Season recap and look ahead for the Jacksonville Jaguars

Logan Ansteatt

Photo courtesy Tiffany Salameh

There’s a deep and stinging pain that accompanies a loss like the Jaguars suffered Sunday.

It’s the pain of a season defined by a miraculous turn-around few NFL teams have been able to replicate. A team without a winning season for a decade manages to break the mold and compete for a division championship. No one, aside from the players themselves, expected the Jacksonville Jaguars to progress as far as they did.

Regular season wins of 20 points or more against the Texans (4-12) and Colts (4-12) gave the team confidence, and helped secure the division. But, the 44-7 beatdown against the Ravens (9-7) in London and the 30-9 victory over the Steelers (13-3) just two weeks later solidified Jacksonville as a serious contender.

By season’s end, the Jacksonville Jaguars were in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and poised to make a deep run despite expert analysis saying otherwise.

The wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills wasn’t an exhilarating watch, but carried the significance that only a playoff win can generate. The win in the divisional round matchup at Pittsburgh sent a message to the remaining playoff teams—you don’t want to play the Jaguars.

The atmosphere in Jacksonville in the week leading up to the AFC championship was electric. The hope and determination of a team with everything to prove spread to their fan base. When Sunday rolled around, bars were packed with patrons in teal, eager to watch the most pivotal game in the history of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But, defeat would be the outcome and the heartache would burn even more with the knowledge of how far the team had come, and how close victory was. You can blame no-calls or you can throw up some conspiracy theory about the Patriots paying off the NFL, but at the end of the day the Jaguars couldn’t get the job done.

As much as every fan is wounded this week and will feel bitter watching the Patriots once again compete for a Lombardi trophy, the 53-man roster and coaches of the Jacksonville Jaguars are just as angry, and are starving for another opportunity.

This is a young team with some of the best performers including rookie running back Leonard Fournette (27), second-year linebacker Myles Jack (44) and cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20). Blake Bortles (5) has become more confident in his role, and the Jaguars have found a dependable kicker in Josh Lambo (4).

The best thing the Jaguars can do this offseason is keep this stellar group together. The decision to provide Bortles with a contract extension or have him play out his year on option knowing the Jaguars have a franchise tag available in 2019 will be an indicator of the Jaguars’ confidence in the young quaterback’s long-term production.

Allen Robinson (15) is a big question mark going into the offseason. After tearing his ACL early in the season, Robinson will become a free agent in 2018, and the Jaguars have to weigh their options on a wide receiver that was injured early in 2017 and had lackluster performances during the 2016 season. The Jaguars might be able to swing a one-year extension citing the injury in order to get a discount, but only time will tell.

With much of the stellar defense secured for the 2018 season, the Jaguars draft and free agency selections should focus on bolstering the offensive line and receiver core for Blake Bortles while not neglecting some necessary fillers on the special teams unit.

Defeat is an extraordinary teacher, and the Jacksonville Jaguars appear eager to learn.

Jaguars fans should be more than optimistic for the 2018 season. If the team can stay relatively injury free and acquire one or two more offensive weapons, you’ll likely to see a playoff run just as deep next year. #DTWD


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