The Jaguars go from Being the Hunter to the Hunted


The one thing the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t be able to do in 2018 is sneaking up on anyone this coming season. After being the hunter is winning a surprising 10 games and capturing the AFC South crown last season, head coach Doug Marrone and his team are the hunted.

At times, it is easier to chase the title than it is to maintain the title of being the best. The Jaguars just fell short last season of stepping over the New England Patriots to claim a spot in the Super Bowl. Now, with a full season under his belt as the team’s leader, Marrone has a different set of responsibilities added to his job description – he must keep this roster from dealing with complacency and must find a way to push the 90 players in camp harder than he did this time last year.

If anyone is up to the task, its Marrone, who has preached starting over and staying focus since the team OTAs over a month ago.

He also wants to find the best 53 players to play on Sundays, regardless if it means releasing a veteran to make that happen. for everything Marrone has been since taking over for Gus Bradley with two games remaining in the 2016 season, shortsighted is not one of them.

“I want to find out who the best personnel are. I think that you want to give everyone an opportunity to either prove that they should be there or, ‘Hey what is the best personnel?’ At the end of the day, you are going to try to get the best players on the field that you can feel that you can win games with,” he told the media during minicamp.

“I think when you mix it up and have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, we are still trying to see. We are trying to see who is going to rise up, who is going to take the lead, what schematically is going to work for us, and we will plug in our best players at those positions.”

Marrone still doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the job he and his coaching staff have done over the last 12 months. Some of that might be because there are still pundits who believe this is a team that has a dynamic defense and a sputtering offense. There are those who also think the Jaguars are a one-year wonder – a team that took advantage of a division with an injury-decimated Houston Texans and an Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts.

There are things that cannot be denied. Jacksonville lost its last two games of the regular season, limped into the playoffs, righted their ship and won two playoff games before bowing out in New England. By all accounts, this is a better team than last season. Better depth, more speed, more youth. Most importantly, the coaching staff remains intact and 10 of 11 starters return on defense.

The other three teams in the AFC South appear to have gotten better this offseason with players returning from injury, strategic free agent moves and solid draft picks. What was once thought to be one of the worst divisions in the NFL may now be one of the best.

Marrone is the line leader bringing his players to the show.

The company line has been Marrone and the staff cannot tell enough about this team until the pads go on and players are able to function as football players. The offensive and defensive lines haven’t been able to really get it going, walking around in “pajamas” as Marrone has said repeatedly. In a little over a month, that’s all about to change.

The Jaguars won 10 games last season with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL in 2017. Winning the division means tougher opponents this time around. Marrone and his staff believe this team is up to the challenge. We all must wait to see if that is the case.

From what has been said and what has been seen, it appears this is still the team to beat in the AFC South. It all starts again in late July. Under blanketing heat in North Florida, Marrone will finally see what he has on the field. He should stay the course as he did last season. But he also must guard against a falloff from the playoffs.

That shouldn’t be hard to do. There is work still to be done. Marrone and his coaches have preached it. The players know they didn’t accomplish everything they set out to do in 2017. That’s motivation enough for this season to be special. Some might even say “Super”.