JACKSONVILLE – They're back in the building, enthusiastically so.
As Jaguars players this week gathered at TIAA Bank Field for the first time in three months, they did so with an enthusiasm and optimism – and with something else:
A focus on the future, not on peripheries or the past.
"The sky's the limit for us, but we have to get better every week and we have to focus on what's right in front of us," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said.
Lawrence spoke Wednesday during the team's first media availability of the offseason, with much of the Jaguars' roster participating in the team's 2023 voluntary offseason program that began Monday. Lawrence was among three players speaking to the media, with the others being newly acquired wide receiver Calvin Ridley and veteran linebacker Foye Oluokun.
The theme of the day was clear:
While a 2022 season that featured their first AFC South title in five seasons was great and memorable, that season is in the past – and the focus now on the future. A more successful future.
"I mean, I hope we do better than last year," Oluokun said when asked if the goal for the season was to "run it back."
And if the Jaguars enter 2023 with higher expectations, Lawrence said players can't focus there.
"You're doing something right when the expectations are raised for your team," he said. "Obviously, that's just a byproduct of the success we had last year. Last year didn't end the way we wanted it to. Obviously, it was a good year for our team, for this city, for this organization.
"But there's more out there and I think we've set a new standard of who we're going to be, the team we're going to be. We have to start that way this year. That's the mindset, I think.
"We don't really think about those expectations much."
The Jaguars in 2022 improved dramatically in the second half of the season, winning seven of nine games – including their last five during the regular season – after a 2-6 start. The result was their first AFC South title and first playoff appearance since 2017.
They also rallied from a 27-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers, 31-30, in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Divisional Playoff.
"We surprised some people then, but they're going to be ready for it," Oluokun said. "So, it's like we have to have that same standard, even to improve on it, to make a leap from last year."
The Jaguars returned much of their core from last season, concentrating on retaining their own players rather than pursuing multiple high-profile free agents as has been their norm in recent offseasons.
"We have the same guys, but we know we have steps to take," Oluokun said "I don't think we can have success with how we played last year. I think we have to be better than last year. I want to keep preaching that to the guys who are definitely a young, malleable team.
"We can be molded to any way we start going. So, we have to make sure we're going in the right direction. We can't just line it up how we were last year.
"We have to be better than that and we're going to have that attitude the whole offseason."
The Jaguars are currently in Phase 1 of the offseason program, with Phase 3 – the three-week period of 11-on-11 practices known as organized team activities, or "OTAs" – scheduled to begin May 23 with a three-day mandatory minicamp scheduled June 12-14.
"All we can do is just try to keep getting better," Lawrence said. "We know what we're capable of and we've added more talent. You can't talk about winning the Super Bowl right now. You have to look at getting better this week and just keep stacking those for four or five months and then when the season comes, that's how you put yourself in the best situation to just be your best every week and keep getting better."