--For Terrance Knighton, defensive tackle who the Jaguars took in the third round, the 72nd overall pick of the 2009 draft, he has two weeks left before he's ready to remove the word "rookie" in front of his name.
Knighton was one of the real surprises of last year's Jaguars' draft class. It was thought that he would come in and spell the two anticipated starters, John Henderson and Rob Meier. But the latter was placed on injured reserve eight days before the season-opener with Indianapolis. Knighton was inserted as a starter and he never lost the job, starting all 16 games last season.
"I still feel like a rookie because no rookies have come in yet so until they get here, then things will change," he said. "I'm still watching everybody's moves and just learning everything and watching guys all around the league to try to make myself a better player."
Knighton played well for a defense that wasn't very good last year. The Jaguars were last in the NFL in getting to the quarterback, registering only 14 sacks as a team, low in the league and the fifth-lowest total in NFL history. He was caught up in the team going from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 and eventually back to a 4-3. The concept of sticking with one formation (a 4-3) is a plus in the eyes of the former 3-year starter at Temple.
"It definitely is. Coach [Joe] Cullen told us in our first meeting this week what we're going to do so that we don't have to go back and forth and one week learn different techniques," Knighton said. "It'll be easier to grow each week and not coming in on Monday or Tuesday not knowing what we're going to do for that week."
The defensive tackle had talked with Cullen during the offseason, but had not yet met the Jaguars new defensive line coach. Cullen, 42, who's spent 17 of his 20 years of coaching in the college ranks, made quite an impression with Knighton.
"He seems like a guy who's just about his business and he knows getting to the quarterback is a priority for the D-line. I get the impression he's going to get us there so I'm real excited," Knighton added.
The first-year player has been on the go since the 2009 season ended. He's taken trips to Jamaica, Las Vegas and Miami and helped move his mom to Jacksonville.
But now it's time to focus on getting the Jaguars back on track and working towards making the playoffs he said. And it all starts with the strength and conditioning program that began this past week.
"Yeah definitely," he answered when asked about making it to the playoffs in 2010. "We were in a good position last year. We were 7-5 and we lost four straight. We probably wore down a little bit at the end but we know what Coach Del Rio has in mind and we just have to fulfill his expectations."
The Jaguars' gamble with veteran defensive end Reggie Hayward was successful. Hayward was allowed to become a free agent and while Jacksonville wanted to retain the nine-year veteran, the team's signing of veteran Aaron Kampman was an indication that Hayward would be a player used in the team's rotation, not in the starting lineup.
After testing the waters around the league including a visit to St. Louis, Hayward re-signed with the Jaguars last week, inking a one-year deal for slightly more than the veteran minimum in the $850,000 range. The deal does include several incentives however, that could bring Hayward added dollars.
"Who wants to move around and start something fresh when you got something working here?" was Hayward's response about why he resigned with the Jaguars.
He had originally signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the team in 2005, but took a pay cut last year to remain with the team.
In the Jaguars' season-opener at Indianapolis last September, Hayward suffered ligament damage in his ankle that caused a stress fracture of his fibula, sending him to the injured reserve list for the season. Hayward, 31, would like to play beyond the one-year deal he signed with Jacksonville.
"I want to keep this thing going as long as I can. Until they turn out the lights and say you're too beat up to do it, I'll keep going," he said.
--The Jaguars began their offseason strength and conditioning workouts on April 5, with cornerback Don Carey the only absentee. The first-year defensive back was excused from the conditioning program while he finishes his requirements for his degree at Norfolk State.
In the past, the Jaguars were missing one or two of their key regulars who elected to train on their own during this time of year. The sessions are listed as voluntary, anyone missing the drills is immediately located in the doghouse of the coaching staff.
Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have trained at a facility in south Florida in recent years and both returned in excellent shape. Still, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has always emphasized team unity and has put special emphasis on everyone participating in the program.
Newly signed free agent Aaron Kampman is getting adjusted to Jacksonville on and off the field. Kampman who spent the previous eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, signed a free agent contract with the Jaguars the same weekend that free agency began.
"The biggest thing when you're talking about adjustment is how your family is doing. My wife and three boys are loving it and they were at the beach this past weekend and it was nice," Kampman said. "We didn't get a chance to do that in Wisconsin, so that was nice. The kids are adjusting to schools. My wife is finding some friends. That's what makes it somewhat settling in."
Kampman said he liked the energy that he saw in the team's locker room on the first day of the strength and conditioning drills.
"It was great. I'm excited. There's a great buzz and I think this will be a lot of fun," he said. "I think there's a sense of, from what I'm gathering just coming onto this team, was obviously a disappointment with how the season went last year and being 7-5 and then going on a little bit of a skid. So I'm excited, maybe flying under the radar a little bit, surprise some people but one at a time. That's the way you have to take it."
No one was more excited to see Reggie Hayward re-sign with the Jaguars than last year's rookie sensation, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. The two played alongside each other in the line before Hayward was hurt in the season opener and the nine-year veteran had taken a special interest in the Jaguars third-round pick from Temple.
"It feels real good (to have Hayward back)," Knighton said. "It hurt not see him end the season how he did last year but he'll get back into things and having a lot of depth in the D-line is good because you never know who will be out there.
"Reggie brings the excitement to the D-line. He's the comedian of the group but we get our work done first and it's good to have a lot of veterans in the room."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are a lot of guys with a bad taste in their mouths, me being one of them. I have to temper myself because I want to make sure we are doing everything possible (to improve our strength and conditioning)." --- Jaguars strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson on the first day the Jaguars reported to him to begin working on their strength and conditioning.
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