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The Day After II: Raised expectations, uncertain futures


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JACKSONVILLE – No sooner did one season end than thoughts of the next begin.

When Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith thinks of next season, he does so expecting big things. Really big things.

And he doesn't mind if others expect those things, too.

"You can't help but be excited," Smith said Monday, a day after the Jaguars' 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans in the 2014 regular-season finale. "When you're part of this organization and you know you're going where we're going, when you know you're on the rise …

"If you're not excited, get out of the locker room."

Such was the tone of the Jaguars' locker room Monday.

As players cleaned out their lockers, meeting with coaches and as a team for the final time this season, there was a knowledge that improvement must happen next season. The Jaguars went 4-12 last season and 3-13 this season – the first and second seasons under Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell.

Expectations inside and outside the organization will be higher next season, and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said that's as it should be.

"I think everybody's ready for the expectations," Marks said. "I hope they're high. Last year we won four games. This year we won three. Expectations should be higher. I think we can get better and I think we will."

Several players with injury issues also spoke to the media Monday, including middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, running back Toby Gerhart, defensive tackle Roy Miller, running back Denard Robinson and wide receiver Allen Robinson.

Posluszny, who spent the last nine games of the season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, said he is two weeks from being able to train normally and begin strengthening the injured area. Gerhart, who played through foot and ankle injuries much of the season, played through a rib injury in the regular-season finale and sustained an ankle injury in that game.

"I'm just glad this year's over and I can put 2014 behind me," Gerhart said. "Every week it was something. It was a frustrating year."

Miller said he will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday, but that he expects to be ready for next season. Miller said he still doesn't know if the procedure will be one with a brief recovery period or one of multiple months. At issue is whether to remove his meniscus or have it repaired.

"We have to take a look at it, then I'll have to wake up and ask him (the doctor)," Miller said. "Then, we'll have to roll with whatever he says."

Denard Robinson, out the last three games of the season with a foot sprain, said he hopes to be ready for the team's offseason program in mid-April.

"God willing, I'll be there and ready to go," Denard Robinson said.

Allen Robinson, out the final six games of the season with a stress fracture in his right foot, was still in a protective boot and using a scooter Monday. He said he expects to be out of the boot next week, and to be able to run in February. He also said he expects to be cleared at the beginning of March and to be ready to participate in the offseason program.

Also around the Jaguars Monday, several players addressed their futures, including:

*Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III.The fourth-year veteran wide receiver is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year. He has caught more than 50 passes each of the last three seasons, but the Jaguars also like the progress made by rookie wide receivers Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns this season. Shorts said Monday he doesn't believe he has played his final game with the Jaguars. "I want to be here, and maybe that's why – because I want to be here," he said. Shorts said he planned to speak with his representatives Monday. "I'm not sure right now how it's going to work out," he said. …

*Defensive end Tyson Alualu. The No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, Alualu originally signed a six-year contract, but the sixth year – 2015 – was a voidable year under the old collective bargaining agreement. That means he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. He has never missed a game in five NFL seasons, and had perhaps his best season this season as a reserve behind Red Bryant at five-technique defensive end. "I definitely want to be here, but this will be a business decision," Alualu said. "I'm focusing on what I can control. I'm excited about the future. It's just wait and see what happens." …

*Cornerback Alan Ball.Ball started 22 games the past two seasons after signing as a free agent in the 2013 offseason. The seven-year veteran underwent season-ending biceps surgery in November after starting seven games, and is scheduled to become a free agent. "I'll let things take care of themselves," Ball said. "I've done my part. I know what I've done the last two years. I'd love to be back. I think everybody knows the environment around here is good. At the end of the day, everybody knows it's a business." …

*Linebacker Geno Hayes.Hayes started 25 games the past two seasons, and moved from the weak side to the Otto position for the last six games of the season after the release of veteran Otto linebacker Dekoda Watson. The seventh-year veteran is scheduled to become a free agent. "I don't worry about that," Hayes said. "They do what they want to do. At the end of the day, there's no point stressing myself out thinking about it." …

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