With veterans reporting to training camp, the Jacksonville Jaguars are getting ready for their most important season of the Doug Marrone era.
And here we go. The return of veterans to the confines of TIAA Bank Field had more of a somber feel this season as the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming back to work under the COVID-19 cloud that still hangs over the franchise and the rest of the NFL.
The roster is different this season. No Calais Campbell. He’s in Baltimore. No A.J. Bouye. He calls Denver his home now. Nick Foles was supposed to bring this team a playoff berth last season. Both he and former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo are now in Chicago.
It’s Gardner Minshew’s team now and there are plenty of new faces to get behind and support the second-year quarterback. Nothing seems to be the same this year here in Jacksonville and for the Jaguars, that’s just fine.
This is a team in another transition – from being expected to do more with veteran leadership last season, to wiping the chalkboard clean and trying again. It’s a season of stress for head coach Doug Marrone and his coaching staff, as well as front office leader, general manager David Caldwell. Both must show progress in 2020 to have a shot at doing this all over again in 2021.
Right now, the challenge has been accepted.
The hardest thing Marrone and the team faces is building a new culture and chemistry with no preseason games and a limited roster. Which rookies stand out? Which veterans are in danger of losing their jobs? Will there be more additions when players are cut from other teams?
And more important than anything else, will this team stay healthy enough with the threat of the Coronavirus to make it through camp and be ready for the season opener against Indianapolis?
It’s a tough road ahead for all 32 NFL teams, but the Jaguars are already at a disadvantage because no one is giving them a chance in 2020.
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In this abbreviated time on the practice field, players will have to show why they deserve a roster spot. The practice sessions are different. The feel should be too. Football isn’t what it was just a season ago. It might not be the same again. It starts with workouts and walk-throughs. It ends in pads and full-contact drills.
There won’t be fans in the stands. The media won’t be walking together in a scrum. This is by far one of the oddest and most unconventional seasons for these Jacksonville Jaguars. It might be something that allows them to overcome great odds to prove everyone wrong.
Fans should not expect everything to fall into place this season. But they should expect this team to be better than many give them credit for. This is the type of season that could galvanize this organization. It might just save a few jobs as well.
It might just be one of the nest stories told in the history of this franchise.