Blake Bortles can sense it.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have captured the imagination of their fans in Jacksonville.
‘It’s a huge football town and they’re finally fired up again about the team’
After reaching the AFC Championship Game last season, they have created high expectations. And Bortles is more than happy to embrace them.
“I think the city’s totally different, the buzz of the town,” Bortles told Bruce Murray and Kirk Morrison during the recent American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament. “It’s a huge football town and they’re finally fired up again about the team. It’s been a decade or so since they had been to the playoffs, so to be able to bring a playoff game home and win that (wild-card game) against Buffalo was huge. It’s a totally different type of feel and expectations going in this time of year compared to last year.
‘It was just a bunch of guys that went against each other all camp and believed in one another and kind of knew what we had’
“Outside of our locker room and our building, I’m sure it was a surprise to people, the success we had. We had high expectations going into the season, but it’s almost just a lot of optimism because there was nothing prior that had shown anything that we were going to have a good year. It was just a bunch of guys that went against each other all camp and believed in one another and kind of knew what we had. And then you turn around coming into this year and we’re definitely not going to surprise anybody. If anything, there’s a target on our back and we’re going to get everybody’s best effort like you do for the most part every Sunday. But I think, by no means, are we the team that has been in Jacksonville in previous years.”
Bortles views himself as being more relaxed than he was entering last season. He said he went through a transformation through the first quarter of the schedule.
‘It’s OK to throw a ball away, it’s OK to take a sack’
“There was point at Week 3 or Week 4, in there, I was trying to do so much,” Bortles said. “It was kind of carrying over from Year Three, where it ended up kind of being a disaster for the most part, just because I was trying to do so much and it was like just let it come to you. (Offensive coordinator) Nathaniel Hackett’s been a huge part in kind of helping me understand that and buy in, not only to his system but into just trusting it. It’s OK to throw a ball away, it’s OK to take a sack. You don’t (have) to score a touchdown every time you throw the football. So that’s all been a huge part, whether it’s maturity or repetition or experience or whatever you want to call it. It’s definitely been a huge help.”
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