THIS WEEK: The Jacksonville Jaguars will open their ninth season — and first under new head coach Jack Del Rio — when they travel to Charlotte, N.C. to face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Besides matching the two 1995 expansion teams, the game will be a reunion for Del Rio, who was the Panthers' defensive coordinator in 2002. In his only year in Carolina, Del Rio helped his former team improve from 31st defensively in 2001 to second in the league a year ago.
The Jaguars finished their preseason with a 3-1 record, with victories over the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins and a loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The trademark of a Del Rio-coached team is a strong defense, and the Jaguars showed some of that in the preseason. They allowed only 62 points (15.5 per game) and ranked ninth on defense in yards allowed (they were 20th in the league during the 2002 season). The Panthers were 4-0 in the preseason, finishing undefeated for the first time in their nine-year history.
The "New Era" Jaguars have 26 new players on their 53-man opening day roster, and the team could have as many as 10 new starters for the opener. The new players include four unrestricted free agents (including stars Hugh Douglas and Mike Peterson), seven veteran free agents, one trade acquisition, one waiver pickup, all nine draft choices and four undrafted rookies (the most ever for a Jaguars opening day roster).
JAGUARS ON THE AIR THIS WEEK:
Monday — Jaguars Reporters, 6:00 p.m., WOKV Radio, with Brian Sexton, Vic Ketchman
Monday — The Jack Del Rio Show, 7:30 p.m., WTEV Ch. 47
Tuesday — The Jack Del Rio Show, 6:00 p.m., WOKV Radio
Wednesday — Jaguars This Week, 6:00 p.m., WOKV Radio
Thursday — THE Jaguars Show, 10:30 p.m., WAWS Ch. 30
Saturday — Jaguars Season Preview 2003, 7:00 p.m., WTEV Ch. 47
THE OPPONENT: The Panthers were named the NFL's 29th team on October 26, 1993, five weeks before the Jaguars were born as the 30th team. Carolina went 7-9 in its first season, setting a record for most victories by an NFL expansion team, and they were 12-4 in 1996, becoming the first second-year franchise to win a division. In that season, Carolina advanced to the NFC championship game before losing to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay. The Panthers slipped to 7-9 in 1997 and then 4-12 in '98 and head coach Dom Capers was fired. George Seifert was named head coach in 1999, and led the team to records of 8-8, 7-9 and 1-15 before he was let go. John Fox became head coach last year and guided the Panthers to a 7-9 record.
THE SERIES: This will be the third game between the two 1995 expansion teams. The Jaguars and Panthers have played twice during the regular season, with Jacksonville winning both games: 24-14 at home on September 29, 1996, and 22-20 on September 19, 1999 on the road. The two teams have also played six times in the preseason, with Jacksonville holding a 4-2 edge.
THE LAST TIME: On September 19, 1999, the Jaguars defeated the Panthers 22-20 at Ericsson Stadium, stopping a two-point conversion try with 31 seconds remaining. James Stewart replaced an injured Fred Taylor and rushed for a then-career-high 124 yards and scored two touchdowns, and Mike Hollis added three field goals. The Jaguars dominated the game, outgaining the Panthers 414 yards to 283 and holding the ball for 38:09 (Carolina had the ball only 7:23 in the second half). However, in five possessions in the red zone, the Jaguars could manage only one touchdown and three field goals. Taylor was sidelined by a strained hamstring in the first quarter, but Jacksonville rushed for 214 yards on 46 carries, both then-team records. Jimmy Smith had his second straight 100-yard receiving game, catching 10 passes for 115 yards. The Jaguars missed their Wednesday practice during the week with Hurricane Floyd threatening the Atlantic coast.
A JAGUARS VICTORY OVER THE PANTHERS WOULD: Give them a 1-0 record in 2003 and their first victory under new head coach Jack Del Rio. It would also give them a 3-0 mark against the Panthers and would be their seventh victory on opening day in nine seasons.
