JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned about the Jaguars during this week's 2018 NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando
1. Tom Coughlin likes Blake Bortles – and that's important …Coughlin had talked little publicly since the end of the 2017 season. He didn't talk much publicly during the season, either. So, when the Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations praised the Jaguars' fourth-year quarterback this week, that was significant. "He's getting better," Coughlin said of Bortles, who in late February signed a contract extension through 2020. "He's improving and that's the whole key."
2. … and the playoffs were a reason …More Coughlin on Bortles: "Some of his best games were in the playoffs. You can't ask for a better circumstance. You want to know how a guy performs in big games; two of his best quarterback ratings were in those games [in a Divisional Playoff victory at Pittsburgh and an AFC Championship Game loss at New England]. We definitely feel that he is a young player, he has played a lot of football, but he's making progress in his game and we just look forward to the continuance of that."
3. … and a reduction in turnovers were, too. Bortles reduced his interceptions from 16 in 2016 to 13 this past season. Coughlin also noted that the Jaguars did not commit a turnover in the postseason. "It's hard to win when you turn the ball over and he knows that better than anybody," Coughlin said.
4. Bortles feels good – and that's important, too.Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone during Tuesday's head coaches breakfast described Bortles as "pain free" and working with "no limitations." Marrone was referencing the right wrist injury that required postseason surgery and had Bortles on the injury report throughout last season. Asked how much the injury bothered Bortles last season, Marrone replied. "Blake's a tough guy. When you're a coach and you say, 'Hey, how you doing,' the tough guys always answer you the same way. They're like, 'I'm great; I'm good.' They're short, which means they're probably not as fine as they're saying. He was never a player that was going to give you an indication something was hindering him." Bortles, who currently is working in California with his personal quarterbacks coaches – Adam Dedeaux and Tom House – originally sustained the injury in December 2016.
5. Marrone loves Andrew Norwell's toughness …Marrone circled back to this topic multiple times this week when discussing the Jaguars' top unrestricted free-agent signee. "Any team in the NFL would have loved to acquire a player like this," Marrone said of Norwell, an Associated Press first-team All-Pro guard with the Carolina Panthers last season. "We as an organization talk about our No. 1 goal is to win the physical battle, then you see us go out in free agency and match the philosophy we have as a team. That reiterated, 'This is who we are and these are the type of players we want to bring in.'"
6. … and so does Coughlin.Coughlin on Norwell: "Powerful … outstanding toughness, 100 percent play time … physical player … the kind of guy if you're going to run the football you'd like in that position at left guard … very attractive … looking forward to working with him."
7. Coughlin was impressed with Marrone, too.Coughlin on what he liked about Marrone in 2017: "Just his overall manner; he was himself, he established the way that we would work, the work ethic was obvious. Players responded well to that. He did a great job one-on-one with the players, he did an outstanding job in front of them, challenging them from the team perspective, he did a nice job going through the rough times, the beginning of the season, etc. He did a very good job of that as well."
8. The Jaguars will miss Aaron Colvin …Marrone talked extensively this week about the loss of Colvin, a fifth-year veteran who signed with Houston as an unrestricted free agent earlier this month. The Jaguars aggressively tried to re-sign Colvin, who was valuable as a nickel corner and defensive leader. "I'm not going to say we bettered ourselves," Marrone said of Colvin's loss. "AC was a heck of a player and I said that during the year."
9. … but they also like D.J. Hayden.The Jaguars signed the sixth-year veteran to play the nickel role vacated by Colvin, but Marrone said Hayden's ability to play outside as a backup to All-Pro corners A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey was a factor in his signing, too. "When we evaluated the players, we saw a skill set in D.J. -- very good skills to play outside as well as inside," Marrone said. "We were fortunate to acquire a player like him."
10. Myles Jack will play middle linebacker.That's the Jaguars' plan for now. With middle linebacker Paul Posluszny having retired earlier this month, the third-year veteran – who started on the strong side last season before playing nickel linebacker on third downs – will begin the offseason in the middle. Marrone said Jack gives the team versatility to also start on the strong side as he did last season if the Jaguars acquire a middle linebacker. Marrone also said second-year veteran Blair Brown can play strong-side linebacker.
11. Corey Grant's role could increase in 2018.The Jaguars re-signed Grant as a restricted free agent, extending a second-round tender to keep him off the market. The fourth-year veteran was effective as a change-of-pace back and special teams weapon last season. "I know I like him," Marrone said. "I think we saw some things late in the year where he was able to help us in a little bit of a different role – split out, throwing him the bubbles. Those are things we're going to be challenged with." …
12. Coughlin likes the new uniforms.The Jaguars are expected to reveal their new uniforms next month. While neither Coughlin nor Owner Shad Khan revealed details this week, Coughlin called the new uniform "a feeling of who we are, what we represent. It's a good look, it's a solid look. We have guys that will be in the Hall of Fame and the connection will be there, the uniform will be very similar as we go forward. We just wanted a little bolder statement and I think we got it."