Monday, August 08, 2011

Kampman led defensive line mates through offseason

August 5, 2011

By John Oehser

Aaron Kampman swears coaching, particularly in the NFL, isn’t in his future.

“I won’t do that to my wife,” he said, laughing.

A fairly large faction – numerically and physically – of his Jaguars teammates may see his point, but they still figure the veteran defensive end may be missing a calling. At the very least, football would be missing a pretty capable coach.

Want to know why Austen Lane has impressed fans, teammates and coaches throughout Jaguars 2011 Training Camp? Want to know why Tyson Alualu feels more prepared now than before?

A variety of reasons, but the Jaguars’ defensive linemen will tell you at the top of the list was time spent with Kampman – the group’s veteran leader – in the off-season.

Because of the off-season lockout, players were not permitted at the team’s facilities throughout most of March, April, May, June and July. No conditioning, no mini-camps and no organized team activities. No working with trainers, and no meetings with coaches, either.

Players from teams throughout the NFL held various workouts, some of which were well-publicized and some of which weren’t. Jaguars players opted to have position groups work together much of the off-season, with a few team sessions at various times.

Kampman led the defensive line group, and Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said the progress made was obvious.

“They got together and they worked on things specific to playing defensive end,” Del Rio said this week. “I think the guys that worked with Aaron came into camp and they’re playing at a higher level right now just based on some of the wisdom he was able to share during the offseason, some of the work they put in.”

Kampman said whereas a normal off-season often focuses on overall conditioning, his hope with his defensive line teammates was to focus on “functional training.”

“We were trying to not just work on some of the traditional lifts and strengthening, but really developing the whole athlete in a couple of players,” Kampman said, adding that a big emphasis was on core-area training.

“You can have strong legs and you can have strong upper body, but if you don’t have stuff from here connecting those two – I’ve seen tons of strong guys in the weight room who can’t do it on the field, so we spent a lot of time trying to connect those two halves.”

Lane said the group focused on weight training, lateral movement and pass rush.

“We were basically doing everything a defensive lineman is going to do to get ready for the season,” Lane said.

But Lane and Alualu each said the logistics and details of the workouts would have meant little had Kampman not been in charge.

“It’s his work ethic, and his experience – he knows what he’s doing,” Lane said. “The reason he’s successful is he does the little things right. Obviously, he has athleticism and things like that. He gets the little things down so they’re not a problem, and that’s what makes you successful as a defensive end.”

Kampman said before any drill he would explain specifically its benefits because, “If a player understands why he’s a lot more apt to keep going.”

“Everything he teaches us there’s a meaning behind it and he explained it before we did it,” Alualu said. “Just having that mindset of him relating to how we can take it on the field makes it a lot better for us.”

Lane, one of the standout players early in camp, has impressed coaches with his speed off the line, body control and improved pass-rushing techniques. He said he doubts that would have been true without working with Kampman.

“Not only were we getting after it, but it gave us time to bond as a defensive line,” Lane said. “We’re still young, for the most part.”

Just how the off-season work will translate onto the field remains to be seen. For the Jaguars to improve, they must improve as a defense, and that means continuing to develop an effective, disruptive pass rush. Thus far in camp, Lane has impressed, as has Alualu, while Kampman – returning from a second knee surgery in as many seasons – has worked on both the right and left sides. Jeremy Mincey has also worked on both sides of the line, and Aaron Morgan is expected to be a factor.

Terrence Knighton, considered a key to the Jaguars’ interior, reported to camp out of shape and has yet to practice, while defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith is returning after missing his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury.

Continuing to improve, and finding a consistent pass rush from the group, will be key as preseason continues. To hear the members of the line tell it, their chances to make those improvements are better because of the leadership of a guy who may not want to coach, but is actually already doing so.

“For me, it’s part of the responsibility of being an older player who has learned a lot over his career,” Kampman said. “I wanted to help these guys learn how to train and be the best pros they can be.”

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