THE COACHES: Jack Del Rio was named Jaguars head coach on January 17, 2003, becoming the second head coach in Jaguars' history. At 40, Del Rio is the second youngest head coach in the NFL (four months older than Jon Gruden). Del Rio spent 11 years as an NFL linebacker and had a standout college career at the University of Southern California. He previously coached in New Orleans (1997-98), Baltimore (1999-2001), and Carolina (2002). He was the Panthers' defensive coordinator, and in his only season with the club the defense improved from 31st in the NFL to second, the biggest one season defensive improvement in NFL history. Del Rio was the linebackers coach for three seasons in Baltimore, where the Ravens' defense also ranked second each season. He helped the team win Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants and coached the Ravens' talented linebackers, overseeing the development of Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper and Ray Lewis, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. Prior to coaching, Del Rio played 11 seasons in the NFL, with New Orleans (1985-86), Kansas City (1987-88), Dallas (1989-1991) and Minnesota (1992-95), playing in the Pro Bowl following the 1994 season. Del Rio was a starter at linebacker for Southern California (1981-84), where he earned All-America honors, was a runner-up for the Lombardi Award and co-MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl. Del Rio has learned from some of the best coaches in all of football. He was recruited to USC and played for John Robinson, and in the NFL he played under Bum Phillips, Jim Mora, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Green. As an assistant coach, he has worked for Hall of Famer Mike Ditka and Super Bowl winner Brian Billick, as well as John Fox. Drafted by baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, Del Rio batted .340 while playing catcher on USC's baseball team in 1983 and 1984 with future stars Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire. He was a third-round choice by the New Orleans Saints in 1985 and was named to the NFL's All-Rookie team.
In 2002, his first season as Panthers' coach, John Fox's Panthers posted a six-game improvement. The club finished with a 7-9 record, which marked the second-best improvement by a rookie head coach in the NFL since 1978. Defense was the key component to the Panthers' resurgence. The Panthers improved from 31st in defense in 2001 to second last season, the best one-season defensive improvement in NFL history. The success isn't surprising considering that prior to coming to Carolina, Fox spent five years as the Giants' defensive coordinator (1997-2001). The Giants' defense was dominant in 2000, winning the NFC title by shutting out the Vikings 41-0, advancing to Super Bowl XXXV. Fox played two years at Southwestern Junior College (1974-75), and was a defensive back at San Diego State (1976-77). He entered the coaching ranks as a graduate assistant at San Diego State (1978). He was an assistant at United States International (1979), Boise State (1980), Long Beach State (1981), Utah (1982), Kansas (1983), and Iowa State (1984). Fox entered professional coaching with the USFL's Los Angeles Express, but returned to college coaching at Kansas (1985) and Pittsburgh (1986-88). He started his NFL coaching career with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1989-1991) before moving on to Oakland (1994-95) and St. Louis (1996).
JACKSONVILLE-CAROLINA CONNECTIONS: Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio was the Panthers' defensive coordinator in 2002. … Del Rio and Panthers LB coach Sam Mills played together with the New Orleans Saints in 1987 and '88 … Carolina RB coach Jim Skipper was an assistant with the Saints when Del Rio was a player. … Jaguars assistant head coach Steve Shafer coached the Panthers' defensive backs in 1998 … Jaguars offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was the Panthers' QB coach in 1999 and offensive coordinator for part of 2000 … Jaguars OL coach Paul Boudreau coached the same position with Carolina the last two seasons. … Jaguars DB coach Alvin Reynolds was a defensive assistant with the Panthers from 1999 to 2002. … Panthers OL coach Mike Maser held that position with the Jaguars the last eight years. … Panthers strength coach Jerry Simmons coached at Southern California when Del Rio was a player in 1983 and '84 … Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac and Jaguars offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave coached together with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998 … Jaguars QB coach Ken Anderson was an assistant in Cincinnati along with Panthers WR coach Richard Williamson in 1993 and '94 … Jaguars who are former Panthers are: OT Leander Jordan (2000-2001), G Jamar Nesbit (2000-2002) and CB Brad Franklin (2002) … Panthers DE Al Wallace was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Jaguars in 1997 and spent most of that season on the practice squad … Panthers who have Florida ties are: LB Brian Allen (Lake City), LB Dan Morgan (Coral Springs, Miami), RB Rod Smart (Lakeland), DE Al Wallace (W. Palm Beach), and LB Will Witherspoon (Panama City) … Jaguars from the Carolinas include: S David Young (Columbia), G Jamar Nesbit (Summerville), S James Trapp (Greenville, S.C., Clemson), QB David Garrard (Durham, N.C., East Carolina), and LS Joe Zelenka (Wake Forest) … College teammates include: Jaguars CB Brad Franklin and Panthers QB Jake Delhomme at Louisiana- Lafayette … Jaguars DT Matt Leonard and Panthers S Colin Branch at Stanford; Jaguars S James Trapp and Panthers DT Brentson Buckner at Clemson; Jaguars G Jamar Nesbit and Panthers CB Terry Cousin at South Carolina; Jaguars LB Eric Westmoreland and DT John Henderson with Panthers FS Deon Grant at Tennessee; Jaguars RB Fred Taylor and LB Mike Peterson with Panthers C Jeff Mitchell at Florida; Jaguars DT Marcus Stroud with Panthers TE Jermaine Wiggins and LB Will Witherspoon at Georgia.
