Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has a familiar mantra: "Get better."
It's been his rallying cry since he came to Jacksonville two-and-a-half years ago, and it will be one of his metrics in measuring success going into his third season this year. And while for the first two seasons, "getting better" was a fine measuring stick, I don't know if it's enough for next year.
Coming into the restoration project that was the Jaguars, it became abundantly clear this wasn't a simple rebuild. The new coaches and front office had to tear down the old house and build a new one from scratch. There were very few pieces that could be salvaged. In fact, there are only nine players still on the roster from when Bradley took over the team in 2013.
|Players still on roster acquired before 2013|
|K Josh Scobee|
|P Bryan Anger|
|QB Chad Henne|
|TE Marcedes Lewis|
|OT Austin Pasztor|
|LB Paul Posluszny|
|DE Andre Branch|
|DL Ryan Davis|
|DL Tyson Alualu|
But with a franchise quarterback entering his second season, two strong draft classes, and a very good 2015 offseason, "getting better" is too vague of a standard.
To me, there will be a few things that should happen for this season to feel like a success.
I will judge next year a success if we don't blow a three-score lead going into the second half. It just can't happen, not even in the very first game. Offensive line has been a focus this offseason. On paper, it looks worlds better than at this time last year. We have to be able to establish some semblance of a ground game and control the clock when we have the lead.
I will judge next year a success if Blake Bortles cuts his turnovers in half. Yes, he was a rookie last season, and 17 interceptions along with four fumbles lost is something to be expected. But if he can go from 21 total turnovers to something closer to 11-12, it'll mean our running game is carrying more the load, receivers are having success, and Bortles is improving his decision-making.
I will judge next year a success if we drastically reduce the number of two-score losses. In 2014, nine of our 13 losses were lost by nine or more points. Compare that with the rest of our division: Indianapolis Colts (3), Houston Texans (3), and Tennessee Titans (9). I'm not saying the Jaguars should (or could) get to three, but if we could cut it in half and have only 4-5 two-score losses, that would mean the defense is being asked to do less through the first three quarters and has more gas in the tank during late-game drives.
I will judge next year a success if the offense can average one more touchdown per game. Last season, the Jaguars averaged 15.6 points per game. That was good for last in the league. Average another touchdown per game, and that would put the team in the middle of the league.
I will judge next year a success if the defense can get to 25 takeaways next season. The difference between the Jaguars (bottom third of the league) and a top-10 team in terms of takeaways is just six. If they can improve from 20 to 25, it'll mean moving themselves from the bottom-third to just below the top-third.
These are just a few of the ways I'd measure success next season. How would success look to you?