EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—It’s morning in Jacksonville. It’s time for the Jaguars to become prouder, stronger, better.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan, a very patient billionaire, gave GM David Caldwell three years to build a winner, and now in year four he wants to see results. The Jaguars went 12-36 the last three seasons.
“I think we’ve suffered long enough,” a chuckling Khan said recently to USA Today. “It’s been painful.”
And it looks like the pain is finally going to end. The Jaguars, now with one of the most talented rosters in football after a methodical rebuilding job spearheaded by Caldwell, seem poised for a quantum leap in 2016.
“I really like how our team is coming together,” Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley told Breitbart Sports after the Jaguars’ 17-13 loss to the New York Jets in their preseason opener in New Jersey.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and in order for Jacksonville to take that next step, it’s essential that their franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles, become elite in 2016. Entering his third year as a starter, the game is slowing down for him.
“I feel good physically,” Bortles told Breitbart Sports. “I think it’s a continuous process. I don’t think you ever go into an off-season and say ‘I’m good, I don’t need to do anything.’ I know for me, I will continue to try and figure out things and pick different things to work on physically, and mentally as well, you want to continue to master the offense, and be able to go out there and have your own game plan in your head.
“My goal is to be on the same page as [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] and as the play is coming in, be able to expect that play and be on the same page as far as what we want to do, why that play was called and where he expect the ball to go.”
And there are so many places for the ball to go, because there’s no shortage of weapons in Jacksonville, with two emerging stars at receiver (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) and one of the NFL’s best tight end combos (Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis). Throw in a ground game spearheaded by the NFL’s most violent runner, free-agent addition Chris Ivory, a tackle-breaking machine, and this offense should put up a lot of points.
On defense, they are loaded with premier talent, including perhaps the two top defensive players in the 2016 draft class – Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey and UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. They also get back linebacker Dante Fowler, the third overall pick of the 2015 draft, who missed his rookie year with a knee injury. In addition to those three, they added the top free agent defensive tackle available, former Denver Bronco Malik Jackson.
So you can see why there is so much excitement in North Florida about their pro football team. And this could be the year Khan’s patience is rewarded.
It better be, or he might be looking for a new head coach and GM.