Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley met the media for a press conference on Wednesday at the NFL Combine. He talked about a variety of things, but did have some interesting comments on Denard Robinson, the OTTO position and if Toby Gerhart still has a place next season.
How can you become more competitive in dreadful AFC South?
We've got a younger group of guys and when Shad (Khan), Dave (Caldwell) and I got together (in January 2013), we came up with this whole plan and process and we're right on schedule as far as the youth of our team. We have some younger players and we've added some veterans - we signed seven free agents last year that helped us tremendously in what we're trying to build. We need to take the next step now. I think at times we took on the personality of being developmental coaches and we've seen some of our players do some good things. But the next step is for us to develop as a team and form that brotherhood and that comes with continuity. At times, I think we had eight rookie starters last year so for them to come back and build off that will be helpful for us.
Is running back Denard Robinson a top option in 2015?
He was a pleasant surprise for us [in 2014] after his first year. He came back stronger and bigger and really shocked us. He had a couple of games in a row [of 100 yards rushing] where he did some really nice things for us and it was unfortunate he had the [foot] injury at the end. We're really pleased with his progress and we're hopeful that he takes the next step. Where that takes him in the rotation, that's yet to be seen. He's doing a great job coming back from his injury. The future is bright for him.
Can Toby Gerhart salvage a role in 2015 after a non-productive 2014?
He's done a good job. With a new offensive staff, that's what we're in the process of doing right now - looking at everybody's strengths and how to best utilize those.Toby's done a nice job for us. I know people may consider him a third down-type back or a short-yardage, situational back but we saw him do enough good things on first and second downs that he'll have a place with us. He is a different style of back and we're putting tougher an offense that best utilizes his strength.
What about hiring Doug Marrone to coach offensive line and his debacle-of-a-departure from Buffalo?
It's very interesting how the whole thing took place. We had a little bit of a friendship going from the owner's meetings but [the first time they met in January],we were talking about philosophy and culture and as the conversation went on, it became deeper and deeper into, ‘Maybe he'll have a role on our staff.' I really enjoyed our conversation and I got a sense of humility from him. I knew he was a really good offensive line coach and really good at developing players and I felt with our young group of linemen, he would come in and do a fantastic job with them. And to hear about his philosophy and where he wants to go with that and his core beliefs, I just felt like he was a good fit. It started off as just, ‘Let's communicate and talk about philosophy,' and it extended into, ‘Hey, we might have a role for you now as an offensive line coach.' We never got into what took place in Buffalo. I know that might seem odd, but we never did. My conversations with him, I could sense where he was at and where he wanted to go and I got a good feeling.
Any thoughts on Marrone leaving Buffalo and how he left?
It didn't affect my decision at all. I really still don't know everything that took place. I just know that he's in our building now andhe's doing a great job. A great job.
Are you confident Bortles is "The Guy" for future?
We're really excited about him. I know there are some things he needs to work on and the growth that will take place from this year to next year, we're allexcited about. It's great that he ended up playing [as many games as] he did. I think his mindset now is, ‘What can I do to get better?' I know he has tounderstand defenses better but also his mechanics, he's really diving into that this off-season. I just sense from him that he's a guy that wants to takethe next step and when he has confidence like that and it builds through the off-season, I think he's going to take another step.
Are you ultimately glad Blake Bortles played?
The plan initially was to sit him and I just felt like that would be the best way to see rapid growth. And I think there were multiple lessons that took place.We tried to show tremendous strength for Chad Henne when he was in there and to send a message to Blake that we'll show the same for him. It came to a point in time where we felt he was ready to go in and play.
What about running back Storm Johnson?
Storm is very intriguing to us - his athleticism, his talent. This year was also a good growth period for him. We hope we see a big jump in his maturity level,as far as handling the week's prep, what it takes to prepare for Sunday and what it includes. There was a lot on his plate initially. We're hopeful he has agreat off-season. Talent-wise, athleticism, it's our job to develop that.
Did you utilize the OTTO position how you wanted to?
We used it quite a bit. We still call it that. Now going through it for a year, we got a chance to evaluate it and truly define it even more and what we're looking for in that type of person and project the traits that he has - whether it's a linebacker who can rush or is it a rusher that can play linebacker? We've really being able to put our thumb on the type of player we're looking for.
How is offense developing with new staff in place?
We hired four new coaches on offense and we wanted to infuse guys who had more experience and we did that with four guys with coordinator experience[in NFL or college]. That's been very good for us and the wisdom they bring in. There's continuity in that we know the players who are going to be back but the newness of the offense will be a challenge. We're trying to incorporate it so that there are some likes from the old system. I really like the dynamics of the [offensive staff meeting] room now, with the experience we have brought in.
What about the progress made by receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee?
Allen Robinson is really a guy that jumped out at us early in the season. We felt like his maturity coming into it, his ability to pick things up, retainit and play at a high level - he really jumped out early in the year. With Marquise Lee, his speed - a guy that can really take the top off the defense is really intriguing to us. His comfort level in the offense was building and the injury to Allen Robinson gave Marquise an opportunity and once he got the opportunity, you either take advantage of it or you don't and Marqise really took advantage of it or you don’t and Marqise really took advantage of that (playing time). Really two good, young receivers that have a bright upside.
With Andrew Luck in the AFC South, does that make developing QB more important?
Being a defensive head coach, obviously, the defensive side is something we want to develop, getting going and play at a high level The quarterback can help that. They go hand in hand. Ultimately as a franchise, if you can get a quarterback you can count on, trust and lead your team, that’s always a valuable asset. As we put this whole thing together, we’re trying to take care of both sides as well as special teams. The quarterback is a valuable commodity for us as well as the defense and it starts up front with the offensive and defensive lines.
Was Nathaniel Hackett a connection because of Marrone or another connection?
It was more of a connection we had before [in Tampa Bay]. I was with Nathaniel in Tampa and I saw his enthusiasm and desire to learn the game. I thought it was a good fit for what we do and he’s a tremendous idea guy and at the quarterback spot, we needed somebody who can continue to develop our quarterback and he fit that.
So you didn't have concerns that Buffalo's offense stunk?
With all those guys, four coordinators and obviously Greg Olson is in charge, that’s one of Greg Olson’s greatest attributes – he’s been a coordinator for many years, he’s worked with different members of the staff before, he’s been able to receive ideas and put together what’s best of the team. That’s what we’re looking for from him.
Are you in favor of expanding replay to include pass interference?
There are pluses and minuses. I hate to be vague about it. There are advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, you want to get it right and most people’s mindset is, ‘Let’s make sure we get the calls right.’ The officials are under tremendous (pressure) week in and week out and I see that in this position. Our whole mindset is to find a way to get it right.