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Open Locker Room: Good news, expected news


JACKSONVILLE – Expected news can still be good news.

That was the reaction among Jaguars players Wednesday, a day after Jaguars Owner Shad Khan made it official that Head Coach Gus Bradley will return for a fourth season in 2016.

Were players surprised by Khan's announcement? Absolutely not.

Was the announcement well-received? Absolutely.

"It wasn't really news to me," defensive end Jared Odrick said Wednesday as the Jaguars (5-10) began preparations for the 2015 regular-season finale against the Houston Texans (8-7) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

"That was something I was kind of expecting and hoping for. So, yeah … let's keep it going. Let's not celebrate it. Let's keep it going."

The Jaguars are 12-35 in Bradley's three seasons as head coach and have lost the last two games to slip from the AFC South playoff chase. But after finishing 4-12 and 3-13 with many one-sided losses in 2013 and 2014, the team has led or been within a score in the fourth quarter in 13 of 15 games this season.

The Jaguars also have improved offensively this season, ranking 16th in the NFL in total offense after ranking 31st in the area last season.

They have made that improvement with a slew of young players, with quarterback Blake Bortles throwing for 35 touchdowns and 16 interceptions after throwing 11 and 17, respectively, as a rookie. Second-year wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both have more than 1,000 yards receiving with double-digit touchdowns, and Hurns said Wednesday Bradley's approach has been key to the development of those young players.

"People don't realize how much he means to this team, especially being a young team," Hurns said. "That positive approach week in and week out – like I said, especially with us being a young team. Coming in, you think about a lot. … His approach eliminates a lot of that stress. That's helped us a lot."

Hurns last season led the Jaguars with six touchdown receptions, but also struggled with dropped passes. He said Wednesday Bradley's approach during that time was critical.

"He helped a lot as far as just keeping that faith for us, never giving up for us and telling us that things are going to turn around – to just keep doing good and good is going to come," Hurns said. "I had a couple of drops, and he came up and talked to me and told me to quickly recover, and act like it never happened.

"That meant a lot to me, to see a head coach wanting to back you up and still have that trust in you as a player. That really stood out to me and I think he does that for a lot of the players."

Defensive tackle Roy Miller who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in Bradley's first offseason with the team, 2013. He said while he wasn't surprised at news of Bradley's return, "it's very important that he comes back."

"Everything he means to the team – he's pretty much the glue to everything that we want to be," Miller said.

The Jaguars upon the hiring of Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell began rebuilding the roster, focusing mostly on the draft and not emphasizing free agency until this past offseason.

"I think he's handled this situation as well as he could throughout the whole process," said Miller, a seven-year NFL veteran. "He's stayed positive, and that's what this young team needs. I appreciate him being back next year.

"Every week we go out there and feel like we have a chance. We feel like we're at the top of our game. I don't think he's ever once lost the locker room. We always felt like we had a chance and I think we played like that with the exception of two games.

"I think he's done a great job here and I'm excited for next year."

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