After watching 13 practices with as much anticipation as a kid at Christmas, I cannot wait for the Jacksonville Jaguars to get back on the field for training camp.
The wait is now four weeks – which seems like an eternity. I am sure the players feel the same way as starting and stopping the beginning of the 2018 offseason is like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.
What the coaching staff has seen out of the Jaguars’ offense so far has been positive. Without playing in pads or having direct contact with the defense, the unit appears to be ahead of schedule, which means there is more attention to refining what has been learned and making sure the newcomers to this franchise continue to progress at the same level as everyone else.
If the Jaguars are to continue to get better on offense, these three things must happen in 2018.
The Progress of Blake Bortles
The sacks and interceptions were down in 2017. The progress of Bortles in this offense was better.
Bortles told the media he knows he can get better and feels he has a better command of this offense. This is year two, but this is his fifth year in the league. He and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett continue to talk about his progression. Now, in his fifth year in the NFL, will Bortles finally erase the continued criticism from the national media and prove he can be a franchise signal caller?
If Bortles gets to 3,600 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, it will be a borderline Pro Bowl season for BB5.
It’s possible, as he takes more command of this team.
Better Run Blocking
This is where looks are deceiving.
Despite the fact the Jaguars let the NFL was 141.4 yards per game on the ground, they were better in the first half of the season and they were in the second half.
Jacksonville average 51.3 yards fewer yards on the ground over the final six weeks of the regular season. That is the main reason why they signed left guard Andrew Norwell in free agency. Norwell, a Pro Bowl and All-Pro player last year, moves in next to Cam Robinson, the second-year left tackle.
Leonard Fournette had the Jaguars second 1,000-yard rookie season in team history but slowed down considerably over the last seven weeks of the regular season. Fournette, who came to minicamp in better shape than he was his rookie season, figures to get more carries and a bigger percentage of the load of this offense.
Having a strong line in front of him that will improve the running game and to a greater extent will make Bortles’ job easier.
A Greater Role for Tight Ends
Marcedes Lewis led the Jaguars with 24 catches for 318 yards and five touchdowns last year from the tight end position.
With the addition of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in free agency, the tight end position may become a bigger component of this offense.
Seferian-Jenkins looks the part so far and has shown early chemistry with Bortles. It could be a combination worth watching this season.
With new wide receivers in the fold and stronger tight end play, there are more options and weapons in this passing attack. People forget that the Jaguars finished fifth in the NFL in scoring last year. While so much has been made about how good the defense was, the offense wasn’t terrible and figures to be better this year.
Seferian-Jenkins Is a big, fast, and imposing target on third down and over the middle on short yardage plays. He will also be a huge red zone target this season.