Hyper-frisky in free agency and graced with yet another top-five pick in next month's draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars have generated plenty of praise this offseason.
Fans and scribes see an offense bursting with young talent in a rising AFC South, while coaches around the NFL see a Gus Bradley-led team not far away from taking the next step.
"I think it takes a long time and the formula that they have put together, it's taken some time to make their efforts on the roster and going after the players and spending the money and all that kind of stuff," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at last week's Annual League Meeting, per ESPN.com. "I think they're really going for it, and I think (Bradley's) laid the foundation, which he has a great foundation of what he stands for and all as a head coach."
Said Carroll: "You could see them really improve last year. I think you're going to see them take off this year."
Granted, what else would Carroll say about his friend and former defensive coordinator?
It's fair to be suspicious. The Around the NFL Podcast has propped up the Jaguars annually, only to see them fall short. Still, last season dropped genuine hints at better things to come, especially with an offense led by quarterback Blake Bortles, wideout Allen Robinson and tight end Julius Thomas.
Jacksonville finished 10th in passing yards per game, while only Tom Brady threw more touchdowns than Bortles, whose 35 scores through the air tied for second most with Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Cam Newton. Even more encouraging was Bortles leading the entire NFL with 72 throws of 20-plus yards.
The problem last season was a defense that allowed the second most points in franchise history and forced the offense to constantly play from behind. That spurned the team to add defensive tackle Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Prince Amukamara through free agency. The Jaguars also welcome back second-year pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. with a clean bill of health. All of those players can make a difference.
Last October, colleague Conor Orr and I attended the Jaguars-Bills game in London, watching Jacksonville rip off 28 points in five minutes against a stunned Buffalo outfit. Granted, the Jaguars were helped by Bills quarterback EJ Manuel melting in horrific fashion, but we haven't forgotten Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith taking over the game with his blazing speed.
There were plenty of negatives last season, too, but Jacksonville's developing attack -- if nothing else -- was enough to keep the band together for another run.
The other option was blowing up the team, but owner Shad Khan has shown patience and faith in Bradley and general manager David Caldwell. Caldwell has rewarded that faith with a string of productive drafts and a franchise passer in Bortles. Now it's time for Bradley and his players to make it happen on the field.