Besides a lack of touchdowns, sacks and wins, what was lacking on the Jaguars quickly became apparent to general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley once they arrived in mid-January.
The Jaguars didn’t have enough speed.
“That was one thing we really needed to upgrade,” Caldwell said.
That process amped up Saturday when the Jaguars used their five draft picks to get faster.
The Jaguars drafted South Carolina receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders (fourth round, No. 101), Michigan quarterback-turned-running back Denard Robinson (fifth round, No. 135), Florida safety Josh Evans (sixth round, No. 169) and in the seventh round, cornerbacks Jeremy Harris (No. 208) of New Mexico State and Demetrius McCray (No. 210) of Appalachian State.
All can run fast. Now the goal is getting them all to play fast.
The McCray pick was acquired when the Jaguars traded down three spots in the fourth round with Philadelphia.
The Jaguars did not address needs at quarterback, outside linebacker and pass rusher. Instead, they used five of their picks on the secondary.
“That was identified early on in the process,” Caldwell said. “We’re a system-specific team on defense, and we created some of our own urgency there [by cutting veterans]. But we knew it was a good year in the secondary for this draft.”
Before going to the secondary, the Jaguars started Day 3 by addressing their offense and special teams.
Sanders (5-foot-7, 173 pounds) led the Gamecocks with 45 catches and nine touchdowns last year, but the Jaguars were intrigued by his punt return ability. He averaged 15.3 yards on 28 punt returns and scored two touchdowns.
“I’m not an East-West runner on punt returns,” Sanders said. “I get the yards that are needed, and I really just try to flip the field and give the offense better field position. I’ll go at it relentlessly and with no fear.”
The Jaguars used six players on punt returns last year and were 29th in the league (7.3-yard average). Enter Sanders.
“His quickness is electric,” Caldwell said. “This guy has serious juice to get off the mark and separate in a short area. The timed speed is what it is but this guy can get behind defenders and run away from guys.”
Sanders timed 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.
“I believe I’m faster than 4.5,” Sanders said. “When I watch my game film, I believe I am.”
Robinson ran a 4.43 at the combine when making the transition from record-setting running college quarterback (4,495 rushing yards) to pro receiver.
But the Jaguars view him as part running back, part slot receiver, possible wildcat quarterback and a definite candidate to return kickoffs.
Caldwell said when the pick was announced, his former boss, Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff called him to say, “I knew you were getting him at some point.”
“I’ve been watching this guy for as long as he’s been playing,” Caldwell said. “Every time I went to Michigan, it just amazed me how passionate he was about football, how loved he was at that school and how we went about his business.”
The 2010 Big Ten offensive player of the year, Robinson was 23-12 as Michigan’s starting quarterback but is ready for the next chapter of his career.
“They can put me in at receiver or running back or [wherever],” he said. “Whatever it takes to find a niche.”
What the Jaguars added in Sanders and Robinson is the ability to throw curveballs at a defense with different formations and plays.