This is the season of Kyle Brady's life. After a career of being tagged as a disappointment, Brady is challenging for the pass-receptions lead among the NFL's tight ends.
"It's been nice to be involved. You get pigeon-holed if you don't put up the numbers people expect. Opportunities didn't come in the past. When you make the most of your opportunities, they come more," Brady said, following a 10-catch, 138-yard, career-best performance in the Jaguars' 23-17, overtime win in Dallas.
Nine games into this season, Brady has a career-high 41 pass receptions, which have him fourth in the AFC among tight ends, nine catches behind leader Tony Gonzalez of Kansas City. Finally, Brady is looking like the dominant player he was expected to be when the Jets made him the ninth pick of the 1995 draft.
Then, he was the big kid from Penn State; the first tight end selected in one of the most productive tight end classes in NFL history. It also produced Pete Mitchell, Mark Bruener, Ken Dilger, David Sloan, Michael Roan and Christian Fauria.
"You feel like all of your hard work is paying off," Brady said, referring to years of having endured the slings and arrows of critics who scoffed at his selection by the Jets over defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Whatever chance the Jaguars have of a successful second half of the season would seem to rest with those players who've made a significant move forward recently. Fred Taylor is one of those players; so is Brady, who is beginning to justify the $3 million a year the Jaguars spent on him in free agency two years ago.
"I hoped for a long time that I'd have these opportunities and have these kinds of games," Brady said.
However, he's not about to allow his new-found success run away with his logic. The league pass-receptions title for tight ends? "I wonder if it's realistic because it's a totally different offense (than Kansas City's)," Brady said of his role in the Jaguars offense.
Gonzalez is the featured player in the Chiefs offense. Brady is third on the list among pass-catchers in the Jaguars' attack.
"I try not to get too far ahead of myself, but I have goals every year. I'd love to get another 20 balls this year. I'm not used to getting 20 balls in two weeks," he said of his 18-catch production in consecutive games against Washington and Dallas.
Nevertheless, there are those who wonder if Brady shouldn't be the focus of Mark Brunell's attention. Opposing defenses have allowed the middle of the field to be exploited, focusing more intently on stopping Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell.
Is Brady the antedote to what ails the Jaguars? He was in Dallas.