The Jacksonville Jaguars were a trendy pick to author another deep playoff run after returning most of a stacked defense in 2018. Instead, they wrote a dud.
The 5-11 season underscored a disastrous decision by the Jags to ride with Blake Bortles uncontested once again, leading to one of the worst offensive outputs of the year. The defense, still full of playmakers, couldn't carry the team on its shoulders as it had previously done.
Despite the disappointment, the Jags will stick with coach Doug Marrone and hope the continuity will help right the ship.
"We have the potential still," pass rusher Calais Campbell said this week, via the team's official website. "The only thing guaranteed in this game is change. It's 100 percent, but I think we have a great nucleus of guys. Hopefully, there won't be a lot of change and we'll be able to go out and do some good things."
Campbell, who continued to be a game-wrecking force in his 11th season, led a defense that was very good for stretches but wasn't the smothering force it had been in 2017. In a league of high-flying offenses, it's become the norm for defenses to be mostly unpredictable from week to week.
When the Jags' D gave up points this season, Jacksonville had virtually no shot to win. Living on that razor's edge rarely leads to long-term success.
"We didn't play up to the level I wanted us to play on defense," Campbell said. "We showed flashes and played great ball at times, but it wasn't consistent enough. Whoever's going to be back, we have to lock in and realize our potential. I still think we can be a very special defense with the guys who should be coming back, but at the end of the day you don't know who's coming back."
Given his Pro Bowl-level play it would be a surprise if the Jags jettisoned Campbell. The same can't be said for others on the squad. Bortles seems destined to move on, and even on defense there will be questions about the futures of defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson and others.
Regardless of the eventual changes, the Jags should boast enough talent on defense for a quick turnaround if Marrone & Co. can generate even a modicum of consistency on offense.
"There's a lot to learn from this year as a whole -- all the different things we went through," Campbell said. "There's so much talent on this team. But obviously you saw this year, talent doesn't really mean much. It's execution that's going to take the floor. When we hit the reset button, we have a chance to go out and do something special next year."