Few teams seemingly did less with more than the Jaguars last year. Projected early on as one of the league’s potential breakout teams for 2016, the Jags quickly fell to pieces before finishing with a 3-13 record that cost offensive coordinator Greg Olson and head coach Gus Bradley their jobs.
It should come as no surprise then that two surviving Jaguars – quarterback Blake Bortles and linebacker Telvin Smith – and one who has since moved on – tight end Julius Thomas – were among the AFC players named as having the most to prove in 2017 during a segment of ESPN’s NFL Live on Wednesday.
Bortles, who somehow survived the purge, clearly regressed during the 2016 season, and while Smith actually had a very solid season, he remains the leader of a defense that despite ranking sixth overall in the league last year still failed to play up to the level its truly capable of, said former Jets coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards.
“They have a lot of talent,’’ Edwards said of the Jaguars. “But this team needs to learn how to win. You can have all the talent in the world but you have to finally figure it out, and the players have to come together and say, no more of this. No more, ‘We have a talented team;’ no more ‘We have all these good players, let’s start to win football games.’’’
That seemed to be what Thomas was saying earlier this week when he told reporters following a workout that he was “heated’’ over where the Jaguars stand as a team. As Edwards suggested, Thomas said it’s up to the players on the field to take responsibility for the team’s performance and up the players to change it.
“As players we’ve got to do our part in the sense of it’s not scheme, none of that,’’ Smith said. “It’s what do we want. What’s our mentality going to be? The mindset of this team, things that we should be using to beat opponents are still beating us.’’
Edwards called those “powerful words,’’ and they were indeed, but again, they were only words. Actions as we all know speak much louder, which is why the Jaguars as a whole could easily be the AFC team with the most to prove in 2017. After all, they were arguably the most disappointing in 2016.