JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars wrapped up mini-camp Thursday. They will return to the field July 26 for training camp.
The team looks poised to contend for the Super Bowl. Here are the four biggest reasons I think the Jaguars will contend for the Super Bowl.
Players taking ownership
I wrote about this earlier in mini-camp. Its a trend that started last year during the season, but it's a departure from last offseason. Jaguars veterans are not only being more vocal in their corrections of the younger players, there is more open communications between units and position groups, according to several players I spoke with during mini-camp. As Marquis Lee said, "Iron sharpens iron. We make each other better.”
Second year in the schemes
This is true for all of the returning players, not just Blake Bortles, although he is an important part of this conversation. Tashaun Gipson pointed out that several other defensive leaders will be playing in Todd Wash's system for the second year.
"We had a lot of new guys (last year)," Gipson said. "Barry (Church) finding his niche, A.J. (Bouye) finding his niche. Calais (Campbell) should have been the defensive player of the league and it was his first year in this system. The first year in this defense, its easy, but there are a lot of little things and moving parts in this defense. Once you get it, that was a big part of me making my jump (last year). For them to make their jump in year two, ain't no doubt in my mind that this defense can be better."
Leonard Fournette came into the offseason with a plan—he is 10 pounds lighter. Myles Jack is adding five pounds to withstand the pounding of being the full-time middle linebacker. Bortles is working on his fundamentals between now and training camp. Those are just three examples. Plenty of players take a break after mini-camp and don't start working on football again until training camp. That's not the case with the important players on the Jaguars. The leaders are setting the tone and the rest of the roster is following.
This team believes that they are a contender. You can tell from the way they talk about their preparation, from the way they interact with each other and reporters and how the coaches interact with them.
That won't mean a hill of beans if they don’t have talent, but they are a very talented team. Ultimately, you have to have the horses to win the race. Look around the Jaguars roster. On some top 100 lists, the Jaguars have eight of the best players in the NFL on the roster (Jalen Ramsey, Campbell, Telvin Smith, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Fournette, Andrew Norwell). And other players would certainly be in the next 100-consider Jack, Cam Robinson, Brandon Linder and others.
The next step is training camp. Rookies and first-year players report July 18.