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Coughlin's focus is already sharp


The look on his face and the edge in his voice left no doubt focus had returned to the Jaguars.

"Win one game. That's how we approach it," Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin said in response to a long-winded question about the scheduling format the NFL was expected to announce.

The Jaguars began full-scale preparations today for this Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, and Coughlin was clearly in one of his razor-sharp moods at his noon press conference. After all, he's preparing his team to play the Titans, a team that brings back memories of 1999 and three losses, the Jaguars' only losses of that season.

"It's been very emotional. There will be a spirit exemplified this Sunday and the emotions will be there," Coughlin added, combining thoughts of last week's terrorist attacks with the Titans' assault on Jacksonville this Sunday.

"You have to match them physically. Our team is very familiar with Tennessee," said Coughlin, who was asked by a reporter why the Jaguars lost to the Titans three times in '99. "They were a very good team, obviously, and we were a very good team," he said.

This Sunday's game will give us an early-season indication as to who might fit into the "very good" category this season. If the Titans win, they will have recovered from their opening-day loss to the Dolphins, while the Jaguars' hopes of unseating the Titans at the top of the AFC Central Division would fade.

But consider the opposite. With a win over the Titans this Sunday, the Jaguars will sit atop the AFC Central and two games ahead of the defending champs, who will travel to Baltimore, host Tampa Bay, and visit Detroit and Pittsburgh in the following four games. Simply put, a win over Tennessee this Sunday could send the visitors into a tailspin from which they might not recover.

Also consider that this would not seem to be a good season for late-season recoveries. The NFL is expected to announce it will pare the postseason playoffs field to eight teams (four teams per conference), and that decision would serve to only increase the importance of each win and loss.

"I would prefer to have the playoff system as we knew it," Coughlin said, favoring a 15-game schedule and a 12-team playoff field.

Sure he would. Given that formula, the Jaguars would have distinct advantages over Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC Central title race and in the AFC wild-card chase. Apparently, the NFL quickly dismissed the "15-game" plan.

All of a sudden, the Jaguars were presented with the possibility they may have to win the AFC Central title to even make the playoffs. And don't forget, the AFC Central just may be the NFL's most powerful and balanced division.

Why was Coughlin's face and voice so stern today? Do you need to ask?

He fielded a multitude of questions today with quick, to-the-point responses:

• "Was I aware of that?" Coughlin repeated of a reporter's question concerning wide receiver R. Jay Soward's arrest in Orlando this past July. "Yes," Coughlin said, but "I'm not talking about R. Jay Soward."

• Ainsley Battles said he has been told he will start at strong safety in place of the injured Donovin Darius this Sunday. "That's the way it would be right now, but we'll look at both of those guys," Coughlin said, referring to Battles and rookie James Boyd. "I wanted to assure there would be some veteran presence back there."

• Is center/guard John Wade recovered from his June foot surgery? "Wade is full speed," Coughlin said.

• Will he prepare his team to face Steve McNair or Neil O'Donnell. "We definitely have to prepare for both quarterbacks," the coach added.

His game face was firmly in place, and it was only Tuesday. Even his players were focused.

"This team will be ready. I want to see how good we are against a team like Tennessee that is favored to go to the Super Bowl," running back Fred Taylor said.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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