Expectations For Bortles, Jaguars Are Higher In 2018

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 07: Blake Bortles /

There is a sign on the wall opposite the Jacksonville Jaguars locker room that reads “Win the Division.” it was the first step in the process for this team heading into the 2017 season. Now, the expectations are a bit bigger and the pressure to achieve more in 2018 might be greater.

Quarterback Blake Bortles knows all about those expectations. As the team’s signal caller armed with a new contract ( three years, $54 million) and new teammates to build chemistry with, can the 26-year-old fifth-year player meet his own expectations and the ones of the organization?

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Jacksonville shocked the NFL world last season by reaching the AFC Championship game and almost taking down the juggernaut New England Patriots. Anything less than a return to the doorstep of the Super Bowl could be perceived as a disappointment. These Jaguars were busy in free agency, filling needs on the offensive line and at tight end and wide receiver. Now, Bortles and the other 52 players on the roster must take their best step forward.

“From what we did last year, the expectations have changed a little bit,” Bortles said last Monday at the Blake Bortles Foundation Charity Golf Tournament, via Jaguars.com. “Within the locker room, they (expectations) were definitely different last year and I think they’re only going to continue to change and grow and get higher.”

It’s something players talked about openly during interviews all during OTAs and training camp. Whether it was Abry Jones who told me he and the rest of the defense want to be known as the best in the league, period or Corey Grant who said he is excited about this upcoming season and the chance to earn more time on the field. These Jaguars are just as hungry as they were prior to training camp last season – if not more.

The Jaguars aren’t the only ones hungry to make a statement in 2018. The three other teams that make up the AFC South have improved since last season. Each could make a case for a playoff berth if the dominoes all fall in place. This could be the toughest division in the NFL, with the Jaguars the ones with the bullseye on their collective chests.

It’s something Bortles welcomes and knows how special this season can be.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a good challenge and it will be a good year,” he said.

When I walked through the locker room during minicamp, the general consensus among players who were here last year was this is a team ready to prove they are close to realizing a Super Bowl title. Even Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who signed as a free agent this offseason, told me something great is happening with this team and he is excited to be a part of it.

Those kinds of expectations will be the mantra of this organization.

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If the Jaguars get even the slightest improvement from Bortles over last season, Jacksonville could be the most dangerous team in the AFC. That bodes well for taking care of unfinished business as if it’s an underlying theme.

Bortles is excited about what’s to come. The coaching staff is excited about what they have seen so far in camp. Now, it’s time to get excited about training camp that begins in less than four weeks.

These are the kinds of expectations that make good teams great teams. The Jaguars expect to be a great team in 2018.