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Bortles on '18: "The bar has been raised"


JACKSONVILLE – It's different now, and Blake Bortles knows it.

The Jaguars' quarterback talked about multiple topics in his first media availability of the 2018 offseason Tuesday, but perhaps most notable was what he said about expectations:

They're different now, higher.

That was inevitable following the Jaguars' most successful season in nearly two decades, and Bortles on Tuesday sounded very much like a player ready to embrace inevitability.

"The bar has been raised; the expectations are different," Bortles said Tuesday on Day 2 of the Jaguars' 2018 voluntary offseason program.

The Jaguars in 2017 not only won their first AFC South title, they advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1999.

The results came in Doug Marrone's first season as head coach, and in former Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin's first season as the franchise's executive vice president of football operations. Bortles said expectations were high entering last season because the two demanded it.

He also said the success of last season makes this season's expectations more realistic.

"The expectations had changed [entering last season], but it was kind of like, 'We still just won three games [in 2016], how good can we possibly be?''' Bortles said. "To be able to go through the season we went through last year, the [training] camp we went through and see everything that happened…

"I think guys are coming back this year with a totally different attitude and a hunger to reach that final game and go win it."

Bortles, entering his fifth NFL season, had perhaps his best NFL season in 2017. He improved during the second half of the season, and did not commit a turnover in three postseason games.

"For the first time since I've been here there was proof that what we had done worked," Bortles said of a season that ended with a 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. "There was hard, concrete evidence. We obviously didn't get where we wanted to go or finish what we wanted to, but there was some proof that the process and plan that we went through last year benefitted us and worked pretty well."

While the focus is on the future, Bortles said reminders of how close the Jaguars were to the Super Bowl last season remain difficult at times.

"We were just in a quarterback meeting and [offensive coordinator] Nathaniel [Hackett] put up a thing that the goal here is we want to get to the Super Bowl,'' Bortles said. "The first thing he puts up is the scoreboard and there are five minutes left in the fourth quarter and we're up three [against New England in the AFC Championship Game] with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.  

"You're like, 'That sucks. I can't believe we blew that.' That will always be in the back of our minds, that we feel like we missed that opportunity to go play in a Super Bowl, but I think it gives us that much more motivation to get there again and go win it."

The Jaguars in February signed Bortles to a three-year contract extension through 2020. Bortles said his view of the contract was that "it was more so cool for me to be able to come back and play for a couple of more years, that I'm going to be the quarterback in Jacksonville or at least get an opportunity Day One to be the starter."

"That's what I was excited for," Bortles said.

Bortles before signing the extension underwent surgery to address a wrist issue that caused him to be listed on the injury report every week last regular season and postseason. He took six weeks off throwing after the season, then spent much of late March and early April in California working with his personal throwing coaches, Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.

"I went out there to fine-tune some things," Bortles said. "It felt different than last offseason, where it was kind of a mechanical overhaul of trying to tighten things up and fix all of that. For the most part it was, 'Let's figure out some little tweaks and things,' but it was more getting back in the rhythm of throwing the ball."

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