A year ago at this time there was uncertainty everywhere in Jacksonville: with the quarterback, the newly named full time head coach and with new players brought in.
And as you likely know by now, Blake Bortles played solidly and at times, well. Doug Marrone blossomed in his second NFL head coaching stint. And the likes of Leonard Fournette, Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye energized the other Jaguars in to an AFC South Title and two playoff wins.
Now, all of that is officially in the past, as the Jags host the Saints tonight at TIAA Bank Field.
Here’s what we are looking at Thursday night:
Swagger on defense
Although they may only be out there a series or two tonight, players like Campbell, Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue and Bouye make up one of the most dynamic defensive rosters headed into this 2018.
Rookie first round pick DT Taven Bryan will likely be held out with a slight abdominal strain. However, a fellow draft pick, seventh rounder LB Leon Jacobs, is expected to start tonight and see significant time. It will be a challenge for he and all of the younger players to go against Hall of Famer Saints QB Drew Brees.
The Jaguars finished second in the NFL in sacks last year, and Ramsey may be the best one on one defenders in the league.
Clearly, the foundation of their success starts with defense.
Leaner Leonard Fournette
Again, he’s not expected to be out there much in the first game of August, but most Jaguars fans cannot wait to seek more of running back Leonard Fournette. Well, there’s “less” of him now, as he’s shed some 10+ lbs. to be leaner and meaner for this season.
How will help his quickness and explosiveness? Will the second year back out of LSU be able to still run through and over defenders the same way?
There is a lot of interest in North Florida and all over the country to see it.
Minimum mistakes football
One of the concerns that Marrone has repeatedly expressed is that the 2018 Jaguars can’t regress into making mistakes: penalties, turnovers, blown assignments, etc. and “rest on the laurels” of 2017.
We will see the first sample of that tonight.
Will the Jaguars be on point? Sure, there are always some errors, especially from the younger guys, but overall, will it be sound fundamental football in front of the home fans?
If Jacksonville wants to be back in the post-season and beyond, that starts Thursday night.
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