JACKSONVILLE – He's ready and excited.
And while Doug Marrone isn't one to look ahead or make predictions, the Jaguars' head coach believes the team can contend in 2020. After all, what else would he believe?
"I really think this team can be special; I really do," he said. "That's what I feel. That's what we've put together."
Marrone will begin his fourth season as head coach when the Jaguars play host to the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday, and he left little doubt when speaking to the media via Wednesday morning:
While multiple offseason personnel changes have observers doubting the team, Marrone sees things far differently. And more optimistically.
"I don't have the opportunity to go through a rebuild," Marrone said. "We all know that. That's being realistic. We've got to go out there and win games, and I'm confident this football team will be able to do that."
The Jaguars, after a 10-6 AFC South Championship season in 2017, went 11-21 over the past two seasons and finished last in the division each season. While the Jaguars enter 2020 as the NFL's youngest team – with second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew entering his first season as a starter – Marrone on Monday said he believes this team will handle adversity well.
He said Wednesday he also believes it's capable of pushing for a postseason appearance.
"Am I going to sit here and say that's not what I expect?" Marrone said. "I expect for this team to do well. I hope we don't have any shocking headlines like, 'Marrone says this team is going to the playoffs or bust or anything like that.' I think any coach you talk to today, that's what you're going for.
"Our first goal obviously is to win the division, something we haven't done in the past two years. I think after that you want to make a run at it, and you want to go."
Marrone said while every team's goal is the Super Bowl, the reality is it's difficult to look so far ahead.
"Were just focused on the Colts and trying to win our first game of the year," Marrone said. "To get asked questions about predictions and other stuff is a very difficult position to be in. But I'll tell you want our expectations are. Our expectations are that we're trying to win the division and that's the best way to get into the playoffs, and then we're trying to get homefield advantage and then pursue the ultimate goal – which is the Super Bowl.
"If anyone says anything different, it would be kind of a shock to be honest with you."
Marrone on Wednesday also reiterated what he has said throughout the offseason – that he likes the makeup of an offensive line that returns all five starters from last season: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
The starters average more than five years NFL experience, making it a veteran group on an otherwise young roster.
"I think of where they were last year, the amount of criticism … some deserved, some not," Marrone said. "We felt going in they were going to make a big step from year one to year two [under offensive line coach George Warhop]. We've put a lot into it.
"Now, they have to go out there and perform and I feel very confident. Everybody up front is healthy. They've had really good camps and have come back in shape, ready to go. Whether we want to say they have a chip on their shoulder or not, I can't speak for them. But I know what our expectation is – for them to really be the driving force of whether we're running or throwing and protecting our quarterbacks. We have high expectation of their play."