JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's 10 things the Jaguars must do during 2018 Training Camp, which begins Thursday at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex …
1.Start over. This is about mindset – and as was the case throughout the offseason, it will be an emphasis for Head Coach Doug Marrone. The Jaguars built their 2017 AFC South title and subsequent run to the AFC Championship Game with a training camp that established this as a physically and mentally tough team. Look for Marrone to talk often early about doing the work this year necessary to earn the right to win this year – and look for him to emphasize that last year is long since over. That might seem like Coach Speak. Heck, it is Coach Speak. But it's also what this team's about.
2.Keep the arrow up. Quarterback Blake Bortles never has been better in the NFL than he was in the last half of last season and the postseason. He never has had a better offseason than the one he had the last few months. Can he build on that momentum? The answer will help define the season.
3.Set the rotation. There seems little doubt Donte Moncrief, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark will be the top five receivers. Who will start? Will Cole continue to emerge? Can Chark – the team's second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft – adapt to the NFL quickly enough to play a key role as a rookie. Those are among the critical questions at an uncertain position.
4.Establish the offensive line. The likely starting offensive line: Cam Robinson at left tackle, Andrew Norwell at left guard, Brandon Linder at center, A.J. Cann at right guard and Jermey Parnell at right tackle. But Norwell, Linder and Robinson are expected to make the left side of the line not just a good area but a great one. And the line needs to be more consistently dominant this season than last. Focus will be intense here in the coming weeks.
5.Find the right guard. Cann, a fourth-year veteran, has started his first three NFL seasons and is the likely starter. But he missed the on-field portion of the offseason program with an injury – and if there's an offensive line position with an uncertain starter, then right guard is it. Look for Cann to win it with some competition from James Walker, Chris Reed and/or Tyler Shatley.
6.Find their punt returner. This may be Jaguars training camp's most-competitive position, with multiple receivers having a real chance to play this role come the regular season. Jaydon Mickens, Westbrook, Rashad Greene Sr., Chark … all could get a chance here. Mickens returned two punts for touchdowns last season, and Greene flashed in the role as a rookie in 2015 before struggling the following season. How this position shakes out likely will help determine how many receivers made the final roster. There's a lot to watch here and real traction probably won't develop until the preseason games begin.
7.Find their strong-side linebacker. Second-year linebacker Blair Brown appears to be the first on the depth chart here. Don't count out rookie seventh-round draft selection Leon Jacobs. There's a lot to determine here as Myles Jack moves permanently from strong side into the middle to take over full-time there for the retired Paul Posluszny.
8.Keep growing up. Much of the optimism around this team focuses on young players with big-time potential. Running back Leonard Fournette. Cole. Jack. Westbrook. All showed signs of developing into big-time contributors and perhaps starts last season. All are entering big seasons this season. If a couple of those players become stars, the Jaguars become even tougher to beat.
9.Stay healthy. This above all else. The Jaguars probably can't expect their remarkable health on defense from last season to repeat, with linebacker Telvin Smith the only starter to miss time in the regular season. Still, health is key in the NFL – and the teams standing at the end of the postseason typically have evaded a slew of disastrous injuries.
10.Just get started already. The offseason is over. This team is talented enough to go along way and have a lot of success. Now, it's time to prove it.