JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the NFL's youngest teams - again.
Coach Gus Bradley could have two rookies, eight second-year players and four third-year pros in his starting lineup. And those are conservative estimates.
The team's youth and inexperience surely will be a story line this season. But don't expect players and coaches to engage in the conversation.
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''Last year maybe some would say that we were young,'' Bradley said. ''We can't say that this year. I think we have some youth, but it's the right amount of youth. ... My hope is that (age is) not a topic of conversation this year. I don't believe it should be because we do have some more experience.''
The Jaguars, who have won just seven games in Bradley's two seasons, were essentially an expansion team in 2013. They had a roster filled with rookies, castoffs and stop-gap starters - the start of general manager Dave Caldwell's rebuilding effort. The roster was slightly more settled last year, but 10 different rookies started at least one game and six of those became weekly staples on the offensive side of the ball.
The results showed, as the Jaguars ranked near the bottom of the league in every major offensive category.
''It was real,'' defensive end Andre Branch said. ''We did have a young team. We still have a young team. Our coaches are even young. But we're not going to use that as an excuse or focus on it or even talk about. The reality is our young guys have taken more reps than some vets in this league. We just want to keep growing up together and moving forward.''
Adding a handful of veterans should help the process.
Jacksonville signed seven key free agents, adding Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Jared Odrick, right tackle Jermey Parnell, cornerback Davon House, linebacker Dan Skuta, safety Sergio Brown and center Stefan Wisniewski. They guaranteed nearly $80 million to those guys to upgrade the talent around three years' worth of draft picks.
The next step is getting everyone to fit together and jell.
''We feel like we should be able to see a lot of improvement on the field,'' veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ''We feel comfortable; we feel confident with what we need to do and with the people that we have. I feel like each year, we built a foundation. We've grown off of it each year, and now we have some pieces where we say, `OK, everything should be in place.' We have certain aspects of our team now that are very, very solid, and we have some depth in areas that we didn't have before. All that should make a big impact during the season.''
The Jaguars could use some tangible proof that things are headed in the right direction.
Sure, they feel as though they have more talent on both sides of the ball and are seeing signs of growth and maturity. But they also won one fewer game in 2014 than they did in 2013, and of their 25 losses under Caldwell and Bradley, 19 of those have been by double digits.
And there are still questions about all the youngsters: Will second-year quarterback Blake Bortles make significant strides? Can second-year receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson stay healthy? Is third-year left tackle Luke Joeckel a long-term building block? Do safety Johnathan Cyprien, linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerbacks Demetrius McCray and Aaron Colvin become more consistent playmakers on defense?
''It certainly feels different with all these guys now,'' veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ''It's weird because you knew how young we were last year, but you didn't really think about it until people start pointing it out every single game. There was just a lot going on.
''We're at a different point now than what we were last year. We're not necessarily comfortable because we're never comfortable, but we're more calm out there as far as trying to work together and figure things out.''
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