JACKSONVILLE – Thank you.
Thank you for reading, for watching, for caring, for laughing – even for crying.
It's Thanksgiving – and in that vein, thank you for continuing to feel passion and for continuing to frequent this website in what unquestionably has been a difficult season.
Yeah, that's right—
It's Thanksgiving Day – Thanksgiving morning for some of you, afternoon for others and night for a sad, twisted few. So, as we celebrate days upon days of closed doors/dark offices, we'll uphold another Holiday Tradition/Cliché:
The annual We're-Thankful-For-Stuff-Because-It's-A-Federal-Holiday column – or, as it will be known in this space, A Way of Providing Content on a Day With No Media Access.
We all honor the holidays with our own special coping devices. Call this mine.
So, you ask: at 2-8, why give thanks?
Glad you asked:
*Be thankful the Jaguars didn't bench Paul Posluszny or release him. That was a thing in the offseason, remember? Now, 10 games into his 10th NFL season, Posluszny somewhat remarkably is having the best season of his NFL career. How good? It seemed a conclusion to many in the offseason this would be his last Jaguars season. Not so now.
*Be thankful for stories such as Telvin Smith. Before the season there were whispers that rookie Myles Jack might start at his weak-side linebacker position. Smith instead has played so well that it's impossible to remove him from the lineup – and he has solidified himself as a core player on an improving defense. The way he played Sunday a day after his brother's funeral won't soon be forgotten. Smith is now clearly one of the faces of this franchise, and that's a good thing.
*Be thankful the Jaguars' defense is better than expected. How quickly times change, right? This time last season, the defense was worlds away from being average. Now, it's playing very well. As good as its No. 7 league ranking indicates? Perhaps not. But is it a legitimate run defense with a vastly improved secondary with a couple of really good linebackers? Yes. Is it something around which the franchise can build? Yeah, it's getting there.
*Be thankful for Brad Nortman. He's not clearly the Jaguars' best 2016 free-agent signing. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson is playing too well for that. But the Nortman-for-Pro Bowl threads on Twitter … well, they ain't far off.
*Be thankful the Jaguars didn't release Marqise Lee. This was a thing in the offseason, too. Lee hasn't only proven he can remain healthy, he has shown he can be a starting NFL wide receiver. The most intriguing thing about this Jaguars season has become just how good Lee can be. The guess here: very.
*And don't forget to be thankful for Allen Robinson. It has become vogue to say Lee is the Jaguars' best offensive player. Slow down. Robinson remains the team's best red-zone threat and is having a very solid year despite quarterback Blake Bortles' well-publicized struggles.
*Be thankful for Jalen Ramsey … and for Prince Amukamara, too. Ramsey has emerged as the best bet to be the future face of the franchise, and he's playing at an extraordinarily high level for a rookie. Ramsey, Amukamara and nickelback Aaron Colvin have combined to give the Jaguars their best cornerback combination in some time.
*Be thankful for Todd Wash. He had been on staff for three seasons as defensive line coach and spent last season as the run-game coordinator. But he never had coordinated an NFL defense before this season. The defense he took over had five players with no NFL experience playing key roles and a slew of other free agents who had just joined the team. The season has not been without its defensive struggles – one-sided losses at San Diego and Tennessee chief among them – but this defense has had far more good games than bad and has performed above expectations.
*Be thankful for linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., defensive tackle Sheldon Day, and Ramsey. None had NFL experience before this season, and all have shown enough this season to feel good about their futures. Not everybody in this list has exceled, and all four other than Ramsey must continue maturing and developing. Even Ramsey hasn't come close to his ceiling. Still, within that group of young players is the core of an improving defense that should continue to improve. There's a lot of polishing that needs to be done, but this group will looks like one that could be the foundation of the future.
*Be thankful for football, for there are six weeks remaining in the 2016 NFL season and six weeks of football is a far sight better than no football.
But mostly, thank you – for reading, for watching, for caring, for laughing …
Just thanks. And to some of you: good night.