ORLANDO, Fla. – The Big Question won't be a question at all.
That's how Malik Jackson sees the issue of motivation and the Jaguars' 2018 season – and indications at the Pro Bowl this week were that his teammates agree.
Jackson, the Jaguars' Pro Bowl defensive tackle, was asked at the Pro Bowl this week if he anticipated players struggling with desire and drive next season after coming close to the Super Bowl and losing heartbreaking fashion. Absolutely not, Jackson said.
"You saw how distraught guys were, and you saw how hard guys worked to get to where we thought we were going to go," Jackson said this week during the AFC practice at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. "Guys are sick and it's going to eat at us for a long time."
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone's message to the media and to the team Monday in the wake of Sunday's 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game was clear – that getting to title game this season will mean nothing next season.
"People will say, 'The culture has changed; now they have a foundation,''' Marrone said. "I have been a part of places where we have made mistakes and taken that for granted that you have that. You can't do that as a coach.
"You have to build that foundation from the bottom up. If there are a lot of people that have come back and everyone has bought in, that foundation will go a little quicker. The worst thing that can happen is we say we're going to go ahead and all of a sudden you find out that there is a crack somewhere in that foundation. The rest of the work doesn't matter."
Players grasped that, with Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey saying this week, "Every year is a new year, so we're going to have to take that as it comes."
Still, even while work must begin anew, Jackson said Sunday's outcome undeniably will help motivation and preparation, too.
Images of Jaguars players from the 2018 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
"I feel like coach should put it up around the building: Four points,'' Jackson said. "That's truly what we lost by and that's truly what our season came down to. I think guys are proud and I think it's going to be easier than last year because we have a product where new, young guys are going to understand we have a system and a hierarchy: You either fit in or you get out, so it should be easy."
Said Bouye, "We're hungry. We were so pissed. We're going to have to do that much more. I know I'm ready to train once this is over. I've got to relax for a little bit, but I'm ready to get back to it."
Also around the Pro Bowl this week:
*A highlight at Friday's AFC practice was the five Jaguars players attending the game – linebacker Telvin Smith, Ramsey, Jackson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and Bouye – mugging for jaguars.com cameras immediately afterward. Smith even managed to get Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito to say, "Duuuuvalll" for the cameras. …
*Smith and Bouye each was asked what Jaguars teammate not selected to the Pro Bowl this year he expected to be named next season. Smith quickly answered running back Leonard Fournette. "He's one of the best at what he does," Smith said. "I'm telling you: the guy's going to be a force to be reckoned with." Bouye named Fournette and also several defensive players such as linebacker Myles Jack, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson. "It's tough," he said. "We've got a lot of dogs. We're trying to get them all there." Bouye said he doesn't actually believe any Jaguars players will play in the Pro Bowl next season because they will be preparing to play in the Super Bowl. "At the end of the day we're not going to be here next year," he said. "That's my plan." …
*Ramsey on what Bouye's arrival as an unrestricted free agent from the Houston Texans meant to him this season: "A.J.'s helped me do a lot of things throughout this whole year, on the field and off the field. He really became my brother. I was glad we can push each other and we could accomplish the goals we wanted at the beginning of the season." Of the pushing-each-other part, "That's the real deal. I'm as competitive as can be, an alpha dog. A.J. is as competitive as can be as well. We're pushing each other like, 'I want to be the best. You want to be the best. Let's push each other.''' …
*Bouye on the biggest difference in Ramsey's reputation and reality: "Some people talk about his attitude and his trash talking, but at the end of the day he just wants to win. He loves his teammates. He's a good person. Everybody loves him here. Our teammates love him. He just wants to be the best player he can be." …