The majority of the headlines so far this season for the Jacksonville Jaguars have been about losing games, not meeting expectations.
The young ballclub is still learning to win in the NFL, which for some reason has become a lost art form of sorts in north Florida.
A 9-30 record since Gus Bradley took over as head coach two-and-a-half years ago will tell you times have been tough. Even with the 34-31 win on Sunday over Buffalo in London, the natives are restless and want more wins, less failed execution, and more consistency.
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Offense is Firing
It should be noted the Jaguars have averaged over 28 points per game over the last three contests. That's better than the Denver Broncos, a team undefeated this season. And Blake Bortles is the catalyst of this offense, having placed himself in the top 10 in passing yards and touchdowns in the NFL so far this season.
Despite a penchant for throwing pick-6's and locking in on receivers too often, the improvements from last season are tenfold. It appears this team has found its franchise quarterback, and along the way, they found a couple of dominant second-year receivers who have become difficult to defend so far this season. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are just as much a reason for the growth of this offense.
Last season, the receiving corps may have been the worst unit on this team, and that's saying a lot since the Jaguars gave up 71 sacks on the year. I'm not the only one who believes this theory. Ask Gil Brandt of NFL.com. If there is anyone in the league who knows about young talent, Brandt would be the one - having forgotten more about football than most writers like myself will know in a lifetime.
Robinson, who missed six games last year with a stress fracture in his foot, is having an unbelievable 2015 (28 catches, 488 yards, and five scores). He's a big target with good hands who's faster than he looks and makes a lot of clutch catches. All in all, I see Pro Bowl potential. Hurns was an undrafted free agent who raised eyebrows in 2014 with 677 yards and six scores.
Each help stretch the field, which in turn has helped establish TJ Yeldon as a rookie running back with a bright future as well. The cupboard is not bare in Jacksonville, and if the team can find a way to overcome self-inflicted wounds on both offense and defense (like letting Buffalo back in the ballgame), this team can contend for a playoff berth.
Maybe not this season, but next season for sure.
Brandt said quarterback and receiver growth goes hand-in-hand, of course, but when you have two guys who can catch the ball like that, it makes you a much better signal caller. Building chemistry and trust -- just knowing those guys can make plays -- surely has given Bortles more confidence.
That kind of growth could continue this season with nine games remaining on the schedule. The Jaguars are 2-5 in the AFC South, a division still up for grabs. Continued development could make things interesting down the stretch into the holidays.
Who knows what sustainable success could mean. And we aren't just talking about the guy who throws the ball. The guys who catch it are pretty impressive as well.