The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a lot of hype surrounding them for the 2016 NFL season, which started with a free agency period that saw them sign a few premier defensive players and add an upgrade at the left tackle position. That hype continued when the team somehow managed to end up with arguably the two best defensive prospects in the NFL Draft with Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. Then the team, for the most part, looked good in the preseason.
Expectations have been all over the place for the Jaguars, with even some predictions that they'll be division winners in the AFC South for the first time since the division's inception. General manager Dave Caldwell was asked about those expectations on Wednesday when he met with the media and he didn't shy away from the expectations placed on the team he's built.
"To have a winning record is probably a reasonable expectation," Caldwell told the Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon. "I think he's going to make a decision at the end of 16 games and say this is going in a direction that I like or this is not going in a direction that I like."
For the first time in seemingly forever, people have confidence in the Jaguars young offensive nucleus to score points.Between third-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who shattered franchise passing records in 2015, to Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson and his partner Allen Hurns, to high priced free agents Julius Thomas and Chris Ivory; the Jaguars have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball to carry them until the revamped defense has time to get their legs under them.
"The previous years I felt like we had to be perfect just to be in a game late, where here we can overcome a bad play, a fumble, a backed-up situation, a deficit," Caldwell told the AP. "Offensively we can score quickly and defensively I think we can hold the fort down."
In past years for the Jaguars to win, it felt like they needed to have everything go their way and then still get lucky. That's part of what happens when you completely gut a roster and start from scratch, but now that he has had three seasons to build the roster how he sees fit, Caldwell now thinks that the team can match up with "virtually almost anybody" and they don't need all the ball bounces and luck to win games.
Luckily Caldwell's thought process will be challenged right out of the gate in the 2016 season, as the Jaguars open with the Green Bay Packers at home. It will be an excellent test for the Jaguars new look defense as well as to see if the offense can remain explosive and carry the team until the defense settles in.
After a 12-36 record in the first three seasons for both David Caldwell and Gus Bradley, it finally now feels like there is pressure to show up on the win column and you get a sense that Caldwell agreed. The time for moral victories and looking for silver linings is over and now it's time to win football games.