In football, there’s an adage that to get good, you have to practice good versus good. But the Jacksonville Jaguars are taking it a step further and asking good to create good.
“I just think that you always have to be creative of how you move the needle for the athlete. That’s it. You can never stop being creative,” Strength and Conditioning coach Anthony Schlegel explained to local media this week.
Being creative for the Jags’ S&C staff means finding unique ways to push each player beyond their expectations, while also tailored to each players expectations.
“How can we get wide receivers to work on their releases and get 10,000 reps or how can I work on striking or how can I work on footwork? Whatever the case may be, the beauty of the NFL is that they’re 90 guys that are all different,” continued Schlegel. “You have time to be able to go through and screen every single guy and say, ‘Here’s the enhancements that you need, Andrew Norwell.’ That is different than a Ben Bartch who’s only a second-year guy.
“You have that time and autonomy to be able to go give them that because they’re all different, but you still have to have the same mindset that it doesn’t matter if you’re a first-round pick, eight-year vet, or a first-year, second-year guy trying to make a roster, I’m going to give you everything I got to allow you to either make a roster, add value, start, be an All-Pro, it doesn’t matter. When you start doing that for them and being creative that way, they really buy in and that’s just what we’ve seen.”
Simply showing each player a tailored plan for their development isn’t enough though according to Schlegel. Since Meyer was hired as the head coach, he’s harped on the importance of the strength and conditioning department. His preaching took a hit when immediate backlash came for his hiring of Chris Doyle as director of sports performance. The former Iowa S&C coach had left his previous job after allegations of racism and bullying.
With a new staff working on gaining the trust of the 90 young men under them, trying to prove Doyle was an anomaly and not the standard was of the utmost importance. Whether because of that or in spite of it, Schlegel and his staff have focused on the relationship aspect of their job.
“Do I have a staff made up of men that can get in the weeds of life with them and have that conversation that resonates with that individual player to move that player one step closer to their max capacity? That, to me, is what it’s all about in the strength and conditioning game is the relationship factor.”
Schlegel and his staff have already seen the payoffs from this approach. Head Coach Urban Meyer recently publicly and privately challenged Pro-Bowl wide receiver DJ Chark, telling him upfront he didn’t play “big” enough last season. Chark has spent the offseason working on rectifying that flaw, and Schlegel has had a front row seat to the transformation.
“I saw him just put in work,” noted Schlegel. “We need him to put on some weight, let’s get bumpy. It was him and Terry [Godwin] and Laviska [Shenault Jr.] and then all the other wide receivers started coming in and they just started having competition in the weight room. You create that atmosphere to where they want to be, they want to train.”
The competition, coupled with seeing Chark and receivers push each other, has begun to bleed into other units as well.
“Let’s start to build that pro routine not in camp, not during the season…I started seeing the real gains on a Wednesday when we weren’t training and we were having DJ [Chark Jr.] and Laviska and other guys on the team, [tight ends] James O’Shaughnessy, Ben Ellefson and Tyler Davis, Chris Manhertz when they were in early as groups and units going in and getting rejuvenated together. Like alright, it’s starting to work.”
One of Meyer’s most consistent messages this offseason has been that the Jaguars of 2020 didn’t have bad players. The team just wasn’t the “biggest, strongest, fastest” versions of what they needed to be to win. That’s what this new regime wants addressed. Now as players break for summer and create game plans for a return—and the kickoff to a new era—it’s up to Anthony Schlegel and his staff to shape the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars.
“There’s still more that a lot of guys have to do, and the cool thing is we have five weeks, and we all know what it is, so guess what? Let’s get to work,” stated Schlegel. “It doesn’t stop. It’s part of it. We get paid to do a job that we love and I’m here to help you do that, so that’s what’s fun and they’re all buying into it.”