LAST WEEK: The Jaguars closed out the 2003 preseason with a 17-15 victory over the Washington Redskins last Thursday at ALLTEL Stadium. The win gave them a 3-1 record in the preseason. QB Mark Brunell played the first quarter and led the team to a 7-0 lead, as he completed five of seven passes for 36 yards, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Brady. Following the game he was named the team's starter for the opening game. David Garrard and rookie Byron Leftwich rotated series the remainder of the game, and Leftwich led the team to its final 10 points, as he was 11 of 14 for 100 yards. The Jaguars' defense allowed only 180 total yards, nearly half of them in the fourth quarter, when the Redskins scored nine points and make the game close. Rookie Joe Smith led the Jaguars with 41 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground.
NOTES FROM THE REDSKINS GAME: The win gave the Jaguars a 22-15 record in the preseason in nine years. … The Jaguars had more first downs (20 to 13), more yards (255 to 180) and more time of possession (34:13 to 25:47). They converted 7 of 14 third downs (50 percent), while the Redskins were only 3 of 13 (23 percent). … The Jaguars had their second turnover of the preseason and one takeaway and finished the preseason plus-five. … RB Fred Taylor played the first series of the game and rushed three times for 22 yards. … WR Micah Ross led the team with four receptions for 36 yards. … Chris Hanson punted four times for a 42.5-yard average, with no touchbacks, two inside the 20, and a long of 48. He had two kicks returned for 20 yards and a net average of 37.5. … The Jaguars made five sacks, one each by Lionel Barnes, Paul Spicer, Marco Coleman, Matt Leonard and Rob Meier. They allowed three sacks.
FROM COACH JACK DEL RIO ON THE REDSKINS GAME: "Things went well early with the first unit. Late it got a little ragged, but that can happen in preseason games. They've shown signs of late of coming together. We just need to carry the momentum into the regular season. We feel fortunate to get through the preseason without injuries."
(on Mark Brunell) "He played very well. Mark will be our starting quarterback on opening day. I think he's earned that. He has handled himself well. One of the important things that he needed to understand is that with Byron (Leftwich) being here, there's always going to be speculation; it's going to be a circus all year. He handled it like a pro and that has shown the team that he's our guy. He has handled it with class, with dignity. It's what I would expect out of a guy who's a real pro, to come out and be as sharp as he's been. He's ready to lead this team. We're looking forward to many good moments like we had at the beginning of the game tonight. The speculation is going to be there, and you can't avoid that. Nobody can hide him from that. It's reality, and he's handled it well. It was important for Mark to experience what he experienced the last few weeks. It will prepare him for the onslaught that I'm sure will follow in the regular season. There's no avoiding it. He has a couple of young guys behind him who are pretty good. People are always going to question and create that environment. He's clearly our best quarterback right now. He'll be back behind center leading us against Carolina. He solidified (starting) tonight with his performance and the way he's handled himself. He's a very classy guy."
(on the offensive line) "We shuffled players not only because of cutdown day but because of 45-man rosters in the regular season. It's important that we know who can go in and play multiple positions. We can carry only seven or eight offensive linemen, and we needed to know how we can rotate through two and three groups. That flexibility is important. The offensive line had an excellent camp and a solid preseason. We're looking forward to them continuing to get better as the season progresses."
(on rookie placekicker Seth Marler) "I don't believe in doing things out of fear. That's not what motivates me. I'll be aggressive but sound, and we're being sound in our decision-making. Seth has been excellent, He's really poised. He has a live leg and we think he's going to have a really good year."
(on Byron Leftwich) "He played very well. I'm sure you can see the talent. Both Byron and David (Garrard) are talented young guys. David could (be the backup). We'll work through that as a staff. We're very fortunate to have three very talented guys here at quarterback. Actually four guys with Quinn Gray."
