Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone doesn't have to look back very far to see that the way this year's team has been built is similar to the 2017 team that made it to the AFC Championship.
The 2017 team was built primarily through the draft. The Jaguars won the AFC South with a 10-6 record and nearly made it to the Super Bowl for the first time. A 24-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship ended what had been a magical playoff run.
The 2020 Jaguars, who host the Detroit Lions on Sunday, are not Super Bowl contenders. They have a 1-4 record, with four straight losses after an upset win over the Indianapolis Colts in the opening game.
However, the Jaguars have assembled enough young talent in recent drafts to give optimism that better days are ahead.
"I love the guys we have on this team," Marrone said Wednesday in an interview with the Detroit media. "They play hard. I've had a lot of discussions with young players, not only just with the players we've drafted here but even with my past."
View photos of the starters for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Those discussions aren't restricted to what happens on the playing field. They also include life away from the game – finances, expectations, the transition from college to the pro game and may more subjects.
External pressures aside, the Jaguars have filled roster gaps with quality draft picks at numerous positions. They also found a gem at running back this year in James Robinson, an undrafted rookie who has rushed for 333 yards in the first five games to rank 12th in the league.
The Jaguars added three key players in the 2019 draft in edge rusher Josh Allen (first round), offensive right tackle Jawaan Taylor (second) and quarterback Gardner Minshew II (sixth).
Minshew replaced veteran Nick Foles and went 6-6 as a starter. Minshew gave the Jaguars some energy and production, throwing 21 TD passes against six interceptions.
Although the Jaguars have a losing record, Minshew is on a similar pace to last year with 10 TD passes and four interceptions. He has improved his completion rate (60.6 percent to 69.9) and passer rating (91.2 to 99.4).
"The most important thing with that position is, does the team believe you can win with that player?" Marrone said. "Once your team believes that they can win with that player, then you're on the right path."
Allen and Taylor are promising players at key positions.
Allen had 10.5 sacks and 23 quarterback hits as a rookie. He has two sacks and seven hits this year, despite missing one game with an injury. Taylor has started all 21 games at offensive right tackle.
The Jaguars used two first-round picks this year on defense – cornerback C.J. Henderson and defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson. Laviska Shenault Jr., a second-round pick, is showing promise of being a true No. 1 receiver.
Henderson has an interception and four passes defended in four games, all starts. He missed last week's game with an injury. Chaisson has one sack in five games.
Shenault, a versatile athlete who can be used in a variety of ways, has 23 catches for 270 yards and a TD.