JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Expectations are high for the Jaguars in 2018 as the team prepares for its first mandatory mini-camp next week. So many storylines are playing out this off-season as the team looks to put together the kind of season that could lead to its first Super Bowl berth. Below are five storylines that stand out:
The development of Blake Bortles
NFL teams rise and fall on the production they get from their quarterback. Blake showed improvements during the 2017 campaign and could soon be a top 10 QB in this league. Blake has enjoyed a good off-season. He's shown improved accuracy, more comfort in the system and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to take his team to the next level.
Who will step up as team leaders?
Every successful team has a core group of leaders. Inevitably, those leaders get a little older and a little slower, leading the front office to make tough decisions. The Jaguars parted ways with Paul Posluszny and Marcedes Lewis, two players whose presence will be difficult to replace. So, who will fill their shoes? I'm looking for Telvin Smith, Calais Campbell and now Blake Bortles to lead this team.
Who will emerge as the top receiving threat?
The good thing is, Blake Bortles has a wide range of options. Marqise Lee and newly-signed Donte Moncrief are the early favorites. But don't discount the young talent of Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and newly-drafted DJ Chark. Receivers coach Keenan McCardell told us this week that this is a team that doesn't necessarily need a No. 1 guy. Blake did a solid job last year throwing to multiple receivers, and he is poised to continue that trend this year.
What to make of Taven Bryan
It's difficult to determine how good a defensive lineman is during organized team activities and mini-camp when players aren't wearing any pads. But can Taven Bryan make an impact during his first season? The good thing is the defensive line is loaded and Bryan is surrounded by veterans like Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus, who will certainly show him the ropes.
Will Jalen Ramsey be there?
Mini-camp is mandatory. And reports suggest Jalen will, in fact, be in attendance. But Jalen missing OTAs is concerning to me. Does he need the work? Probably not. Is there a potential injury risk to participating? Of course. But football is a team game, above all else, and when the team is together, the whole team should be there. Period.
So there we have it: A few question marks, but not a lot of cause for concern. At this point, there is no doubt in my mind the Jaguars are a contender.