(on Tony Brackens) "I know he moved around well. When he lines up alongside Marcus Stroud, offenses have something to deal with. As far as I know, he hasn't had any setbacks. He adds an element to our defense, no question about it."
FROM QB MARK BRUNELL: (on being declared the starting QB) "Finally. I haven't thought any different the whole preseason. It's good to have some closure and now I'll be able to look forward to the regular season. Jack has been honest and very up-front with me. It doesn't come as a surprise. I expected this. Jack said he was going to put the best 53 on the field, that the best were going to play, and I'm the best right now."
(on the trade speculation) "I didn't like it at all. I wish I could just think about football. You have to compete. You go out and work and if you work hard enough, things will work out right. I'm looking forward to the season and putting this chapter behind us. Now I can really focus on football."
FROM QB BYRON LEFTWICH: (on getting so much playing time this game) "I'm just having so much fun. I wasn't surprised by anything. I just wanted to go out there and make sure that I did all the right things to try and help our team win."
(on the announcement that Mark Brunell was named the starter) "It doesn't change the way I have to prepare myself or for the way I get better. I have to do all the little things that it takes to get better, and do all the big things it takes to get better, to become the best player that I can possibly be."
NEXT WEEK: The Jaguars will host the Buffalo Bills in their regular-season home opener at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, September 14 at ALLTEL Stadium. It will be the fourth regular-season meeting between the two teams, with the Bills holding a 2-1 series lead (the Jaguars also won a 1996 Wild-Card Playoff game). In 2002, the Bills finished 8-8 and in fourth place in the AFC East, although they were only one game out of first place. The Jaguars are 6-2 in their home openers in eight seasons.
OPENING DAY: The Jaguars have the NFL's best record on opening day (minimum five games), with a 6-2 mark (.750). Jacksonville has won six of its last seven opening games, with a six-game winning streak from 1996 to 2001 sandwiched between losses in 1995 and 2002. In fact, only six NFL teams have ever had a longer winning streak on opening day than the Jaguars' six-game streak.
NEW FACES: There are 26 new faces among the 53 players on the Jaguars' current roster. Here is the breakdown.
Unrestricted Free Agents (4) — DE Hugh Douglas, FB Marc Edwards, LB Keith Mitchell, LB Mike Peterson
Veteran Free Agents (7) — DE Lionel Barnes, WR Matthew Hatchette, WR/KR Jermaine Lewis, G Jamar Nesbit, WR J.J. Stokes, CB James Trapp, OT Sammy Williams
Trade (1) — S Anthony Mitchell
Waivers (1) — CB Brad Franklin
Draft Choices (9) — QB Byron Leftwich, DB Rashean Mathis, G Vince Manuwai, TE George Wrighster, RB LaBrandon Toefield,
DE Brandon Green, S David Young, OT Marques Ogden, FB Malaefou MacKenzie
Undrafted Rookies (4) — WR Cortez Hankton, DT Matt Leonard, PK Seth Marler, RB Joe Smith
**2003 POSITION ANALYSIS: Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the Jaguars:
Quarterbacks (3) — Mark Brunell returns for his ninth season as the only quarterback in NFL history to lead his team in passing for the franchise's first eight seasons. In 2002, Brunell started 15 games and passed for 2,788 yards and 17 touchdowns. He remains the team's starter and is still one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league. Byron Leftwich was selected with the seventh overall pick in the draft and is the team's quarterback of the future. A strong pocket passer, he set numerous records in his college career at Marshall, where he developed a reputation as a leader who plays through injuries. He amassed 11,903 yards passing and 89 touchdowns vs. only 28 interceptions. Leftwich led the game-winning drive in the second preseason game against Miami and had a 103.5 passer rating in three games played in the preseason. David Garrard, a fourth-round pick in 2002 who started the season finale, looked impressive in the preseason. He and Leftwich will compete for the No. 2 job behind Brunell. Gone: Kent Graham, Quinn Gray (on practice squad)
