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Fast start at stake


Jack Del Rio will press his team's homefield advantage for Sunday's season-opener against the Seattle Seahawks by forcing the visiting Seahawks to wear their dark uniforms in the Jacksonville mid-day heat.

"We'll be in teal the rest of the year. I just thought that a team coming out of the northwest, why not put them in their dark uniforms?" Del Rio said during Monday's press conference at Alltel Stadium.

It's expected to be hot and humid when the two teams kick-off the 2005 season at one o'clock this Sunday. The Seahawks are coming off a season that produced the club's second consecutive playoff appearance. The Jaguars are embarking on a season they hope will produce the team's first return to the playoffs since 1999.

"We have to play our way into the upper echelon. That's what we're in pursuit of. We want to close that gap," Del Rio said of the Jaguars' goal in '05.

The pursuit of that goal begins Sunday in what will be the Jaguars' first home season-opener since 2002. It's also one of six games in the first seven that will be played against teams that made it into last season's playoffs.

Road games against the Colts and Jets will immediately follow this Sunday's opener and that makes a win over the Seahawks critically important. A fast start almost certainly hinges on beating Seattle.

"We already know what's at stake. We know the schedule. Gotta go to Indy, gotta go to New York. What better way to start the season than kicking those three teams' (butts)?" running back Fred Taylor said.

Taylor will be in the starting lineup on Sunday and Del Rio suggested Taylor will get a 20-25 carries workload, following a four-carries preseason that was dedicated to recovery from offseason knee surgery.

"That's the kind of number I'm contemplating," Del Rio said of the 20-25 figure. "I believe he's capable of going out and playing football."

Taylor offered no rebuttal. He says he's ready to go and he spoke to reporters enthusiastically about the upcoming season.

"We're good on paper, but that doesn't mean a darn. As long as we can be accountable to each other, we'll be as good as we want to be," Taylor said.

"This game has so much importance because it's our first game. I'm not even thinking about Indianapolis and the Jets," quarterback Byron Leftwich said.

Leftwich, of course, is at the heart of whatever hopes the Jaguars have of making it into the playoffs this season. He refuses to shrink in the face of the pressure being put on his shoulders.

"I expect to play a whole lot better. I expect us to be a better football team. Our expectations are very high right now. When you work this hard, good things have to come from it," Leftwich said, referring to an offseason of intense dedication to learning a new offensive system.

"We have more talent," veteran wide receiver Jimmy Smith said. "I think Byron will have an outstanding season. I think we'll be a pretty good team. I think we'll be better than we were last year."

The Jaguars, of course, missed making the playoffs by one more win.

"We expect to be a better football team and we should continue to improve as the year goes on," Del Rio said.

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