While much of the focus for the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason has been the additions on the defense and what they’re doing to fix the offense, an area that’s often forgot about is special teams. Special teams were a huge issue for the Jaguars last season, often struggling to pin opponents back when kicking off or punting. The team didn’t fire their coordinator in Mike Mallory, but he did end up demoted and the team hired Joe DeCamillis, who has been a coordinator for the Jaguars in the past.
DeCamillis is one of the most respected special teams coaches in the NFL and so far he’s seen a lot of positives through organized team activities (OTAs).
“First of all, we got everything installed which was great. Second thing is, I thought the way the guys worked,” DeCamillis said at the conclusion of the final practice before the break on Friday. “They didn’t book anything we were trying. They did everything very hard. They did everything that we asked them to do. They were comfortable. I thought some of the talent things came forward and also we saw that guys that need things to work on. It was a real good, positive month or whatever it’s been.”
Now that everything is installed, the team can focus on what is most important for special teams. According to DeCamillis, one of the big things he wanted to instill during organized team activities OTAs was that special teams is kind of a “one-down” thing.
“I think, unfortunately, it’s what I call a one-down. You don’t have second and third to get it right,” DeCamillis said when asked about how to improve special teams. “You can get sacked on first down on offense, come back and make a first down, and you’re in pretty good shape. In our game, on fourth down, you don’t have that luxury. It shows up really badly. We just have to make sure that we make those plays. Like I said, we’re trying to emphasize things as much as we can from a situational standpoint. We’re working on hurry-up field goals. That’s something that doesn’t come up very often, but when you execute it and execute it correctly, it wins you a game. You execute it incorrectly, it loses you a game. Just an emphasis in trying to get those guys screwed in as tight as we can as far as them understanding those situations.”
While a lot of the struggles for the Jaguars were due to their offensive ineptness in 2016, there were quite a few games where special teams also played a big role and put the team in the backseat. Be it poor return coverage on a punt or a fumbled return, it’s an area where if the Jaguars improve can have a massive impact.