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Week that was: Strong belief


JACKSONVILLE – First came the news, then came the nugget.

The biggest Jaguars news this week indeed was big, though it was hardly unexpected. It came when the Jaguars on Monday exercised the fifth-year option in quarterback Blake Bortles' contract.

The decision means the Jaguars have Bortles under contract in 2018 if they so desire, though it does not guarantee he will be with the Jaguars in 2018. The thought here remains that the extension says comparatively little about how the team feels about Bortles for the long term.

That will play out on the field in 2017. If Bortles shows he's the guy, the franchise will look to make him the guy for the long term. If not …

The nugget came two days later when Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell joined LIVE. Caldwell offered thoughts on the extension, saying the positives for the Jaguars is it ensures their starting quarterback is under contract for two more years (if the team so desires).

But what Caldwell said after that that offers some insight into the team's overall offseason approach.

"We looked at the last two games of the [2016] season, when Doug [Marrone] took over as [interim head coach]," Caldwell said. "We threw the ball efficiently because we ran the ball efficiently.

"I think we can carry that over this year."

It's not fair to say the quote sums up the entire Jaguars' offseason, but it's fair to say it reflects a lot of the team's 2017 approach – and it certainly sheds light two of the most-asked questions of recent months among Jaguars observers:

*One, why didn't the Jaguars do more to address offensive line?

*Two, why does the team believe so strongly in Bortles?

The answer is that both areas showed improvement in Marrone's two games, with the offensive line and running game showing improvement at various times in the second half of the season.

The Jaguars clearly want to run in 2017, and they clearly believe they improved in that area late last season. The improvement began early in the nine-game stretch that Nathaniel Hackett moved from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator to take over the position from Greg Olson. That improvement had a resurgence when Marrone – the assistant head coach of offense/offensive line coach since the start of the 2015 season – took over as interim head coach after the dismissal of Head Coach Gus Bradley.

The Jaguars beat Tennessee 38-17 in Jacksonville in Week 16 and lost in the final seconds to Indianapolis, 24-20, in Week 17. The Jaguars produced 415 yards offense against Tennessee and a season-high 470 yards against the Colts. They rushed for 182 yards against Indianapolis, and rushed for more than 150 yards in four of nine games with Hackett as offensive coordinator.

Bortles had passer ratings of 103.5 and 96.2 in those two games, accounting for two of his four games last seasons in which he had ratings over 96.

Do those numbers mean that the Jaguars' offensive line and Bortles performed well enough last season overall? Does it mean the offensive line and Bortles are assured of success in 2017?

The answers are no on both counts – and two games do not ensure future success.

But the results of those games, and the numbers produced late in the season, do help explain why the Jaguars' approach was a few additions on the line – i.e., left tackle Branden Albert and tackle/guard Cam Robinson – rather than a complete overhaul.

And they help explain why the Jaguars believe Bortles is the best option for 2017.



If the Jaguars' 2017 NFL Draft had a theme, it was about immediate contribution. And while it's difficult to expect an entire draft class to play extensive roles as rookies, this group could come close.

Even beyond first-round running back Leonard Fournette, who figures to start immediately, the class figures to contribute quickly.

Robinson, the team's second-round selection, figures to compete with Albert, likely moving to guard if – as still appears likely – Albert starts at left tackle. Third-round end Dawuane Smoot likely won't start, but the team made it clear during the draft he should be a key part of the pass-rush rotation.

Wide receiver Dede Westbrook doesn't figure to start, but he will have every chance to play a major role as a slot receiver and a returner – and seventh-round, 260-pound fullback Marquez Williams will have a chance to fill the fullback role.

That's five of the seven draft selections. The remaining two – cornerback Jalen Myrick and linebacker Blair Brown – clearly have the skill set to play major special-teams roles, but also play positions where the depth chart gives them a chance to be active as backups on game days.

None of this means all seven will play front-line roles as rookies. As Marrone, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and Caldwell all noted last week, all seven will need to work their way onto the field.

Still, this has the look of a class designed to be on the field and contributing far sooner rather than later.

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