Jack Del Rio (Getty Images)
For perhaps the first time in the Jack Del Rio regime, the Jacksonville Jaguars openly struggled with chemistry issues inside the locker room. There was plenty of finger pointing from different camps and it was difficult to decipher exactly where the controversy was coming from.
Regardless of who did what, the Jaguars parted with several players this offseason that could certainly have been considered distractions. Again, it is difficult to tell who did what as the stories are different depending on who you’re listening to, but Jacksonville will move forward without players such as Matt Jones (non-football related problems with the law), Khalif Barnes (problems with the law) and Mike Peterson (controversy with the coaching staff).
The Jaguars’ attempt to better team chemistry didn’t stop with severing potentially cancerous players, as the team did its best this offseason to add leaders and team-first players. This overhaul of high-character men could be seen with the team’s additions in free agency and through the draft.
For veteran leadership, Jacksonville brought in battle-tested stars Torry Holt and Tra Thomas. Both players are past their prime, but each is expected to bring professionalism to a team that fell short of most people’s expectations last season.
Torry Holt (James Finley/AP)
Holt will bring 10 years of experience to Jacksonville’s receiving corps and the veteran wide receiver will not only be expected to add to his career total of 12,660 receiving yards but also bring some maturity to a group of relatively young players.
“He’s got a great presence about him,” Coach Jack Del Rio said about Holt. “One thing you get with Torry, a competitive guy, he’s serious about his trade. We feel good about adding the talent that we think he still has and we also feel good about adding the man that he is, what he stands for.”
Jacksonville will get a man with similarly strong character traits in Thomas, who has played offensive tackle in the NFL for 12 years. Sean Considine, a newly acquired safety for the Jaguars who previously played with Thomas in Philadelphia, is familiar with the type of person that the Jaguars acquired.
“You’re talking about a reliable, good football player, and a great teammate,” said Considine. “He was a vocal leader in the locker room up there in Philadelphia. I know he’s going to be sorely missed.”
The team also looked to the draft to add team-first players, as Jacksonville selected a plethora of players who were team captains for their respective teams. Ebon Britton and Mike Thomas (second and fourth round selections, respectively) were both captains at Arizona. Late-round selections Zach Miller and Derek Cox were both two-time team captains for their respective schools and receiver Jarett Dillard was a three-time captain at Rice. Tiquan Underwood also was a team captain at Rutgers during his senior year.
Eben Britton (Kosovac/JagNation.com)
“It was an emphasis for us,” said Del Rio in regards to the team’s dedication to character during the draft. “Like I said when I started, it was something that we discussed in terms of how we wanted to build the board and our value line, and it was an emphasis point that was stated at the beginning and mandated it throughout the work.”
Considine, who is also considered a high-character guy, also noted the emphasis that the Jaguars’ organization, specifically the team’s general manager Gene Smith and Del Rio, placed on integrity.
“Obviously, as a general manager, he values character, he values hard work and determination and I’m looking forward to being part of that, and that comes right from Coach Del Rio,” said Considine. “Everything starts with him and when you have leadership like that from the top, it’s contagious and eventually it trickles down into the players, and hopefully there are players here that have that same mentality.”
In an attempt to avoid being associated with the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that has had numerous off-field problems in the past decade, the Jaguars have done everything in their power to right the ship and bring leadership to a team that desperately needed it last season. Jacksonville is hoping that combining veterans who have been professionals throughout their career with rookies who have thrived in positions of leadership will help the team on and off the field in the upcoming season.