EXCLUSIVE: Big Cat Country Interview with Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio: Part 2


Part two of my exclusive interview with Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio continues

RCR: That 3rd Round, both Cox and Knighton were unbelievable. I remember on Draft Day hearing Mel Kiper go "Who?" in regards to Derek Cox

JDR: [Laughs]

RCR: You guys definitely did your homework as well, Pot Roast, as he's called...

JDR: If I can share a little story on Pot Roast, we're about a week, maybe two weeks before the draft. Gene and Terry McDonough [Jaguars Director of Player Personnel] and myself spend a lot of time cleaning up any questions or things that we want to go through in terms of approaching the draft, any last minute questions, things like that. They put on tape of Terrance Knighton and they won't tell me the name, they won't say much about anything because they don't want to delude my opinion, they didn't to say small school or anything like that, they just put on this tape and said evaluate this player right here, let's watch him.

So we're watching, we're watching and I'm like "so are you guys joking, is this old Kris Jenkins tape? I had Kris Jenkins in Carolina and he's gone on to have a heck of a career. We're watching and they're like "Really?" Terry goes to Gene and says "did you tell coach?" Gene goes to Terry and says "did you tell coach?" I'm like "Nobody said anything, what's going on?

They were like "This is this guy who's really kind of falling through the cracks that we think is really good and evidently you do to. I was like "that guy will come in and play right away." They discovered him late and brought him to my attention. In watching the tape, I'm like "absolutely, this guy will be a good player". That's the story of how Pot Roast became a Jaguar.

RCR: Let's talk about the guy next to Pot Roast, Defensive Tackle John Henderson. He improved mightily over the previous season, can you comment about the re-emergence of John Henderson?

JDR: It's really all about Big John. Last off-season I challenged him publicly, privately, because it had to change and it had to be up to John if he would buy into doing things the right way. Obviously he's a great talent, he's big strong, guy's that big and strong don't come around every day. But he had to buy in, and to his credit he looked me in the eye and said "Coach, I'm on board, I'm gonna give you everything you're asking for." As we went through the season he did that. He played good football for us. I think John still has some good football left in him.

We're going need to rededicate, much like he did last year, in adhering to some of the things that are going to be uncomfortable that he's going need to do to give himself a chance to stay in shape and to play this game at the level that we expect. That will be the challenge going forward. But we certainly got a good year out of Big John.

RCR: Now Coach, another guy on the defense who gets challenged pretty regularly is Free Safety Reggie Nelson. What do you think of Reggie Nelson going forward? Can he do the work to fill that role or will the team have to address this?

JDR: Well, I think that we're definitely going to address it in terms of making sure that him and everyone else here are accountable, including all of ourselves. I think that Reggie does have a lot better football that we've got to find a way to get out of him. He's a special athlete and we've got to find a way to connect with him and to help put him in situations where he can flourish. That's incumbent on us as coaches and it's incumbent on him as a competitor. He needs to come in and do the things that we demand and ask of him to give himself a chance. I do believe that his best football is in front of him and we are going to work all of our guys, including Reggie, to squeeze all that we can out of him. I think this is going to be a big off-season for him.

By now I thought that he would be in the Ed Reed kind of conversation. I think the biggest difference is that Ed Reed has worked on being a student of the game. The challenge will be to get Reggie to approach that in that vein, you know, where he's spending the extra time, where he knows his own assignments inside and out to the point where he can begin studying his opponents at a higher level. Those are things that we're going to be focusing on going forward.

There is no question about his desire. I think he wants to be good, he is athletically gifted, and that combination gives you a chance.

RCR: Moving to the offense, do you feel like Torry Holt will be returning to the Jaguars?

JDR: That's something we're going to work through. I think that's a question that we still need to answer. We're going to have to visit with Torry and see how he feels and how his body feels. I know, judging by his performance on the NFL Network as an analyst, that he's got a second career coming soon. He was pretty good at it. We do need to visit with him, that's a decision that we have to make.

He's a great young man that maximizes his ability and you can see why he was a perennial pro-bowler, why he'll be a hall of fame receiver when he does retire some day. He's been a great influence on your younger receivers in terms of how it looks to be a real pro.

RCR: Can you expand on that? I know it was reported that when Torry joined the team that he said he would mentor the receivers by showing them to the bench. What is Torry's role as a veteran in regards to the younger receivers?

JDR: That shows exactly about what it means to be a real pro and understanding what it takes. The first thing you have to do is be the best, earn your spot, that's how you do it in this league. Once you've done that, he's got so much experience, so much wisdom at the position, that just being around him, hearing the little coaching points, the points about defensive designs, the coaching points about how to get in and out of a route, those type of things are invaluable.

The first thing he wanted to do was get here and earn his spot. He didn't come here to coach, he came here to play. Once he earned his spot, then I think he can open up and explain things to some of the younger players. That's really the way he approached it, very businesslike. First in each morning during training camp. We actually got our guys here at 6:30 to open up, he was arriving at 6:00, we had to have the guard get here a little earlier because he was here early getting his body ready.

The commitment level was outstanding. The impact that he had on the football team and the young receivers in particular was all that we were hoping for. All in all it was a real good season for us and him and we'll see going forward whether or not that makes sense to continue.


Coming Tomorrow: Part 3: Wide Receivers, Community Service and David Garrard's dedication to the game.

-Chris Harris

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