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Coughlin full of energy for new beginning


In the Jaguars' first season of reconstruction, they are being afforded one distinct advantage: They are moving into a division with two other teams in rebuilding phases, and with another that is in its inaugural season.

Welcome to the AFC South, where somebody will be crowned division champion and will celebrate a season of doubt with a Cinderella-like step into the playoffs.

Will it be the Titans, who've retained a portion of the core players that carried them to the 1999 AFC title but have major salary cap problems and gaping holes in their lineup?

What about the Colts, who have the quarterback in place but not much else, and who will attempt a near total reconstruction on defense under a new head coach?

Certainly it won't be the expansion Texans, will it?

Or will it be the Jaguars, who surrendered three starting linemen to the Texans in the expansion draft and who are admittedly in a year of salary cap repair and roster construction?

"It is the goal. It's always the goal," coach Tom Coughlin said of the division title. "The first time I walk in front of that team, it's the goal."

Coughlin spoke to reporters this afternoon in an offseason chat session that focused on personnel moves that include the additions of guard Chris Naeole and wide receivers Bobby Shaw and Patrick Johnson. Coughlin brimmed with enthusiasm.

"I really do feel good about it. I have to tell you, I'm excited about it; the unknown, the opportunity, the change, what I feel in the (locker room) down there," Coughlin added. "Change is not bad. It's our game today."

In the Jaguars' season of change, players such as Shaw and Johnson must replace veteran star Keenan McCardell and his 93 pass receptions, Naeole must allow for the patching of an offensive line that will be without Tony Boselli for the first time in Jaguars history, and several marginal types must prove worthy of roster spots.

"When Patrick Johnson has played, he's played very well. Bobby Shaw made his reputation on third down. They're hungry. Keenan was a hungry guy," Coughlin said.

With the NFL draft a week away, Naeole may be the Jaguars' most important offseason acquisition. He could become that puzzle piece that brings it all together, provided the Jaguars can find a rookie offensive tackle capable of stepping into the starting lineup with second-year tackle Maurice Williams. If that happens, Brad Meester could be moved from left guard to center, allowing Zach Wiegert to step into the left guard spot.

These are the thoughts of a Friday afternoon in April, which is far removed from Sunday in September, when optimism can be easily replaced by reality. Nonetheless, Coughlin works to massage the dream, in a division that would've produced a champion with a 7-9 record a year ago. Somebody has to win the division title. Why not the Jaguars?

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