JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes, truth is found in the familiar.
That's the lead to this View from the O-Zone as the Jaguars' Week 2 game versus the Miami Dolphins approaches because there's a particular concept Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley has talked about a lot during the last year. And it's a concept that's ringing particularly true these days.
Race to maturity …
If you've listened to Bradley for the last year – since shortly after the 2014 draft, really – you've heard it. He has said it when talking about Blake Bortles, about a young offensive line, about a young receiving corps …
He has said it about the whole offense. A lot. Countless times, really.
But it's taking on a critical feel now.
When he says it, he's acknowledging the Jaguars' offense since the beginning of last season has been young, perhaps historically so. There's nothing to be gained from a coach emphasizing youth over and over again, so Bradley instead emphasizes the need for these young players to mature as quickly as possible.
It's not easy, this race to maturity. Sometimes, as was the case in Week 1 against Carolina, it's hard and painful. And make no mistake:
This Jaguars offense is not yet mature. It's not yet experienced.
Many of the Jaguars' key offensive players have played 17 or fewer NFL games. They are not technically rookies, but neither are they grizzled with experience.
As backup quarterback Chad Henne noted this week, the difficulty of inexperience is an NFL reality – and Henne, an eighth-year NFL veteran, said the only way to become inexperienced is to play. And make mistakes. And learn from those experiences.
"It's going to be ups and downs and how quickly you can adapt from mistakes," Henne said. "It's how quickly you can adapt."
Henne is the most experienced quarterback on the Jaguars' roster. He is the second-most experienced offensive player. He has seen youth in the NFL. He knows time is the best tonic for what sometimes ails younger players. There are other ways. But there are limits to the effectiveness of those ways.
"It's all how many reps you can get out on the field, experience," Henne said, "but how you can accelerate experience is film-watching. Not only your opponent, but pick out a veteran from another team, watch him and see what he does versus different coverages or different things. Really, indulge yourself in that.
"Doing that will accelerate it a little bit, but it's still going out there and doing it."
But this View from the O-Zone is not ultimately about how young the Jaguars are or aren't offensively, and the success this season of the offense won't be about that, either. Not really. What will determine that success may be how quickly the offense can become experienced – or at least play like it.
And that very much is the need right now.
Think about the loss to Carolina Sunday. It was particularly painful not because the Jaguars weren't capable of playing well offensively, but because on that particular day they didn't. That's a key difference. One means it can't happen; the other means it can happen and you just have to figure out how.
There were two central themes offensively against Carolina. One was the first-half mistakes. The second, as Bradley put it, was the inability to respond to adversity in the second half.
Now, think of the plays made defensively in that game. Chris Clemons. Paul Posluszny. Dan Skuta. All showed up. All made big plays that mattered. Combined, that trio has 28 years NFL experience. That's a lot of football know-how. It's a lot of football confidence. It's a lot of experience that on Sunday translated into necessary plays.
The Jaguars' offense doesn't have that experience. Take tight end Marcedes Lewis' 10 years' from the equation and the offensive starters Sunday had a combined 31 years; six of 11 starters had started fewer than 16 NFL games. While it's difficult in football to point to specifics and say, "Yes, this is definitely why," it's reasonable that mistakes and not responding to adversity could be traced to inexperience.
The Jaguars are doing what they can to accelerate the race. Bradley and offensive coordinator Greg Olson each talked Wednesday about emphasizing situations in practice to help the team better prepare for adversity.
"I thought we did a pretty good job of it," Bradley said. "The hope is that tomorrow we do even better and then throughout the week can teach these lessons how to respond to it."
That's the hope, and that's the task. This is an offense no doubt with potential. We saw it in the preseason; players and coaches felt it in the preseason. Yes, it was "just" preseason, but there were real things there, too. Big catches. Correct reads. Confidence. Production.
Young or not, the Jaguars believe that is the offense.
Which means young or not, this offense needs to start playing experienced. The players know it, and now they must do it. Young or not, they must play like a mature team.
So yes, "race to maturity" has a familiar feel. It has been said a lot. And a week into the 2015 season it's increasingly clear the Jaguars must make significant gains in that race sooner rather than later.