JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There is at least some national perception that things are a mess here, that the Jaguars are falling apart.
It’s not true.
Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout for a new contract is a big story, for sure. Justin Blackmon’s absence as the team continues to negotiate with the No. 5 pick in the draft is significant, too. Marcedes Lewis is out of shape. Blaine Gabbert hasn’t come out on fire. A Mike Mularkey's policy setting up $10,000 fines for players talking about injuries drew criticism, including from me.
Still, I’ve walked the grounds and don’t see any rubble. There is no crumbling go on. The crumbling happened last season, when a coach who had lost his players’ faith and couldn’t always spell out the rationale for what he was doing was fired. Jack Del Rio is defensive coordinator in Denver now.
Mentions of him here tend to be subtle, and can often be read as digs.
When I was here during OTAs, Lewis mentioned how Mularkey “actually cares about you.” Fair or not, that could be interpreted as Del Rio not having cared in the same way.
As for Mularkey ...
You don’t take over a situation like this and find bouquets of roses lining the path you have to travel.
Mularkey might or might not prove to be a good NFL head coach in his second go-round. But players believe he's wants what's good for them and can win, and such faith goes a long way when rebuilding a football team.
The guy’s got a plan. He’s got a staff that is an upgrade from the one before his. And he’s done a lot of good work since he was hired to set policies and shape his team, explaining himself to players and winning their confidence. (Some of it, like the fines for injury talk, might be heavy-handed and controlling. We’ll have to see how it plays out.)
Players don’t have much choice, of course. You buy in or risk being gone.
The tone, though, is upbeat. The offense is struggling so far, having trouble keeping up with a much better defense. The offense isn’t moping, it’s praising a measuring stick and working to look better against it.
Guys aren’t hanging their heads over MJD and Blackmon. They look forward to those guys joining them and know they can make significant progress now even without them.
“There is a movement going on here, some exciting things, a lot of new stuff,” reserve quarterback Jordan Palmer said.
It’s not accurate to suggest things are bad in Jacksonville three days into camp. There is no score up on the board on the fourth day of camp.
Things are new. New is good.