Since the day he was hired as head coach, Jack Del Rio spoke of wanting an explosive offense. Now, it appears he has one.
Five games into the 2007 season, the Jaguars have the league's sixth-ranked offense (355.2 yards per game), which marks the highest ranking by a Jaguars offense at this point in the season since the 2000 season. How good is this offense? Well, it's higher in the rankings than the team's defense (eighth), which has been the Jaguars' trademark unit since Del Rio became head coach.
"We've been working hard at it. You can see some of the pieces coming together. There's some upside there," Del Rio said of his offense. "Our backs are running hard; our receivers are developing. (Offensive Coordinator) Dirk (Koetter) has done a nice job."
The Jaguars' strong play on offense is also a product of command decisions Del Rio made during the offseason. Shortly after last season ended, he rebuilt his offensive staff, hiring Koetter and making changes at three other places on the offensive staff. Then, of course, just nine days before the start of this season, Del Rio shocked the league when he installed David Garrard as the team's starting quarterback and cut Byron Leftwich.
"I've only done things I thought were necessary to make us win. Every move has been made solely to help us win more games. We've assembled a strong staff. David has gotten off to a strong start and now we need to continue the process," Del Rio told reporters at his Monday press conference, a day after the Jaguars improved their record to 4-1 with a 37-17 win over division rival Houston.
Near the midway point of the season, the Jaguars find themselves preparing for a Monday Night Football showdown against undefeated Indianapolis. Early control of the AFC South will be on the line.
It begged the obvious question: Is this your best team since becoming head coach in 2003?
"Yes," Del Rio said flatly.
"Each year we've increased our talent base. It's the best staff I've had. I've seen a very solid approach to the process. That's where our focus needs to remain," he added.
Jaguars fans, who've longed for the day when the Jaguars would produce some glitzy offensive stars, are buzzing about Maurice Jones-Drew's performance against the Texans. Jones-Drew rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 59 yards.
CBS play-by-play man Gus Johnson compared Jones-Drew to Barry Sanders on Sunday, and fans of a franchise that was judged recently to be the league's least popular team for the third consecutive year are relishing that kind of high praise. Johnson's comment, of course, begs the question: Will Jones-Drew get more rushing attempts?
"We're very happy to have an explosive combination in our backfield; a 1-2 punch like we have," Del Rio said, referring to Jones-Drew and veteran Fred Taylor, who is 190 yards away from reaching the 10,000-yard rushing mark. "We think it's important to have that explosive quality when one guy gets gassed or nicked," Del Rio added.
There's that word, again: explosive. Most Jaguars fans thought it was just a dream. Now, it's a reality.