The last time the Jaguars and Dolphins played against each other, it was in the 1999 playoffs and Dan Marino was in his farewell game. The Dolphins were still a team with a throw-the-ball offense and a soft defense, and the Jaguars scored a 62-7 win that represented the most embarrassing afternoon of Marino's and coach Jimmy Johnson's careers. Oh, yeah, Johnson resigned the following day.
Well, much about these two teams has changed since then. Tom Coughlin is no longer the Jaguars coach, Mark Brunell has been deposed as the team's starting quarterback, and the playoffs are a distant thought in Jacksonville.
But the greatest difference of all is the Dophins' amazing metamorphosis from a team that had gone 22 years without having a thousand-yard runner, into a team with the league's most punishing rushing attack. And it's all because of one man, Ricky Williams.
"He has the ability to dominate a football game," Jaguars Director of Pro Personnel Charlie Bailey said.
Bailey was in the personnel department of the New Orleans Saints in 1999, when Williams was a rookie for whom coach Mike Ditka had traded away all of the Saints' draft picks. Criticize Ditka for "spending" foolishly, but he certainly knew a star player when he saw one.
"That's a lot of draft picks to give up, but he's turned out to be one of the best backs to play in this league over the last 10 years," Bailey said. "He carried the ball 42 times against Buffalo. He's a terrific running back; very durable. He's a game-breaker."
The Jaguars will get their first regular-season look at Williams since he and the Saints lost at Alltel Stadium in Williams' rookie year. And the Dolphins will make their first regular-season trip to Alltel Stadium since that '99 playoff fiasco.
"He has to be at least 40 percent of their offense," Bailey said of Williams, who is averaging over 30 carries a game. "He helps the passing game, too, because teams want to stop the run first when they play Miami. That opens up single coverage in the passing game. But you have to stop Ricky Williams. He reminds me of Earl Campbell."
Jack Del Rio has made run-defense one of the focuses of his rookie season as head coach, and the Jaguars have improved sharply (the Jaguars are sixth in the league against the run). But, in Williams, the Jaguars will face the supreme test.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars offense will be tested by a Dolphins defense that is third in the league against the run, and features defensive end Jason Taylor, one of the best pass-rushers in the game.
"They have guys who really have a nose for the football; who really like to run and hit," Bailey said. "They're keeping the football. They're not a high-scoring offense, but they keep the ball and rely on their defense."
Imagine that; the Miami Dolphins have evolved into a run-the-ball, play-defense style of football team. Who would've ever thought that possible? But who would've ever guessed the Jaguars would beat the Dolphins 62-7?