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Tom Coughlin starts second go-round with Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Sports Xchange
The Tom Coughlin era, part 2, will kick-off in full stride this week when the Jacksonville Jaguars' new executive vice president of football operations heads up the Jaguars contingent at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. File Photo by Rich Kane/UPI
The Tom Coughlin era, part 2, will kick-off in full stride this week when the Jacksonville Jaguars' new executive vice president of football operations heads up the Jaguars contingent at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. File Photo by Rich Kane/UPI | License Photo

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tom Coughlin era, part 2, will kick-off in full stride this week when the Jacksonville Jaguars' new executive vice president of football operations heads up the Jaguars contingent at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Coughlin's first run with the Jaguars began in 1994 when he was hired as the Jaguars first head coach.

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That was a full year before Coughlin took the field as the Jaguars coach, but it gave him enough time to scout the rest of the league for expansion players as well as prepare for the 1995 college draft.

Coughlin spent eight seasons with the Jaguars before he was let go following the 2002 season by then team owner Wayne Weaver.

It wasn't the most cordial dismissal for Coughlin who harbored some bitterness toward the team and Weaver in particular following his firing.

But with Weaver no longer in the picture, Coughlin was ready to put the past behind him and start afresh with new Jacksonville owner Shad Khan and an entirely new administrative staff that was not here during Coughlin's earlier reign.

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Coughlin's duties have some similarity to his original stint with the team in that he once again is in charge of the team's 53-man roster. It's just that he won't have any coaching responsibilities this time.

But with the final say on the 53-man roster, Coughlin will be calling the shots as far as who stays, who goes and who the Jaguars should look to for making the roster as strong as it can be.

What remains to be seen is how Coughlin will interact with general manager Dave Caldwell, who previously held sole responsibility as to the makeup of the Jaguars 53-man roster each year.

Some thought Caldwell would get his walking papers at the same time former head coach Gus Bradley got his. Caldwell brought in Bradley as his head coach only two weeks after he got the job.

Caldwell saved his job in January when Coughlin was brought on board, but the general manager lost some clout in the process. Coughlin is convinced that he can work with Coughlin and new coach Doug Marrone (Caldwell's choice to replace Bradley) and turn the franchise into an NFL contender in time.

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"I said when we came in and I'll always say it: we'll work as a team," Coughlin said. "Let's face it -- those two gentlemen have more information about this team to share with me than I certainly have to share with them.

"In many circumstances, I'm like a sponge listening to their comments. I'm very interested in what both Doug and Dave have to say."

No one has more interest in the new power of authority than Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles had a strong second season with the Jaguars when he passed for a franchise best of 4,418 yards and 35 touchdowns. But the numbers tailed off last season and Bortles quickly became the popular target (along with Bradley) for a needed change.

Marrone and Caldwell have publicly stated that they are supportive of Bortles to remain the Jaguars' signal-caller.

"Where are you going to find someone who produced 64 touchdowns (passing or running) for us the last two years like what Blake did?" Caldwell asked.

As for the man who now controls the roster, Coughlin isn't ready to call Bortles a must-starter. He said that the Jaguars quarterback must limit his turnovers if he's to remain the starter.

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"Taking care of the football is paramount to that position," Coughlin said. "There can be no way the ball is turned over to that extent. I think he'd be the first one to say that he has a lot of work to do, but we all have a lot of work to do."

In all likelihood, Bortles will retain his starting spot if for no other reason than default. The Jaguars do not have a soon-to-be-ready backup quarterback.

Chad Henne is No. 2 on the depth chart, but he's a veteran journeyman who is content to fill in for Bortles for a series or two due to an injury. The No. 3 quarterback is Brandon Allen who spent his rookie season holding a clip board and charting plays for Bortles to review during the game.

The Jaguars drafted Allen in the sixth round a year ago and certainly aren't going to give up another draft pick on a quarterback that at best would be assigned to the practice squad.

Jacksonville has far too many other areas that must be addressed before the hierarchy would think about bringing in another quarterback.

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There are too many holes on both sides of the line. The Jaguars desperately need a quality pass-rusher on the D-line and they have a gaping hole at left guard that must be filled. Add in the need for help at cornerback, running back and outside linebacker, and it's easy to see how quarterback needs ranks fairly low on the Jags must-have list.

--The saga continues at left tackle for the Jaguars. Ever since Eugene Monroe was let go early in the 2013 season and was replaced by the team's No. 1 draft pick, Luke Joeckel, there have been question marks at the position.

Joeckel was thought to be the answer, but he lasted only one game at left tackle before sustaining a season-ending fractured ankle.

For two years since, the Jaguars waited patiently for Joeckel to turn into one of the elite tackles they thought they had when they made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

When it didn't happen, they opted to bring in Kelvin Beachum in a free agency signing a year ago, despite the former Pittsburgh Steelers starter still recuperating from ACL surgery midway during the 2015 season.

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Beachum was able to start all but one game in 2016 but he was hampered with knee issues throughout the season, sitting out nearly every Wednesday practice session just to rest the knee and make sure he was ready to play on Sunday.

When the Jaguars declined to pick up the option on Beachum's contract in mid-February, the handwriting on the wall was pretty clear, although Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week that the two sides were still talking.

"I don't think it was (from) a standpoint of what he did show or what he didn't show," the Jaguars coach said. "I just think, obviously, when you get to the option, I think it is a business decision. It is obviously something that is still out there. He is now able to speak to other teams. It is still an option for us to continue to talk to him."

There have been some discussions on whether the Jaguars would re-sign Beachum, not to play tackle, but to fill a void at left guard.

"He has shown before that he has played the guard position early in his career in Pittsburgh," Marrone noted. "Obviously, my conversations with Kelvin during the season were obviously with him playing left tackle. I think he did a hell of a job for us playing through an injury during the course of the year. I think it is just a matter of just seeing where the process takes us and where he is."

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Re-signing Beachum to a restructured contract is a possibility for the Jaguars now that they've all but got a new left tackle in the fold. They have turned their attention to Miami offensive tackle Brandon Albert even though he too has a history of injuries that loom as a cause for concern.

--In 2015 the Jaguars signed six free agents during the offseason, a group that was hailed by many as to who the Jaguars would turn to in order to reverse their losing ways.

The signings of tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick, linebacker Dan Skuta, right tackle Jermey Parnell, cornerback Davon House and free safety Sergio Brown was thought to be a significant step in upgrading starters and key contributors.

But Parnell is the only one of six players to have enjoyed any success with the team. Two years since that group joined the Jaguars and Parnell is the lone returning starter.

Skuta is still with the team but has contributed little after injuries have limited his play the last two seasons. House lost his starting job and is within a week or two of being set free by the team. Thomas and Odrick were released in the last 10 days and Brown was let loose last off. Such a promising group at the time but only one of the six players is still around helping the Jaguars on a regular basis.

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--Persistence paid off for Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones, who agreed to a four-year, $16 million deal with the Jaguars three weeks before the start of free agency on March 9.

Jones missed playing in only two games the last three seasons with the Jaguars after playing in eight games as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2013. Jones made nine starts last season, taking over one of the tackle spots after Roy Miller sustained a torn Achilles tendon against Oakland.

Jones finished the season with a career-high 32 tackles, including four for lost yardage. Jones' added value is that he can also move to the outside to play strong-side defensive end in certain situations.

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