The last time a big season was expected from the Jacksonville Jaguars, things did not go as planned.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are in an unfamiliar position for 2018. The team is entering the season with as lofty of expectations as any team in the league, having been singled out by many as a squad that can take that next step forward and dethrone the New England Patriots in the AFC.
Why it’s unfamiliar territory for Jacksonville is because after years of futility, no expectations of the positive variety have placed on the team for many seasons. In fact, the last time the Jaguars began a campaign with as much hype was exactly a decade ago in 2008.
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After an 11-5 year in 2007, and a playoff run that included the second win of the season in Pittsburgh and going toe-to-toe with the eventual conference champion Patriots in what was ultimately a bitter defeat, Jacksonville was pinned as the team with the perfect blueprint to take out New England the following season.
That is eerily similar to how the Jaguars are starting 2018. A playoff berth, two wins against the Steelers, a painful loss to the Patriots, and now the belief that this year’s edition has what it takes to go even further.
But right there is exactly where those comparisons must die for the sake of Jacksonville’s success.
2008 ended as one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, a crashing thud in the form of a 5-11 disaster, aided by the injury bug. Mission to conquer the expectations: a miserable failure.
But worry not, Jaguars fans. While there are similarities, crucial differences in 2018’s team versus the ’08 squad will make a letdown remotely close to 5-11 a nearly impossible task.
The first difference is obvious. While the defense a decade ago was a solid unit, it clearly does not compare to the nightmarish group in place for this season. Guys like Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, and Calais Campbell will have a big say in not allowing a letdown creep in, with both on-field performance and vocal leadership.
On the opposite side of the ball, there are also numerous bright spots. The philosophy on offense in 2018 will be a mirror image of 2008, with a run-first mentality.
While I certainly will not compare the current running back stable of Leonard Fournette, T.J Yeldon, and Corey Grant to the historic duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, the offense overall is set up to run the ball more efficiently in the upcoming season.
Even after leading the league in rushing in 2017, Jacksonville’s offensive line got exponentially better this offseason with the addition of guard Andrew Norwell. Having Norwell plugged in between left tackle Cam Robinson and center Brandon Linder is going to pay major dividends in the run game.
Through the air, while the current receiving corps is labeled a group with a lot to prove, there is much more potential for explosiveness than a ’08 passing game that was led in receptions by Matt Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew.
And behind center, while Blake Bortles takes the brunt of a majorly unnecessary amount of critique, Bortles has all the tools to effectively lead the offense to a higher level of production overall.
Finally, the man who brought initial success to Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin, is notably involved again with the organization, and Doug Marrone has already shown what he can do with this team after just one season as head coach.
Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars are taking on 2018 with the pressure of extreme hype. But this team is built to compete at a high level, and has the leadership all-around to extinguish any thoughts of a set back.