For the first time in a decade, the Jacksonville Jaguars enter their training camp with actual expectations for the season. The last time the Jaguars reported to training camp following a winning season was prior to the 2008 season, following their last playoff run which coincidentally also had a playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and a loss to the New England Patriots.
The Jaguars traded up in the 2008 NFL draft to add pass rushers and spent a bunch of money in free agency. The result was a 5-11 season and the beginning of a decade of basement dwelling.
Unlike that 2008 season however, the 2018 Jaguars enter the season with a loaded roster. They weren’t getting by on smoke and mirrors on defense and risk-free play from their quarterback like they did with David Garrard in 2007. They also don’t have a dominant run game to lean on offensively and grind out games, at least not yet, but the Jaguars showed last year they can beat up on good teams and return essentially the same team.
The offseason has felt weird, mostly because it ended up starting nearly two months later than it usually does. There wasn’t much stress about the NFL Draft or free agency, because frankly it didn’t seem like it mattered too much. As mentioned the Jaguars roster is loaded and everyone of importance is returning. Not only that but the team upgraded on their offensive line and added even more talent to what carried them last season, their defense.
The unfamiliar expectations are more for the fans than the players though, to be clear. The players don’t operate in the same reality the fans do. They know they’re good. They’re confident. Their expectations have been and remain high, even during the “Dark Ages” of the Jaguars the players had expectations the fans didn’t because their world is different.
But for the first time in a decade for the majority of fans, the Jaguars enter training camp with expectations that they’ll be a division winner, a playoff team and a sneaky Super Bowl pick.
It’s a little surreal and exciting, mostly it feels like nothing. A confident nothing.