BOCA RATON, Fla. — With an emerging quarterback in Blake Bortles and an aggressive free-agent push that brought in Malik Jackson, Prince Amukamara, Tashaun Gipson and Kelvin Beachum, the time is now for the Jaguars.
Which means coach Gus Bradley, who is 12-36 in three seasons, appears to be in a win-or-else mode heading into 2016.
If Bradley is headed for the coaching hot seat, he sure doesn’t appear worried.
“My hope is that, even though the expectations have risen, we can stay true to who we are to get the results we desire,” Bradley said.
After coming to the Jaguars from Seattle, where he helped the Seahawks build a championship-caliber defense, Bradley’s head coaching results have been mostly futile. But this is still one of the youngest teams in football, and with Bortles going into his third season as the starter, Bradley is optimistic this can be a turnaround season for the franchise.
“What I love about our philosophy, and sure, a lot of it came from my time in Seattle, is that you come in and as the team matures, you can just stay the course,” he said. “As they get better and better, they’ll take on that philosophy and take it to another level. We’ve seen that offensively, and we’ve seen that with some of our defensive players and special teams.
“We know this is a results-driven league and there’s expectation and that’s OK,” he said. “We all want to win, and that’s very important to our franchise, to our organization.”
The Jaguars landed Jackson, the most coveted defensive lineman on the market, on the first day of free agency after he left the Super Bowl champion Broncos. The Jaguars also filled a need at safety with Gipson, a former Browns standout, and Beachum will compete with former first-round pick Luke Joeckel at left tackle, meaning Joeckel may wind up at guard or even right tackle. Amukamara, who had an injury-filled run with the Giants since being drafted in the first round in 2011, was signed to a one-year deal.
The team also missed out on Giants free agent Robert Ayers, who went to the Buccaneers, and Dolphins defensive end/linebacker Olivier Vernon, who signed with the Giants.
Two big priorities for Bradley: reducing Bortles’ turnovers and improving the defense.
“If you can get [Bortles’ interceptions total] into the single digits, that will be good,” he said of the quarterback, who had 35 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions last season. He has a combined 35 interceptions in his first two years. “We understand that with his style and the way he plays the game, we’re going to have some turnovers. With that, we’re going to have some big plays, too. Just continue to make good decisions.”
Bradley’s big focus on defense is on third downs, where the Jaguars were among the worst teams in the NFL last season.
“Overall, it wasn’t good enough defensively,” he said. “You look at first and second downs against the run and against the pass, many [rankings] were in the top 10. But third downs, 32nd in the league. That’s the key. You’ve got to be able to get off the field by getting turnovers, or if it’s a three-and-out and getting a third-down stop.”