JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser on the week that was during last week's mandatory veteran minicamp that ended the on-field portion of the Jaguars' 2018 offseason …
MORE ON MOTIVATION
If anything seemed clear every week – indeed every day – of the Jaguars' 2018 offseason, it was this:
This team's desire isn't dead.
It might even be a more motivated team than last season.
"That is the mentality of this team: there is still a nice little chip on their shoulder," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said as the on-field portion of the offseason drew to a close.
Motivation and focus were constant theme for the Jaguars throughout three weeks of voluntary organized team activities and last week's mandatory veteran minicamp at the Dream Finders Home Practice Complex. There were a couple of reasons for that.
First, motivation was a big part of the team's 2017 story, with the drive for respect and a collective chip on many players' shoulders seeming to fuel the run first to the AFC South title and then to the AFC Championship Game.
The second reason motivation was an offseason theme was that a letdown for this team would have seemed natural considering the heartbreaking nature of the team's loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game.
The pall around the players and coaches after that game was real – and it led to the legitimate question of whether they could recover emotionally and find the willingness to work through the marathon that is an NFL offseason, training camp and regular season.
Anyone around this team through the offseason will tell you this absolutely feels like a team willing to do just that.
While Wash turned in perhaps the best quote of the offseason along these lines last week when he said that the Jaguars know they "didn't accomplish jack last year," he is far from the only player or coach who sees this team as willing to do what's necessary to improve upon last season.
"They know that they have to work even harder just to get over that hump," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "You have to go even harder. You might have thought you worked hard, but now you have to go harder."
Hackett said the mindset was evident throughout the offseason.
"Watching how they are practicing, it is not us [the coaching staff] screaming at those guys saying, 'Hey, get up to the line! Get to the huddle! Tighten it up!''' Hackett said. "It is them correcting each other and it is them doing it themselves. I think that is so much from a coaching standpoint because the more they can take ownership [in practice] the more they are going to take ownership on the field and the more the product on the field is going to get better.
"That is what is going to get better."
Time will tell if the '18 Jaguars match the success of the '17 edition. If they don't, motivation – or lack thereof – won't be the reason.
Quarterback Blake Bortles was as expected the Jaguars' story of the offseason and running back Leonard Fournette made news in minicamp last week by showing up at about 10 pounds lighter than his 235-poiund 2017 rookie playing weight. That could mean a quicker Fournette in 2018, but perhaps the most striking takeaway from the Jaguars' 18 offseason was how different the offense could look next season. Not only do newly-signed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and newly-signed wide receiver Donte Moncrief appear likely to make major contributions, but second-round rookie wide receiver D.J. Chark does, too. Fourth-year running back Corey Grant appears likely to have the biggest offensive role of his career, and fourth-year wide receiver Rashad Greene may be playing his way into a role after playing just 17 games in his first three seasons. The core of the Jaguars' offense still likely will be a running game that ranked first in the NFL last season, but the players contributing around that core could have a very different look.
"I want to find out who the best personnel are. I think that you want to give everyone an opportunity to either prove that they should be there or, 'Hey what is the best personnel?' At the end of the day, you are going to try to get the best players on the field that you can feel that you can win games with. I think when you mix it up and have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, we are still trying to see. We are trying to see who is going to rise up, who is going to take the lead, what schematically is going to work for us, and we will plug in our best players at those positions. …I tend to like to not only mix the personnel groups up but mix and match the groups when they go. I think a lot of times that you change the matchups that the players play. Sometimes, you take a young guy and put him in there with the first group – you can see what he does or a new player. I think sometimes you can get excited or you can say to yourself, 'Maybe we have to work this a little bit more before he can get there.' I have always liked doing that – especially early in camp."
--Jaguars HC Doug Marrone on his approach to working multiple players with the first team during the offseason