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Doug Marrone - Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Jacksonville Jaguars: Five Reasons A .500 Season Is A Real Possibility

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My lasting impression of the Jacksonville Jaguars the last four years is a team that grossly underachieved.

Ok, forget the first two years of the David Caldwell/Gus Bradley regime. Growth and patience were needed for an organization that was gutted. But the team got too young too fast. Veterans who could have made a difference were jettisoned.

The scene was nasty.

Now, the sun has come out. There is new hope. There is a new head coach. A new man running the show. There are new veteran players and potentially the best player in college football ready to tote the pigskin.

I’m optimistic, but like everyone else, I have seen this before.

My gut tells me the Jacksonville Jaguars can win at least eight games this season. My friends tell me I am nuts. I’m usually a pessimist. This season, I may have turned the corner. There are too many intangibles not to think otherwise. If anything, if teams like Cleveland appear ready to turn the corner, so should this organization. After so many years of mediocrity –  a term I use loosely – it’s about time for success.

Here are five reasons why the Jacksonville Jaguars should win eight games in 2017.

Just Getting Better Is Out Of The Question

The Gus Bradley way is no longer good enough in Jacksonville. While the likable head coach preached improvement, there wasn’t enough of it. Gone is the “rah-rah” attitude that permeated throughout the stadium and offices at EverBank Field.

There is a new attitude – one of fire and brimstone. The Tom Coughlin/Doug Marrone/David Caldwell era is here for the time being. If the fiery Coughlin, whose stern demeanor worked here before and in New York, gets through to these players, this team will win.

Jacksonville Jaguars fans are praying for that.

As soon as Coughlin spoke to the media in the offseason, fans knew things were different. Players knew things had changed. Hopefully, those changes mean more attention to detail. Getting by isn’t good enough. This administration – yes, I used that analogy – wants to win NOW!

Leonard Fournette

Fournette may be the one rookie who walks into the NFL season anointed as a star. And for all the issues with the Jacksonville Jaguars running game, he should deliver.

Fournette, a star at LSU, could not achieve all his goals in Baton Rouge. He did not win the Heisman Trophy. LSU did not win a SEC Title. Also, LSU did not win a National Title. He comes into Jacksonville already regarded as the third best runner in team history – behind Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. He could dominate in his first season in the league.

Fans and coaches on staff are hoping for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. It’s not out of the realm of possibility if the offensive line does its job. Fournette could be the best running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. If Jacksonville gets that kind of production, the passing game should benefit. Drafting Fournette makes everyone around him on the offensive that much better.

A Different Blake Bortles

The team made a statement. No quarterback was drafted in April. No veteran was brought in to compete with No. 5. The team picked up his fifth-year option – pending a solid 2017 campaign. There aren’t many more messages they can send to Blake Bortles. All the quarterback has to do is go out and put up numbers like he did in 2015.

Bortles will have the same offensive coordinator as he did for the second half of 2016. There is continuity with his wideouts and of course, there is Fournette.

Coughlin said Bortles has to do a better job of protecting the ball. Throwing pick-6’s has to stop. Making better decisions in the pocket must happen. A 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season must be a goal.

Pressure The Quarterback

Many are saying, that once again the Jaguars won free agency. OK, big deal.

Hearing the same dreck year after year is tiring. When are the players this team signs going to prove their worth? Malik Jackson has done that. Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller did as well, but they were cut. Calais Campbell, Barry Church, and AJ Bouye are the most recent crop of talent to join the fray. They all have to deliver.

Jacksonville must use Campbell, Dante Fowler, and Yannick Ngakoue to their advantage. Furthermore,  Dawaune Smoot must prove worthy of a third-round pick. Not to mention, the role players on the defensive line, including Abry Jones and Shelton Day, must deliver. While the Jaguars cut down the number of times Blake Bortles was sacked last season, the team’s pass rush was anemic at best.

If the pass rush gets better, the offense will have better field position to score early and often.

Why Not?

For the past couple of years, this is all we heard. Jacksonville is on the rise. They have fallen with nothing but a whimper.

Everything is in line here. The hire of Coughlin and the decision to make Doug Marrone coach are both solid. In fact, I like the dynamics here and have faith in the front office. Even though, the AFC South could be the most improved division in the NFL this season.

Tennessee should be a playoff-caliber team. Houston finally has a quarterback in Deshaun Watson. In addition to Indianapolis adding veterans in free agency and defensive help in the draft. Similarly, Jacksonville must capitalize on its successful offseason. Indeed, this is the time. Hence, there are no tomorrows.

Jacksonville’s schedule plays out well, with Baltimore in London, a chance to win on the road and teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams at home. Additionally, they face Cleveland, Arizona, and San Francisco. If they are able to beat teams they should and surprise a few (a split with teams in the division) with Cincinnati at home and a trip to the Jets, this should be a solid year.

I don’t know if any better than 9-7 is a realistic goal, but 8-8 should be something that happens this year.

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