JACKSONVILLE — Every decision the Jacksonville Jaguars made over the last year had one of two goals in mind: fix the salary cap or improve the locker room.
The Jaguars jettisoned personnel chief Tom Coughlin, cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, quarterback Nick Foles, running back Leonard Fournette and safety Ronnie Harrison. The most recent moves (Ngakoue, Fournette, Harrison) set off a wave of speculation about the team tanking in 2020 and prompted quarterback and team captain Gardner Minshew to insist they won’t let that happen.
It’s hard to question any of those moves now.
The Jaguars showcased their revamped roster and rehabilitated culture with a 27-20 victory over Indianapolis in the season opener Sunday. They looked nothing like the 2019 team that surely would have pointed fingers after falling behind early, moaned and groaned on the sideline for three hours, and ended up losing by double digits.
This version stuck together, made key plays and rallied for a win few outsiders saw coming.
“A lot of us, sometimes, we can tend to lose faith in team, just the word team,” coach Doug Marrone said. “This team has really instilled that faith for me. ... With no disrespect to any other team I’ve been on, outside of just being a line coach and having your own room, this is the closest I’ve felt to a team since I’ve been a head coach.”
It’s only one game, and it came against an AFC South rival that had lost its previous four trips to Jacksonville by a combined score of 125-46. But it’s no doubt progress for the Jaguars, a step in the right direction following a year filled with head-scratching calls.
“It’s huge,” Minshew said. “Until you actually do it, there’s a part of it you have to prove it to yourself. We had a lot of rookies and second-year players step up and make huge plays for us. When they are playing with confidence, you love a young team that plays with confidence. They have the energy. They got that swag about them.”