JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley kept the last day short on the field.
Off the field, the Jaguars' third-year head coach sent the team into the offseason with a message -- then he and Jaguars players signed autographs and talked with fans.
Such was the nature of the final day of the Jaguars' offseason, an offseason that began in late April and ended with Thursday's non-padded practice that signaled an end to the team's three-day 2015 mandatory minicamp.
Six weeks before his third training camp as head coach, Bradley said he feels this is an improved team from the past two seasons. The Jaguars went 4-12 and 3-13 the past two seasons while revamping the roster under Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell.
"You can feel it on the field," Bradley said Thursday morning after an hour-long practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, the Jaguars' longest-tenured starter, called the difference in the locker room and on the field noticeable.
"We all have a lot more confidence in ourselves and what we can do as a group," Posluszny said. "We're starting to eliminate doubt. We're doing things on the field. We're doing things well. We're doing things fast. It's showing up in film day after day. We know we have the ability to do things really well."
Thursday's work was the last of 12 on-field sessions over the last four weeks. The Jaguars held nine voluntary organized team activities practices in late May and June, then three minicamp practices this week.
Thursday's session was the only one of those 12 practices open to the public, with 1,205 fans attending the session that took place in 90-degree temperatures.
"This was great," Bradley said of the fans in attendance. "I didn't know how many were going to be here, especially with the weather. It's amazing, this group of fans we have. I told our players today, 'It's important to connect.'
"I want them to understand we're with each other on this journey. We're with them (the fans) and they're with us and it's great. The fans are awesome."
Bradley said he told players to "protect the team" and make good decisions while away, but when speaking to the media his focus was on the improvement of the team as it finishes the offseason. Bradley said defensive end Chris Clemons, who missed all of the voluntary offseason work leading to this week's mandatory practices, told him the difference during this minicamp was notable.
"He comes in and practices this minicamp and he says it feels completely different than it was last year," Bradley said. "It feels different. Hopefully these next six weeks we have a good offseason."
Bradley said a defense that is entering its third season under his system appears to be playing faster and with more confidence, and he said the offense is more talented than last season.
"You're seeing more talent, and there's greater competition in every position group on offense," Bradley said. "That's why we're seeing limited mental errors and that's a good sign going into training camp."
The 2015 offseason was the first for a Jaguars free-agent class that is expected to solidify several positions around the roster, with the team having signed tight end Julius Thomas, right tackle Jermey Parnell, defensive end Jared Odrick, linebacker Dan Skuta, cornerback Davon House and safety Sergio Brown.
All six of those players likely will start training camp working with the starters, and second-year players such as wide receiver Allen Robinson, linebacker Telvin Smith and guard Brandon Linder also have impressed coaches this offseason.
The Jaguars completed their final minicamp practice of 2015 in front of a large crowd at the Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields.
The main storyline of minicamp and the offseason – and the story that likely will dominate training camp – remained second-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who started 13 games as a rookie. Bortles' began working on his mechanics and fundamentals during the two months between the end of the 2014 season and the official beginning of the offseason program. He continued that focus during the OTAs and minicamp, with Bradley calling his progress "very good."
"It's still a work in progress," Bradley said. "His technique, his decision-making, his understanding the offense, his leadership … fabulous, fabulous. He'll get into training camp and he'll continue to grow, but we're very, very pleased with where he's at."
Also around the Jaguars Thursday:
*The Jaguars appear in position to be nearly fully healthy entering training camp, which is expected to begin July 30. All players except defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and safety James Sample are expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Marks is rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in last season's regular-season finale and Sample sustained a broken arm in OTAs. Marks is aiming to return for the regular-season opener and Sample could return midway through training camp. …
*Thursday's practice wasn't only brief, it was light, with defenders asked to shadow offensive players without making plays on the ball. "That's hard for them in a situation like this, but we really got a lot accomplished," Bradley said. "With doing that, we felt we got more reps, especially with Blake … This was a way we could really take advantage of this last day." Smith had an interception late in practice that "violated" the rule. "If it's thrown right at you it's pretty hard," Bradley said, laughing. …