Excuse the Jacksonville Jaguars if they seem a bit confident in defending their AFC South title this season.
The franchise that made a habit of missing the playoffs for 10 seasons, flipped the switch last season with Doug Marrone at the helm. The result was the Jacksonville Jaguars making believers out of the most critical NFL fans and media members. Now, with the division crown in hand and a trip to the AFC Title game, players who were here last year want more.
There is plenty of unfinished business to be done in North Florida. The great thing about talking about the 2018 season with this group of men is none of them lack confidence in their ability. Each one sings the praises of the others. Despite the way Marrone, who is in his second full season as head coach, downplays this coming season and its potential, there will be 53 men who say otherwise.
Right now, it is great to be a Jacksonville Jaguar.
"“I think we’re the best team in the league,” linebacker Telvin Smith said last week at his press conference with the local media. “I am not knocking anyone. There are some talented teams out there. If I don’t lock in right now and believe wholeheartedly that my team will be the last team standing, then I don’t think you really are ready for that fight that is about to come.”"
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Smith was drafted in the fifth round in 2014. The years were lean before 2017. While he and other stars in the making continued to improve their own game, the idea of unity was lost on this franchise. That all changed when Marrone was named the head coach of this team and Tom Coughlin came back as Executive Vice-President of Football Operations.
Now, the NFL fans and the national media know about this team. There is no sneaking up of teams this season. There is no underdog story to be written.
Calais Campbell stood at the podium on Friday and told us there is still plenty of work to be done. The first few days of training camp have been about getting reset and focusing on getting back to where this team was in January and beyond.
"“I think we got better [than last season]. Guys have come in focused and ready and mentally sharp. There wasn’t a lot of mistakes at all, which was nice to have, especially on the first day. I mean, there were still mistakes, obviously, a lot to clean up, but as far as compared to last year when there was a whole lot more mistakes,” Campbell said.“Everybody is a lot more comfortable, the system is a whole lot better, especially myself. I’m a whole lot more comfortable then I was last year at this time. It’s a good feeling to have.”"
There is a chance this team will be really good, maybe even better than last year. Training camp and the preseason will determine how good it is. As long as the team stays focused while still maintaining a swagger.
Being confident for this franchise is not a bad thing. Being confident and not backing it up could be detrimental. These Jaguars know where they have been. Now, they must determine if they can keep the swagger, get to the playoffs and move one step further than they were last season.