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Bonded by belief


They are a locker room of new faces on a team forced into the first major roster reconstruction in its history. Chemistry? Not three games into the season.

But that's exactly what Jaguars players believe is the reason for their early-season success. They credit the rapid gains they've made this season to an unusually strong bond.

"I think this team has bonded a lot faster than other teams. I've never been in an organization that everybody does everything together -- go out and eat together, watch tape together -- and that helps on the field," middle linebacker Wali Rainer said.

Rainer and wide receivers Bobby Shaw and Patrick Johnson represent players who came to Jacksonville last spring seeking the opportunity to establish their professional football careers. They knew nothing about the town or the franchise. They packed up their belongings and headed south from places such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Then, they found each other.

"When I first got here I didn't know anyone. I found myself asking guys, 'Where are you from?'" Johnson said. "In Baltimore we were very, very close; very tight knit. It's starting to be like that (here)."

Shaw came from a Steelers team that had been built through the draft and developed over a three-year period. "We were a bunch of guys who had been together for awhile," Shaw said.

That certainly wasn't the case in Jacksonville, but this collection of Jaguars would seem to be very good at making friends. This team would seem to honestly like each other.

"Guys are starting to feel light with each other. It gets down to trusting that guy next to you," Shaw said.

Rainer left Cleveland in a draft-day trade. Rainer felt rejected by the Browns, then welcomed by the Jaguars.

"We're pushing each other. We want to get the job done. Flying around on special teams; that comes from being unselfish. Nobody's looking for credit," Rainer said.

The list of current Jaguars who were on another NFL roster last season is long, even for a team forced into salary cap repair and roster reconstruction. Rainer, Shaw, Johnson, Kent Graham, Robert Bean, Ike Charlton, Dan Alexander, Bobby Brooks, Chris Naeole, Daryl Terrell, Drew Inzer, Pete Mitchell, Marco Coleman and Stalin Colinet are those players.

"Everyone has personal motivation," said Johnson, who signed with the Jaguars "to prove I'm as good as advertised. I just need the opportunity. It's going to show. It's just a matter of time."

The Jaguars will host the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday. Only five players on the Jaguars roster -- Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Tony Brackens, Todd Fordham and Mitchell -- were with the Jaguars the last time the Jaguars and Eagles faced each other, in 1997.

Everything about this team seems to be new, including its attitude. The squawking of the previous two seasons has been replaced by agreement and cooperation.

"You might not agree with everything that goes on here, but you've got to buy into it. You just have to buy into it, everything, in order to win. You have to buy into the system," Johnson said.

Coach Tom Coughlin senses he has his players' attention and focus. Maybe it's for that reason Coughlin seems to have been more supportive of this team than he was of previous years' squads.

"This particular group of players has done a good job of listening. They're eager and that's a good sign," Coughlin said.

"If we keep doing what we're doing, it's going to be really tough to beat us," Johnson said. "I didn't catch a pass (Sunday), but I don't care. I was happy for the running game."

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