Gus Bradley: Jacksonville Jaguars have taken leap

PHOENIX -- Gus Bradley is eternally optimistic. He's excited about his young core, led by quarterback Blake Bortles, taking a step forward. He's excited to have Paul Posluszny back at linebacker after losing him in October to a torn pectoral.

But when it comes to wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the team's 2012 first-round pick who has played in just 18 games following a series of suspensions, he has to stop himself.

He really doesn't know.

"We can't have any contact with him so that's the unfortunate part of it," Bradley said Tuesday at the AFC coaches breakfast. "I hope that ... I've heard he's doing some good things. But, you know, at this point in time until we get that final clearance from the NFL as to where he's at or hear from his agent, there's some unknowns there."

But that won't let Bradley come off his high from this offseason, especially now that he thinks the rest of the league is starting to think of Jacksonville the way he does.

In a push that started a year ago with the recruitment of high-priced center Alex Mack, the Jags have since added Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, Jared Odrick and Davon House, three of Around The NFL's top 101 free agents.

"We felt like we could provide a great culture, do it the right way with our organization and make good decisions," Bradley said. "The wins and losses haven't followed through but we can compete and change that part of it. I think we're seeing signs of that, of the interest level (from free agents). But I also saw it from the coaches, you know the pool of coaches that were available and their perception of Jacksonville now interviewing was maybe a little different than when I first got hired."

It was interesting to hear Bradley say that the coaches he interviewed had a different perception this time around. Though it sounds like a little victory, getting a talented coaching staff in place is the one thing that Bradley desperately needs in order to push his ship forward.

The talent, or at least the opportunity to acquire talent at the top of the draft, has been there for years. This year, due to their ability to overpay for free agents, the perception problem corrected itself, too.

With an improved coaching staff, the Jaguars might soon be out of excuses to not make the leap.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the inaugural Veteran Combine and discusses which star players were helped (and hurt) by free agency. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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