Meyer to use drill to help determine Jags cuts

  • Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
  • Graduate of Jacksonville University
  • Multiple APSE award winner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tim Tebow lined up against Chris Manhertz and the two players went at it one-on-one in a special teams blocking drill at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice on Wednesday.

Manhertz won the matchup and immediately “Winner, Manhertz” was broadcast over the loudspeaker. The two went at it three more times and the final tally was 2-2 — and each time the winner’s name was announced.

That happened throughout the practice with various one-on-one drills, and while it’s part of head coach Urban Meyer’s plan to create a competitive atmosphere, keeping track of the winners and losers also is going to be a significant part of how he and his staff make roster decisions.

Win more of those matchups than you lose, as well as in whatever other competitions the Jaguars will track throughout the rest of camp, and you’ll have a much better chance of making the team.

“A big roster’s going to go to a smaller roster, and I think to be fair to players — we all have so much respect [and] this is a way guys make a living — I don’t believe in subjectivity,” Meyer said. “I believe in what’s your record? Every man’s got a record. What it is? You are what your record [is]. If you lose a lot but you have a lot of potential, that’s not real good.

“Just over the course of my career, I can give you example after example [of players that] maybe they’re a little slow but they just never lose.”

Meyer first started what he calls Winners and Losers during his second season at Florida in 2006, a season which ended with the Gators routing Ohio State to win the BCS national title. Two years later, the Gators won it again and Meyer took the approach with him to Ohio State 2012. Two years later the Buckeyes won the national title. When he made his move to the NFL this past January he decided to continue to do it, though the outcomes of the one-on-one competitions are higher with the Jaguars than they were with the Gators and Buckeyes because Meyer didn’t have to cut his roster almost in half in college.

He used the results to determine starters and playing time, but now, when he and the staff pull out the sheets of results, he’ll be using them to decide who gets to stay. If there’s two players on the bubble for the same spot, the one who won more is likely going to get it.

“Well, I haven’t done that before [used it to determine cuts]. This is going to be the first [time],” Meyer said. “But I’ve had to make decisions on who starts and it’s not fair to players to say, ‘Well, I’m starting [you] because I like you or because you’re from Ohio.’ It’s just, ‘Here’s the stats.’ They say statistics are for losers and my comment is usually losers say statistics are for losers.

“So you’ve got a record. What’s your record? How’s it going? I just think that’s a complete mentality. That Tom Brady guy, his record’s really good. You move him to the Buccaneers, it’s really good. New England Patriots, really good.”

Wednesday was the first Winners and Losers day for the Jaguars and the two players that spoke after practice — defensive end Dawuane Smoot and receiver LaViska Shenault — said they didn’t mind hearing Fernando Love, Meyer’s chief of staff, announcing the winners after each rep. Smoot said it was motivating.

“I feel like it definitely just keeps that competitive spirit going,” Smoot said. “We’re all trying to hear own name on the [public address system] anyways out there on the big field so just hearing it out on the practice field, it’s great.”

It’s certainly unusual and something not normally done at the NFL level but it’s essentially another way to test the players and see how they respond in competitive situations.

“There’s one way to do it and that’s scrimmage forever and you can’t do that,” Meyer said. “But you can create scenarios where it’s one-on-one and then everybody’s got a score. What’s your record?”

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