Even though the Jaguars didn't have a running back gain more than 787 yards this season, coach Jack Del Rio insists he's happy with his running back situation.
"Actually, that's one area I feel pretty good about where we are as a football team. I think our running backs had a great year as a group," Del Rio said. "I think (assistant coach) Kennedy Pola did a great job with that group. You talk about contributions we got to the football team and you just look at it in its totality. The running game that we got with a combination of guys - Fred (Taylor), Greg (Jones), Alvin (Pearman) some and (LaBrandon) Toefield coming in some. The kickoff and the punt return ability that our two young guys, our two rookies, gave us, and then the coverage aspect. (Derrick) Wimbush, Pearman and (Rich) Alexis ended up being some of our top core cover guys. So I think collectively this group had an outstanding season for us.
"With the exception of Fred, it's a very young group, so I think that situation is a little more settled than people maybe anticipated before the season started."
But whether or not this running back by committee system will continue to work remains to be seen.
In other news out of Jacksonville this week:
--Del Rio thinks the Jaguars will be improved next year. "We think we're going to be better because we're gong to build what we have and add to it. Yeah, the guys that are here, we want them to continue to improve," he said. "We can add and strengthen ourselves. We'll target a few free agents, be selective in that process, and continue to draft well, like we've done.
"I don't think you can look at what we've done over the last three years and not acknowledge on some level that we have built and we are building and there has been improvement and we want to continue. That's what we'll continue to do, is continue to be as competitive as possible now with respect to the salary cap and the health of this franchise going forward. I think we've been able to strike a pretty good balance here the last three years, and we're going to continue to work on that."
--Del Rio's first task of the off-season is to find a new linebacker coach to replace Brian Van Gorder, who has taken the head coaching job at Georgia Southern. Van Gorder was with the team for one season. Del Rio has indicated the rest of the staff will return intact.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith is interested in moving up to the head coaching ranks but hasn't gotten any interviews.
--The Jaguars have allocated four players to NFL Europe. They are two practice squad players - fullback Lee Webb and defensive lineman Walter Curry - and two players they signed to send to Europe - defensive end Elton Patterson and offensive tackle Carlos Joseph. Patterson played five games for the Jaguars in 2004 while Joseph was originally drafted by San Diego in 2004 on the seventh round.
QUOTABLE: "I think the guys have really bought into giving of themselves in something greater than themselves and pulling together for a common cause, and I really respect that." - Coach Jack Del Rio