Led by OC Hackett, Jaguars ready for added pressure

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL writer
Read full post on NFL.com

For the first time in, well, quite some time, the Jacksonville Jaguars are entering a season with significant expectations.

Much of the responsibility of handling and attempting to live up to those expectations falls on the shoulders of quarterback Blake Bortles, and by relation, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. If you recall Jacksonville’s postseason run in early 2018, Hackett drew plenty of praise for his artful schemes that maximized Bortles’ production (relatively speaking) while also minimizing his potential mistakes. The result was beautiful — that is, until Jacksonville needed Bortles to rally it back late against New England.

That situation ultimately sent the Jaguars home one win shy of the Super Bowl, but Hackett is happy to be back with a familiar cast, even if the expectations are greater this season.

“We know what we have to do and all of the things we have done,” Hackett said, via The Florida Times-Union. “We can do that again and maybe even more. I think that is the thing that from the offensive standpoint those guys are excited about. They know that they have to work even harder just to get over the hump.”

The question becomes: What is the hump? Is it the AFC Championship Game? The New England Patriots? Another similar AFC foe? Or is it repeating as division champions?

Those fearful of taking emotional risks might say it’s the last of the aforementioned options, which is fine. Temper expectations to protect against disappointment. But Hackett said some things that sure sounded like the Jaguars expect to exceed their 2017 achievements.

“Blake is right on track,” Hackett said of Bortles. “I think you [are] always going to want more from Blake. He is the quarterback; you [are] always going to want him to push more. But I think his ability to understand what we are trying to do is increasing dramatically.”

That’s encouraging for a team that at times won despite Bortles. We all know what the Jaguars can do defensively. If their offense matches it, they’re a legitimate contender to dethrone the Patriots and fight off every other challenger presented. All of that begins with Bortles, and again, Hackett.

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