JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles already was looking ahead Monday.
In one sense for the Jaguars' starting quarterback, that means looking to the immediate future and what will undoubtedly be an important offseason.
But Bortles also looked to the distant future Monday – and a day after a season that was far more difficult than many expected, Bortles said he can foresee a time he and other members of the Jaguars' offense see the past four months as a positive.
"There's a lot of guys in tough situations but we all went through it and went through it together," Bortles said as Jaguars players cleaned out their lockers and said goodbyes at EverBank Field a day after a 24-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"I've said it before but I think that will make us stronger. I think that a couple years down the road from now, when things have turned around and are going a different direction … I think guys will have a different kind of desire because of the things they've been through this year and these past couple of seasons."
Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, began the season amid high expectations. The same was true of the entire Jaguars offense with Bortles having thrown for a franchise-record 35 touchdowns and 4,428 yards in 2015 and the offense ranking 18th in the NFL in total yards – the Jaguars' highest offensive ranking since 2010 (15th).
The Jaguars instead slipped to No. 23 in the NFL in total offense this season, with Bortles passing for 3,906 yards and 23 touchdowns. Wide receiver Allen Robinson went from 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 to 73 receptions for 883 yards and six touchdowns this season and wide receiver Allen Hurns missed the last five games of the season and finished with 35 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns after 64 for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015.
Robinson said while he remains confident in the team's future he anticipates a quieter offseason with less hype than last offseason.
"With last offseason being how it was, we've been down this road before," he said. "For us it's all about putting the work, coming back out and making it show through our play. At the end of the day, no matter what we believe … we believe a lot of things in this locker room, but all of that doesn't matter until we put it onto the field."
So less talk this offseason? Less buildup?
"For sure," Robinson said. "We've been down both roads before. I think last year we had a lot of expectations and we had a lot of hype for ourselves. We didn't live up to it. This year we've just got to come out and try to put it all on the field."
Hurns said the season that just ended "will be motivation for us when we come back."
"It's all business," Hurns said. "There's not going to be much talking – how it was last year. All the hype was here, but whether it's here or not we've just got to go to work. That's all there is to it."
While wide receiver Marqise Lee set career-highs with 63 receptions for 851 yards and three touchdowns, the Jaguars' offense overall struggled in key moments – particularly in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars lost 10 of their last 11 games, and only once during that span did they score a touchdown to tie or take the lead. That was on a 12-yard pass from Bortles to Hurns early in the fourth quarter of a 28-21 loss at Buffalo.
In addition to Head Coach Gus Bradley being dismissed following the team's Week 15 loss at Houston, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson after a Week 7 loss at Tennessee. Nathaniel Hackett served as offensive coordinator in the final nine games.
Bortles on Monday said without question the season was about adversity.
"I think what even magnifies is it's at the highest level," Bortles said. "This is going on at the highest level in the world, so I think it's difficult, it's hard."
Bortles, while struggling much of the season with accuracy and interceptions, improved in the final two games of the season. He finished the season with 16 interceptions, two fewer than his league-high total of 18 in 2015. He also threw for 625 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in the last two games after Doug Marrone took over as interim head coach. He completed 17 of his first 18 passes in a Week 16 victory over Tennessee that may have been his best game of the season.
"I think these past two weeks, I think there was some good stuff done," Bortles said. "Obviously the Tennessee game was good and I think yesterday there was some good stuff done offensively. ... Corey [Grant] ran for 100 yards. We threw for 300. I mean there was a lot of good stuff that happened, so I think there's definitely a positive to take."
Bortles as a first-round selection in 2014 has a year remaining on his rookie contract with the team having an option to pick up a fifth year – the 2018 season. The Jaguars must exercise that option in by early May. Bortles said he has received no indication if the Jaguars will do so.
"I honestly couldn't tell you if it's a good thing or a bad thing if it's picked up or not," Bortles said. "I don't know. I'll play football here in Jacksonville for as long as they want me to. Hopefully, I'm allowed to do that."