Running Backs (5) — Fred Taylor started all 16 games in 2002 for the first time in his career. He rushed for 1,314 yards and caught 49 passes, scoring eight touchdowns. Now two years removed from a groin injury that sidelined him for 14 games in 2001, Taylor remains one of the most dangerous runners in football. He figures to be utilized more as a receiver in the West Coast-style offense. Taylor was sidelined with a bruised knee for the first two preseason games but started the last two games. The backups are two rookies: fourth-round draft choice LaBrandon Toefield and undrafted rookie Joe Smith. Toefield was a three-year starter at Louisiana State whose career was sidetracked by injuries, although he did rush for 2,149 yards and score 26 TDs. He gives the Jaguars a back with inside running abilities and he started the first two preseason games. Smith impressed in limited action in the preseason, when he led the team with 101 rushing yards. The new starting fullback is Marc Edwards, a six-year veteran who won a Super Bowl with New England two years ago. Edwards is a sturdy blocker and fine receiver out of the backfield. The backup fullback is seventh-round draft pick Malaefou MacKenzie, who scored seven touchdowns on receptions last season at Southern California. Gone: Elvis Joseph, Stacey Mack, Patrick Washington, Dan Alexander
Wide Receivers (5) — Jimmy Smith is entering his 11th NFL season and remains one of the NFL's top receivers, but he is out through Week Four due an NFL suspension. Although Smith caught only 80 passes in 2002, he surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the seventh consecutive year, a feat accomplished by only four other players in NFL history. The starters heading into the season are veterans J.J. Stokes and Matthew Hatchette. Stokes, a No. 1 pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995, has career totals of 327 receptions for 4,139 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is tall and rangy with good hands. Hatchette led the NFL Europe League in receiving this year and is a five-year veteran. The surprise of the group is undrafted rookie Cortez Hankton, who was one of Division I-AA's elite receivers the last few years. In three seasons at Texas Southern, he caught 175 passes for 3,400 yards and 30 touchdowns. Jermaine Lewis was signed mainly as a kick returner. He has returned six punts for touchdowns in seven seasons (he led the league twice) and is also a fine kickoff returner (1,039 yards in 2001). Micah Ross is an excellent special teams player. Gone: Bobby Shaw, Patrick Johnson, Jimmy Redmond
Tight Ends (4) — Kyle Brady is one of the NFL's best tight ends. In his four seasons with the Jaguars, Brady has caught 175 passes, ranking fifth among NFL tight ends in that time. He is also a fine blocker in the running game, helping the Jaguars surpass 2,000 yards rushing three times in his four years. The backups are fourth-round draft choice George Wrighster (who played in the West Coast offense at Oregon) and 2002 fourth-rounder Chris Luzar (who played for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave at Virginia in 2001). Joe Zelenka is one of the league's best long snappers. Gone: Pete Mitchell
Offensive Line (9) — The offensive line figures to be improved over 2002, when it was hit hard by injuries. The right side of the line is set with guard Chris Naeole and tackle Maurice Williams. Naeole is one of the top players on the line and a potential Pro Bowler. Williams missed 11 games with a broken leg in 2002 but has developed into one of the AFC's top young tackles. Moving to center after three years and 48 consecutive starts at left guard is Brad Meester, who last manned the pivot in college at Northern Iowa. Back in familiar territory, Meester gives the line a smart and durable leader. Still battling at left guard are former Panther Jamar Nesbit and third-round draft pick Vince Manuwai. Nesbit has started 45 games in the last three years, while Manuwai was a steal in the draft and one of college football's top pass protectors in 2002. The starting left tackle is Mike Pearson, a fine pass blocker who started 11 games as a second-round pick in 2002. He won a preseason battle with Leander Jordan, another former Panther. Other reserves are ex-Raven and Charger OT Sammy Williams and Marques Ogden, a developmental player out of Howard who is the brother of Ravens All-Pro Jonathan Ogden. Gone: Derrick Chambers (I.R.), Todd Fordham, Drew Inzer, Aaron Koch (I.R.), Daryl Terrell, John Wade, Zach Wiegert, Chris Ziemann (I.R.)
