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Quick Thoughts: Huge opportunity, new direction

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson (74) performs a drill during an NFL football workout, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson (74) performs a drill during an NFL football workout, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton with three quick thoughts as the Jaguars approach Sunday's 2020 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field …

Oehser …

1.It's on the O-Line. The group spent the offseason as a focal point for Jaguars observers. But as the 2020 regular season approaches, the offensive line now is far more: a major key to the season – and perhaps the best hope for a successful season. While many observers believed changes were necessary this offseason, the team brought back the entire starting group: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. The group averages more than five years NFL experience with three players – Cann, Linder and Norwell – in at least their sixth season. That's a heavy dose of experienced on a roster this young. If the line is as good as Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell believe – and if Robinson makes the jump the team expects in his second season removed from a torn anterior cruciate ligament – this team can be more competitive than many believe possible. If observers are correct and the group struggles, then this young offense – and team – probably will struggle correspondingly.

2.It's a huge opportunity … for Josh Jones. While trading safety Ronnie Harrison to Cleveland Browns last week surprised many, it wasn't surprising to those who watched Jones closely. Jones, originally selected by Green Bay in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, spent the 2019 season with Dallas before the Jaguars claimed him off waivers on December 31. Marrone on Monday said Jones impressed immediately in terms of how he wanted to prepare for the 2020 season, speculating that the veteran wanted to take advantage of what might be a final NFL opportunity. "Josh just stood out, right off the bat," Marrone said. "He came back with knowledge and enthusiasm – being in the right position and making plays from the first day he walked in the building. I didn't want to mess up the depth chart too much early on, but I was like, 'We've got to see more.''' Whatever his motivation, Jones' athleticism and size (6-feet-2, 220 pounds) helped him beat out Harrison and rookie Daniel Thomas for the job, making Harrison a trade possibility. "He has all the things you're looking for, so we expect him to play at a high level like he's been practicing," Marrone said of Jones.

3.It's up to the Jaguars. You think you're tired of hearing about the Jaguars "tanking" and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence? Consider how tired players and coaches must be regarding the issue. Here's the cool thing: The Jaguars can silence all that talk – and quarterback Gardner Minshew II can silence the Lawrence talk – by winning. Players have no incentive to lose. Coaches have no incentive to lose. Marrone, Caldwell and Minshew all have said with no uncertainty in recent weeks that this is not a rebuilding situation and that they believe they must win in 2020 to be around the Jaguars next season. The time for all that talk is over. If the Jaguars perform well and win in the coming weeks and months, the talk of tank will end. If not …

Sexton …

1.I like the direction the Jaguars are headed. "That's crazy!" "You're a shill!" "No one cares what you think!" Just getting the usual social media responses on the table; I get it. In a season in which key veterans were sent packing and this team appears headed for the bottom of the standings – and the top of the 2020 NFL Draft – what is there to like? Well, there are five premium positions in the NFL; if you want to win, you better have great players in all five of them. The Jags have a left tackle in Robinson, who I believe will show how good he can be in 2020. They have an emerging star in wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. to stretch the defense. Defensive end Josh Allen is going to be an All-Pro pass rusher. Rookie CJ Henderson has the look of a shutdown cornerback in the making. That's four premium players in four of the five premium positions. All they need is the quarterback. That's why I like where they're headed.

2.I am excited to watch Minshew this fall. I hope he is as good as so many people want him to be. He's highly likeable, very marketable and seems to fit north Florida. But hope isn't a strategy; I don't see an NFL arm and haven't seen a guy who is as good in the pocket as he is on the move. I think he is a guy who will always maximize his talent and ability, but I don't think his ceiling is high enough to be a franchise quarterback. I'm hardly alone in my assessment, which is many national observers have the Jaguars at the bottom of their power polls – and why Minshew gets to keep that chip on his shoulder where he likes it. If I am wrong, and as my critics will point out I was about Blaine Gabbert, then this could be a fun season. I'm certainly not rooting against him.

3.A young team on the rise is what we're looking for when this season ends. Nothing is more exciting for a franchise than to know it's headed in the right direction. It energizes a city and a fan base, and that's where this team should be when this season ends. The Jaguars are liable to stumble early because of the 16 rookies with no preseason. I think their young talent will start to shine as the season develops and have national observers writing that they're a team to watch in 2021. Marrone and Caldwell don't want to talk about that, but both men have enough history in the NFL to know how important that will be for the Jaguars' future.

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