There’s a renewed energy on the practice field down at TIAA Bank Field. Players appear to be more enthusiastic than in years past, the sense of something new can be felt in the air. And not just because the team enlisted the help of an unknown PA announcer encouraging players, using the team’s new slogans that can be seen around the concourses of the stadium.
It’s different this time, and Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen can feel the difference too with a new head coach under the fold in Urban Meyer.
“It’s win and win now. That’s one of the main things that he preaches every day,” Allen said of Meyer on Tuesday.
“This is not a one year, this is not a two year, three, seven-year plan. This is a plan that we’re going to win today and to win a Super Bowl. We have a lot of guys that are motivated. We have a lot of guys that are willing to win, that’s willing to go out there and just lay it out there on the line.
“We have coaches that are doing the same, so as long as we have coaches that have our back, we just go out there and play. That’s what I’m most excited about and that’s what I’m most excited about with Coach Meyer and I can’t wait to see.”
The Jaguars have been the butt of plenty of jokes nationally over the past few seasons. Following the team’s anomaly year in which it reached the AFC Championship game in 2017, Jacksonville has lost a staggering 36 games, winning just 12 over the same timespan.
While it isn’t fair to say that the team suffered due to a losing mentality or culture, it certainly wasn’t operating with the same energy or urgency that has been spoken of during the early portion of this year’s offseason.
It’s a different group this year, Allen said.
“We have a lot of the same players as last year, so we have a lot of guys that went through that last year. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of new playmakers. So, you have us and then you have guys that are coming in that are trying to build this culture up.”
Throughout practice on Tuesday, the players’ enthusiasm was on display early. Dancing during break time, or just prior to warming up, and focused and energized while running through drills. Sure, it is only OTAs, but the sense of urgency could be felt throughout practice until the final whistle. That’s different.
“Once we get all guys that are on one plan, one goal, one mind, that’s what you’re going to have. You’re going to have guys that are out there having fun,” said Allen. “You’re going to have guys out there if they make a mistake, you have guys picking them up. That’s just the culture that we’re trying to bring here. That’s the culture we’re going to play with.”
The Jaguars enlisted plenty of help over the offseason, signing 12 free agents, along with trading for defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Of those signed, six received at least 33% or more of their previous team’s offensive or defensive snaps. Veteran leadership and direction have been two of the key elements missing from the previous regime.
Within his own defensive line unit, the change has come from some of the veterans such as Brown and defensive end Roy Roberson-Harris, who signed during free agency via the Chicago Bears. Both players, Allen says, were from great defensive lines and winning cultures.
“We also have Jihad [Ward] who’s bringing that here. We have guys that got better, such as [Dawuane] Smoot, myself, and K’Lavon [Chaisson]. So, [we’re] just bringing all that winning and just bring all of the competitive excellence, that competitive culture is just only going to push us to get better.”
Change takes time, and there’s no question it won’t happen overnight. But with incremental change over time it wouldn’t be a surprise to see plenty of winning on the horizon, at least if the players and coaches remain with the same confidence and messaging as seen during the first offseason of a brand-new regime.