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Making Strides


As Eben Britton sees it, the future is bright.

     But what Britton, the Jaguars&39; third-year right tackle, said is important to know about that is it&39;s not bright because of what he or his offensive linemates are planning for next season, or because of their lofty discussions on what the future holds.

     It&39;s bright, he said, because of what they will do to make it so.

     And really, he said that&39;s true of the entire organization.

     "We&39;re putting in the work," Britton told this week. "We have guys who are working as hard as we possibly can. We&39;ve got to just go do it."

     What Britton, a second-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, said the Jaguars must do is several fold, but mostly when he discussed the immediate and long-term future with this week, he spoke of wanting to continue what he felt the team did last season:

     That is, establishing itself as a contender.

     But Britton said as much as that, he and his teammates – along the offensive line and elsewhere – want to establish themselves as a certain kind of contender.

     One with an edge. One with an attitude.

     And one with a toughness that produces results.

     "We have to make up our minds that we&39;re not going to be a team people look at as a bye on the schedule," Britton said. "We want to be that team that when they play against us on Sunday, they&39;re going to be sore on Monday. Every Sunday, we&39;re going to be the team that&39;s nastier and harder-nosed than the guys across the line of scrimmage."

     Britton said he felt strides were made in that direction last season. He just wished he could have been a bigger part of the process.

     Britton, after starting 15 games on the right side as a rookie, started the first seven games of the 2010 season. He played through a variety of issues early, then a torn labrum ended his season following a 42-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

     "I tried to be as involved as I could be the last half of the year," Britton said. "Last off-season, we set the bar pretty high for ourselves. We got close, but we really didn&39;t establish ourselves the way we wanted to. We were battling a lot of things."

     The Jaguars won five of six games after Britton&39;s injury, moving into first place in the AFC South in December for the first time in the division&39;s nine seasons. They lost their last three games, and Britton – like the rest of Jaguars – said finishing strong is an issue going forward.

     But Briton said, too, that the Jaguars made progress in a key area during the season – that of establishing themselves as a team that can run effectively when needed.

     Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew made the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season this past season, and playing through a knee injury that eventually ended his season two games early he rushed for more than 100 yards in each game of the critical six-game October-December stretch.

     "As a group, we&39;re going to take it upon ourselves to establish the Jaguars as one of the best running teams in the NFL," Britton said. "I think we did that last year with some help from Mojo and as important is protecting the quarterback. We set pretty high standards for ourselves and we were able to do what we wanted to do.

     "I think there was definitely improvement, but we have to keep getting better and keep getting nasty and just get it into our minds that we&39;re going to be the kind of offensive line that goes in an dominates the line of scrimmage. That&39;s the main goal.

     "It&39;s really one of those things where you have to make up in your mind you&39;re going to do it."

     Britton said while his season was cut short he made strides in the time he did play.

     "My comfort level had definitely increased, so I felt like I had a better grasp of what defenses were going to do in certain situations," Britton said. "It&39;s disappointing that I didn&39;t get to finish the year, but I definitely feel I&39;m improving. My goal for myself is to always be improving. I have a lot of work to do on my game, I always want to strive to be better. I want to be great. I&39;m getting there. It&39;s a process and God willing, this will be a great year for me.

     "My goal is to establish myself as one of the best tackles in the game right now. If I don&39;t get the Pro Bowl recognition, I at least want to know that I&39;m playing at the same level as the guys making the Pro Bowl.

     "That&39;s my goal. I want to stand up there with the great ones. Hopefully, one day I can do that."

     Mostly when Britton spoke this week, he spoke not of individual goals, but of the team and specifically, the offensive line. He said a main reason for the line improving was the presence of a solid core on the interior, and said he believed veteran center Brad Meester&39;s return will be critical next season.

     And while he said there was disappointment in the last month of the season, overall the season had "a different feel to it.

     "We have a great group of guys," he said. "At some point, it&39;s going to break. If you keep chopping, at some point that tree&39;s going to come down. I want us to break through this barrier and get the ninth, 10th, 11thwin of the season. I want to get into the playoffs. I want to have a run and I want to be able to have the opportunity.

     "Obviously, it&39;s going to take a tremendous amount of hard work, but that&39;s where we want to go." 

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