JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the day after the Jaguars' season-ending loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday
1.Brighter than it seems.We begin this day-after takeaways looking ahead, and players on Monday agreed with Head Coach Gus Bradley that the outlook is better than it appeared in a one-sided, season-ending loss on Sunday. "It's going to be a bright season for us [next season]," Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "I can feel the energy of this team. No matter what the outside may see or whatever they may think, we know what's going to happen. When it comes, it's going to come fast." Colvin said without question a defense that allowed the second-most points in the NFL this season can improve in one offseason. "You just have to be able to do it," Colvin said. "We have to be more consistent. We can't have lapses. Any time you have a lapse you're going to pay for it." Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny also said there's no doubt the team can improve in 2015. "Especially when you look at what our offense is able to do," Posluszny said. "We have a really good quarterback who's only going to continue to get better. We have elite receivers. Defensively, we have to take care of our job and do our part, but there's no doubt in my mind we have the people in place and the proper leadership in Coach Bradley to take this organization to where it wants to go."
2.High ceiling.Sunday was far from the offensive line's best game of the season – in fact, it may have been the opposite. That was especially true for third-year left tackle Luke Joeckel, who after allowing two sacks in the first 16 games allowed an eye-popping five to Texans defensive ends J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. "It's hard, because you have a tendency to evaluate the last game and that's what you build your picture from," Bradley said of Joeckel, who played better overall this season than he had in his first full season at left tackle last season. The line as a whole allowed a season-high eight sacks Sunday, and allowed 53 for the season. Though that was down from 71 last season, it remained the third-highest total in the NFL. "Overall, the offensive line did a real good job," Bradley said Monday. "I think there are areas we need to be stronger. That's where I challenged our team in the offseason. Physically, we need to be a stronger team up front. … I think the ceiling is very high for them."
3.Gaining chemistry.Quarterback Blake Bortles and the receivers made major strides this season. The focus now is to keep striding. With that in mind, Bortles said he likely will remain in Jacksonville more this offseason to work with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Rashad Greene, Marqise Lee and others. Bortles spent two months in California last offseason working with quarterback guru Tom House on fundamentals, footwork and mechanics, but said Monday he won't spend "near as much time out there" this offseason. Hurns said Tuesday he will undergo sports hernia surgery next week in Philadelphia and expects to begin training in 6-to-8 weeks. Lee said while he will work toward his degree at Southern California for a second consecutive offseason, he plans to return to Jacksonville more to work with Bortles and the other receivers. "Last year I didn't come back at all – I just stayed in school," Lee said. "This year I'll be back and forth. I just wanted to do something different."
4.Hoping to stay.The Monday after the final regular-season game is a strange day on the NFL calendar, with players cleaning lockers and heading home for the offseason. While some will return and some will not, veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis made clear again Monday he hopes to be among the former. Lewis, the longest-tenured Jaguars player, has finished the five-year contract he signed in 2011, but indications are the team would like him to return. Lewis has said throughout the season he would like to return and reiterated that Monday. Lewis said while he often was homesick during his first four NFL seasons, he feels attached to Jacksonville and wants to retire with the team that selected him in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. "The people treat me well here, and I do a lot in the community here," Lewis said. "It would mean a lot to be here."
5.One for Henne. Count Bortles as one for Chad Henne remaining in Jacksonville. Henne, who originally signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent before the 2012 season, started 22 games for the team from 2012-2014, but did not take a snap as Bortles' backup this season. That was the first time in eight NFL seasons Henne did not appear in a game. Though Henne's contract with the Jaguars is up, Bortles said Henne has been a major influence and that he hopes the veteran remains with the organization. "He has become a really good friend," Bortles said. "He's really been good for me on the field and off the field. I've learned a ton from him as both a football player and as a man. I've cherished the relationship that we've had and the things we've done. That's obviously up to Gus and Dave and everybody, but I'd love to have him back for sure."