Defensive Line (9) — The defensive line should be a team strong point. The interior line is huge, with 6-foot-6 Marcus Stroud poised to have a breakout season and 6-foot-7 John Henderson ready to improve upon a fine rookie season. Stroud and Henderson were the Jaguars' first-round draft picks each of the last two seasons. Each player had 6.5 sacks in 2002. Free-agent acquisition Hugh Douglas joined the team in March and has proven to be one of the NFL's top sackers over the last eight seasons. He ranks eighth among active players with 73.5 sacks (including 12.5 in 2002). Douglas will start at right end. The left end will be either Jaguars career sack leader Tony Brackens, who has returned from microfracture knee surgery and a June appendectomy, or veteran Paul Spicer, a non-stop player who can rush the passer. The three ends should provide an excellent rotation. The reserves are fourth-year pro Rob Meier, who seems to have a found a home inside after moving from end; former basketball star Lionel Barnes; and rookies Brandon Green (sixth-round pick) and Matt Leonard (undrafted). Gone: Clenton Ballard, Chris Combs, Marco Coleman, Larry Smith
Linebackers (6) — Mike Peterson signed with the team following four years with the Indianapolis Colts and is ready to go to the Pro Bowl. One of the most talented linebackers, Peterson is playing in the middle and figures to make lots of tackles behind Stroud and Henderson. The starting outside linebackers are Keith Mitchell and Akin Ayodele. Mitchell, a six-year veteran, is a big-play maker who has three career touchdowns and 19.5 sacks. Ayodele played in all 16 games as a rookie in 2002, making three starts and 108 tackles. A star defensive end at Purdue, he is a player to watch. There is plenty of depth in Danny Clark (16-game starter in 2002), T.J. Slaughter (26 career starts) and Eric Westmoreland (third-round pick in 2001 who has started four games). Gone: Wali Rainer, Bobby Brooks
Defensive Backs (10) — The four starters from 2002 return. The corners are Fernando Bryant and Jason Craft. Bryant is a former No. 1 draft pick and four-year starter who loves to play man coverage. Craft was a fifth-round draft pick in 1999 who won the starting right cornerback job last year and started all 16 games. At strong safety, Donovin Darius was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2002 and one of the hardest-hitters in the game. He excels as a run defender. FS Marlon McCree tied a team record with six interceptions in 2002. He is being pushed by second-round draft pick Rashean Mathis, a Jacksonville product. James Trapp, a 10-year veteran who has played in 144 games has been playing as the nickel back and provides excellent veteran leadership. Depth is provided at cornerback by CB Kiwaukee Thomas (no missed games in three seasons) and waiver pickup Brad Franklin (a former Panther), and at safety by trade acquisition Anthony Mitchell (a former Raven who is a fine special teams player) and sixth-round pick David Young. Gone: Ainsley Battles, Robert Bean, James Boyd, Ike Charlton, Steve Smith
Kickers (2) — Chris Hanson was the AFC's Pro Bowl punter in 2002, developing into the best punter in the conference in only his second full season. Last year, Hanson posted averages of 44.2 yards gross and 37.6 net, with 27 kicks inside the 20. The Jaguars led the league in downed punts. At placekicker, undrafted rookie Seth Marler was impressive with his long kicks to win the job over two challengers (he was 6 for 6 in the preseason). Gone: Danny Boyd
THE TEAL IS REAL . . . In the last six seasons, the Jaguars' record is the 10th best in the NFL, 10 games behind the Green Bay Packers.
JAGUARS HAVE SEVENTH-BEST HOME RECORD AND THIRD-BEST ROAD RECORD SINCE 1996: After the Jaguars went 7-1 at ALLTEL Stadium four times from 1996 to '99, they have a 38-18 record that is tied for the seventh-best mark at home since the start of the 1996 season. On the road, the Jaguars are tied with the fourth-best record and they are one of only seven NFL teams with a better-than-.500 mark on the road dating back to November 24, 1996.
DOUGLAS IS EIGHTH-LEADING ACTIVE SACKER: Jaguars DE Hugh Douglas, the team's biggest offseason acquisition, ranks eighth among active players in sacks (he is tied with Mike Sinclair).
LEWIS APPROACHING PUNT RETURNS RECORDS: Jermaine Lewis signed with the Jaguars in the offseason as a veteran free agent and will be the team's primary punt and kickoff returner. A veteran of six NFL seasons with Baltimore and Houston, he is approaching several NFL records.
- Has led the NFL in punt returns two times (1997, 2000), one short of the NFL record shared by Speedy Duncan and Rick Upchurch
- Has 3,010 career punt return yards, 591 yards short of third place on the NFL's all-time list
- Has six touchdowns on punt returns, two shy of tying for third place on the NFL's all-time list
- Ranks seventh among active players with an 11.3-yard average on punt returns
HANSON LED AFC IN BOTH GROSS AND NET PUNTING: Chris Hanson, in only his second full season as the punter for the Jaguars, has established himself as one of the NFL's premier punters and was voted to the Pro Bowl last season. He led the AFC in both gross punting and net punting and ranked second in gross and third in net in the NFL.
