Doug Pederson: ‘Healing’ from toxic Urban Meyer era key for Jaguars moving forward

Team opens rookie minicamp trying to rebuild from 2021

Jaguars rookies work out at TIAA Bank Field for the first on-field day at rookie minicamp. (Jamal St. Cyr, News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Pederson is rebuilding more than just the roster on the Jaguars.

Fresh off the most dysfunctional and toxic season in the franchise’s 27-year history, the Jaguars are counting on Pederson to reshape the trajectory of the team. The stain of ex-coach Urban Meyer’s disastrous 13-game tenure with the team remains a topic around TIAA Bank Field because transgressions continue to pop up.

This week, former Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo sued the team, saying that Meyer created a hostile work environment and that he was released from his job with the team for speaking up about Meyer kicking before a preseason game.

Meyer’s toxicity ran deep, and he clearly lost the trust of not only owner Shad Khan, but the entire locker room, too. That’s left a messier than normal cleanup to Pederson and his staff. It’s clear that the residue from Meyer’s time in Jacksonville was more than just a typical coaching transition.

“I do believe there has to be some kind of healing with the situation and everything that transpired last year because it’s just there’s a lack of trust that was broken, I think. For me, it’s about gaining the trust back and they have to see it through me,” Pederson said on Friday.

“They have to see the transparency, the honesty. I’ve always said I’m going to be open with them and I want them to be open with me. It just comes down to communication and having an open line of communication. We’ve been able to have some conversations that way in team settings and I think the guys have really embraced it and are doing well.”

Culture change aside, the Jaguars have made significant changes in personnel, too. The rookie class, which opened minicamp this week, has expected new starters at linebacker (Chad Muma and Devin Lloyd) and edge rusher (No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker).

Walker said he was elated to get past draft season and get on the field for the first time on Friday.

“For me, it really felt great because I’m not too big on media, not too big on being in front of the camera,” he said. “But now I get to actually do what I love to do and put my hands on somebody, hit somebody, play football.”

Muma echoed Walker, saying that training and preparing for the NFL draft isn’t like real football. Being back on the field, even in light workouts, was something he was ready for.

“It’s the best. I love football way more than doing some track workouts and trying to train for running 40 yards that way,” he said. “But [it was] definitely nice to get back to some football.”

While he’s not a rookie by draft year, the team also expects to have running back Travis Etienne — last year’s second first-round pick — back to full strength after suffering a Lisfranc injury and undergoing surgery.

“Travis is doing extremely well,” Pederson said. “He’s been in our offseason program and working every day and feeling good. Again, it’s a process and we’re going to continue to monitor that and keep it slow.”

Pederson has expectations somewhat tempered right now and said that the staff is only looking for incremental progress.

“Obviously, today’s day one so let’s see what he learned from the classroom and then let’s make that judgment tomorrow and then let’s make another judgement on Sunday,” he said.

“Listen, this is still the offseason and the roster’s not set or anything like that, so [we] just want to see gradual improvement every day whether it’s in his drill work or in a team setting. That’s what you look for in these young guys right now and just see how they’re really fitting in and then how they interact with the veterans when we get the vets in here next week and make our evaluations that way.”


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.