones-Drew is coming off a significant foot injury but has been cleared to practice; his recovery is a key story line. The 5-foot-7 dynamo has been the centerpiece of one of the league's worst offenses the last four years, running for 4,735 yards and 29 touchdowns against stacked fronts. But missing 10 games in 2012, showing up out of shape for offseason conditioning and entering the final year of his contract have created questions about his short-term health and long-term future in Jacksonville.
3. UNDER PRESSURE: The Jaguars have been one of the least-disruptive defenses in the NFL the last five seasons, averaging a paltry 24 sacks during that span. They tried several times to improve the pass rush, but whiffed in the draft and in free agency. Caldwell and Bradley have retooled the line again, signing Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks, claiming Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick off waivers, moving Alualu to end and thrusting second-year player Andre Branch into a starting role. If those moves pay dividends, Bradley's press-coverage scheme could work in Year 1.
4. SPEED THRILLS: When Caldwell and Bradley evaluated the roster, the biggest thing that stood out was team speed - or lack thereof. With Jones-Drew, plodding tight end Marcedes Lewis and little breakaway speed at receiver, the Jaguars were far from the kind of team that would scare defenses. So Jacksonville drafted Michigan star Denard Robinson and former South Carolina standout Ace Sanders. Both are expected to boost the team's return game and provide offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch with some creative options.
5. LONDON CALLING? The Jaguars will play the first of four home games in London in October. Khan agreed to play one home game a year for the next four years, creating speculation that he might eventually move the franchise overseas. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants a team in London, but many believe the logistics of playing so far from the states make it a long shot. Khan made it clear last week that while he wants to increase the Jaguars' local and international profile, he has no plans of relocating. And he's made several financial commitments to the city, including multi-million-dollar upgrades to EverBank Field.
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org