The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially completed the offseason portion of organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, which means we have now entered the “dead period” prior to training camp in late July.
So, what have we learned following some on-field workouts? What are the underlying takeaways and constant themes we seemed to keep hearing about during May and June? These are the five key things I have come away with regarding the Jaguars offseason to this point.
1. Blake Bortles is poised to have his best season yet
Fair or not fair, the biggest question mark regarding how far the Jaguars can go this year is always going to be Blake Bortles. Coming off of his most efficient season yet, and showing flashes of great play throughout the playoffs, Bortles has received a lot of praise so far this offseason. Several notable beat writers, including Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser, have noted how Bortles seems more confident, more in command of the offense and has consistently hit throws. We are not hearing about how many interceptions he has thrown in practice, or how many open receivers he has missed, but instead that he is having his best offseason yet.
2. The group of wide receivers lacks a superstar, but is deep and talented
The Jaguars have no clear cut “Number one receiver” that many people believe you need in order to have a successful offense. However, Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell has used this to his advantage by keeping everyone involved and teaching them to play on both the inside as a slot and the outside. Free agent signee Donte Moncrief has impressed this offseason. Marqise Lee has been inconsistent, but could step up this year. There is also a young, talented nucleus of wide outs that includes Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark. The often injured Rashad Greene has also been impressive this offseason, as he looks to cement a roster spot. Undrafted free agent Allen Lazard is a wild card, while Jaydon Mickens’ punt returning skills could keep him on the roster.
3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has made quite the impression
Seferian-Jenkins may be in for the best statistical year of his career. He has adapted to his new team quickly, showing off athleticism and making highlight-reel catches during OTAs and minicamp. Even more importantly, though, is that he has already developed great chemistry with Bortles. His receiving prowess was already well-known, while his blocking ability was a bit of a question mark. With that said, he expects 2018 to be his best season as both a receiver and a blocker. ASJ has also received a lot of praise about being a great teammate — for both his current and former teammates. I am excited to see him in a Jaguars uniform.
4. The team is not dwelling on the AFC Championship loss
The team is focused on 2018 and has one of the NFL’s most talented rosters. As Oehser pointed out in one of his recent pieces, this team has received head coach Doug Marrone’s message loud and clear — forget last season and think about this season. A lot changes in the NFL year-over-year: last year’s playoff teams could be disappointments this season, while last year’s disappointments could be serious contenders this season. With as special as this Jacksonville team could be, it has to be ready for all competition and challenges, and this team seems to be. There is a target on their backs now — the 2018 Jaguars aren’t sneaking up on anybody like they did in 2017.
5. The Jaguars are healthy heading into training camp
A big reason for Jacksonville’s success last year was because of the team’s ability to stay healthy, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Jaguars escaped minicamp and OTAs without any major injuries or setbacks. Dante Fowler Jr., Myles Jack, A.J. Cann, Carson Tinker and others missed some time or drills during portions of the offseason, but Marrone seems confident that all players, or close to it, will be ready for training camp. For example, Jack’s limited participation in the offseason program seemed more precautionary than anything else, while Tinker recently took part in team drills for the first time since tearing his ACL.
Of course there were a lot of other stories to come out of the offseason program, but these were the five things that stood out most to me. Feel free to discuss in the comments section.