JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the Jaguars were a team in transition. New coach. New football operations boss. New players like Calais Campbell. And virtually nobody had them pegged as a team that would win the AFC South and nearly make the Super Bowl.
Tuesday, as the team opened the offseason conditioning program, there was a different feel to the team. They are now the hunted, but head coach Doug Marrone doesn't want the team to take anything that happened last year for granted.
"We’re trying to focus on going back to building the communication between players and coaches and working together," Marrone said. "Working together leads to winning together.”
Marrone called the conditioning period "phase one" and he called the Organized Team Activities that begin May 22, "phase two." He said he is not talking about goals with the team, but instead is focusing on the details.
"I don't want to look ahead and miss the small things as we build the foundation," Marrone said.
Last year, the Jaguars' success was spurred on largely by a defense that finished the year among the best units in the NFL. They scored eight defensive touchdowns and ranked second in the league in sacks, led by Campbell, who was named the defensive player of the year. So how can the defensive line get better?
"We want to be intimidating. We want to be disruptive," Campbell said.
One of the big questions about the Jaguars potential for 2018 is what kind of improvement they will see out of quarterback Blake Bortles, who was signed to a three-year contract extension this offseason. Bortles has spent time in California working on his mechanics and other aspects of his game.
Thursday, the Jaguars will unveil the new uniforms at the State of the Franchise address. The players have already seen the uniforms, and Campbell put his personal stamp of approval on the new look.
"Very classic look. Smooth," Campbell said. "I'm looking forward to putting them on and doing some damage."
Campbell also admitted that the loss to the Patriots in the AFC championship game has motivated him already this offseason, and that he thinks the pain the team felt walking off the field in Foxborough would help keep players focused as each phase progresses.
"It's the last football taste we have, so it's stuck there a while," Campbell said. "But it's more than that. It's being so close to that goal. When you get that close, you get a feel for it. It just takes a little more work. A little more focus."
Marrone said that the Jaguars aren't a team right now, "and we shouldn't be." He did say that he has considered printing T-shirts for the team to wear in the offseason reading "What would Poz do?" The idea would be to motivate the players to do things the right way, as Marrone said that Paul Posluszny always did.
Quarterback Blake Bortles spoke to reporters Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery on his wrist. Bortles said that the surgery didn't impact his offseason preparation plans, which included fine tuning some mechanics while working in California.
"I was going to take six weeks off from throwing, anyway," Bortles said. "It was more about getting back into the rhythm of throwing the ball."
2018 will be the first time in Bortles' five years in the NFL that he comes into a season with the same coaches and the same offensive system. The team also improved the offense with the signing of guard Andrew Norwell and the addition of free agent tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Donte Moncreif.
"What they've done with free agency, that's really going to help us," Bortles said. "I'm really happy with the guys we have. With the guys that we have in our locker room, I feel as though we can be extremely successful with those guys today. Anything we get in the draft is a bonus."
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