The Jaguars drafted 12 players during the 2020 NFL Draft nearly two weeks ago. All 12 of those players have exuded leadership and high-character traits during their time in college, and it is of no surprise the Jaguars have taken this route in cleaning up their locker room in an attempt to shift the team’s culture.
Last season was one of the most disappointing and embarrassing situations the Jaguars had to deal with in terms of in-house management. Not only did the team have a player sit out multiple games in protest for a trade demand made following week two, the team dealt with a letter from the NFLPA that told players around the league to essentially not come to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars have been in a state of flux ever since their exit of the 2017-18 playoffs after losing the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots. The team has yet to recover from that, resulting in 11 wins over the past two years.
Multiple players have spoken out against the team, it’s players, and management at times, over the past four seasons dating back to when now-Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was the head coach of the Jaguars. The Jaguars have not had a cohesive unit, and a lot of that has resulted in the exodus of many top-tier and talented individuals.
While Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye were simply collateral damage from mismanagement of cap space over the past couple of seasons under former Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, there has not been a true leader within the locker room - who the players will listen to.
The Jaguars have always tried to look for high-character players, Jaguars director of college scouting Mark Ellenz said during the draft. “Sometimes it means making some concessions, depending on it. But we’ve always tried to find high character guys throughout my career. I wouldn’t say it was mandated, but it was stressed, definitely.”
While it may have not been mandated, it certainly occured, especially in this year’s draft class. The majority of the team’s early-round selections served as team captains and all of them were exceptional locker room guys at their individual universities. For example, Jaguars second-first round selection, K’Lavon Chaisson served as a team captain for the LSU Tigers last season, sporting the No. 18 jersey to show for it.
Simply because the team took high-character players during the draft does not mean the team ignored ability, Marrone said during his post-draft press conference. The Jaguars feel that the players they selected are the best of both worlds.
“I look at it this way. I think people are going to look at these guys and look at their character. I really take a step back and think to myself, ‘why are we knocking people of good character?’ Why would you knock, or anyone, knock a guy because of his morals or how he presents himself or anything of that nature?
“You know, that’s one of the issues and problems that go on. I think people say, ‘Well, look at these guys. You got the high character guys, but you didn’t get the talent.’ I disagree totally with that. I’m excited about a bunch of young guys that have done things the right way for the most part, not to say they haven’t made any mistakes, but done everything they could to do things the right way, that’s something we should be celebrating,” said Marrone.
The Jaguars have actually drafted this way for a while, the team added several high-character players such as Josh Allen, Jawaan Taylor, and Gardner Minshew II just last year. DJ Chark Jr. sported the No. 7 jersey at LSU during his final season and has been an exemplary locker room guy.
“They are strong-minded men that we feel are influenced in the proper way and we want to keep it going that way.”
The Jaguars hope this will usher in a new team-oriented mindset moving forward. Having this many players bought in surely will help the team’s success moving forward. The question is, however, will it be enough?