JAGUARS ALLOWED THIRD-FEWEST SACKS IN 2002: Only one season after allowing 63 sacks in 2001, the second-highest total in the league, the Jaguars' retooled offensive line gave up only 42 sacks in 2002, the third-fewest allowed in team history.
TAKE THAT: In 2002, the Jaguars finished plus-12 in the turnover category, tied for second in the conference and tied for fifth in the NFL. The defense made 13 interceptions and recovered 12 fumbles, with an additional fumble recovery and interception on special teams. With only 15 turnovers, the Jaguars became one of only four teams in NFL history to have fewer turnovers than games played in a season.
In the last two seasons, the Jaguars' 42 turnovers is the third fewest in the NFL (behind San Francisco's 36 and N.Y. Jets' 42). In the last three seasons, the Jaguars rank fourth with only 71 turnovers (behind San Francisco's 55, Oakland's 64 and Tampa Bay's 67). In the last four seasons, the Jaguars rank second with only 89 turnovers (behind San Francisco's 87).
TAKEAWAYS/GIVEAWAYS 1993-2002: In the last 10 years, the Jaguars have the third-best takeaway/giveaway difference in the NFL, a plus-34 total (they have played only eight seasons).
THE DEFENSE DOES NOT REST ... In the six seasons from 1997 to 2002, only four teams with losing records scored more points than they allowed, and the Jaguars did it three of the four times — each of the last three years, in fact.
Despite finishing with a 6-10 record each of the last two seasons, the Jaguars allowed the third-fewest points in the AFC in that time. The Jaguars allowed only 609 points in 2001 and 2002 combined, more than only the Pittsburgh Steelers (23-8-1 record, 557 points allowed) and Miami Dolphins (20-12 record, 591 points allowed). The Oakland Raiders, for example, went 21-11 the last two years but allowed 631 points.
In the last three years, the Jaguars have allowed only 1,145 points, the fifth-lowest total in the NFL (behind Tampa Bay 980, Philadelphia 1,051, Baltimore 1,061 and Pittsburgh 1,132).
ROOKIE SACKER: Jaguars No. 1 draft choice John Henderson led NFL rookie defensive tackles in sacks, and his 6.5 sacks were the fourth most by all rookies.
DYNAMIC DUO: Defensive tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, in only their first and second years in the league respectively, had the eighth-most sacks by a defensive line tandem in the AFC with 13 sacks in 2002. In addition, Stroud and Henderson were the only defensive tackle teammates in the NFL to each have as many as 6.5 sacks in 2002.
JAGUARS HAVE BALANCED OFFENSE: In the last five seasons, the Jaguars have rushed for 9,914 yards on the ground, the sixth most in the NFL. They were the only team to have more than 2,000 yards rushing each of the three seasons from 1998 to 2000 (an injury to Fred Taylor held them to 1,600 rushing yards in 2001), and they are one of only three teams to have rushed for 2,000 yards in four of the last five years.
JAGUARS SCORE ON THE GROUND … In the last six seasons, the Jaguars have rushed for 107 touchdowns, the most in the NFL.
… AND STOP THEIR OPPONENTS: In the last seven seasons, the Jaguars have allowed only 79 rushing TDs, the NFL's fourth-best mark.
TAYLOR HAS SIXTH-MOST TOUCHDOWNS LAST FIVE YEARS: Despite missing 24 full games and parts of nine others, Jaguars RB Fred Taylor is tied with the sixth-most touchdowns over the last five seasons among active players.
TAYLOR IN 2002: In 2002, while starting all 16 games for the first time in his career, Jaguars RB Fred Taylor set a number of team and individual milestones. He broke the team record for total yards from scrimmage (1,722), had his third 1,000-yard season (1,314, second most in a season) and set a career high for receptions (49).
BRUNELL HAS 11TH-BEST WINNING PERCENTAGE: Jaguars QB Mark Brunell has the 11th-best career winning percentage of active quarterbacks (minimum 20 wins). Brunell also owns the NFL's third-best record in divisional games (37-21, .638), and in the last eight seasons, he has the most victories of any quarterback other than Green Bay's Brett Favre.
BRUNELL'S TOUCHDOWN TARGETS: Mark Brunell has thrown 142 TD passes in eight seasons with the Jaguars. Here are the 22 players who have caught them: Jimmy Smith (44), Keenan McCardell (26), Damon Jones (11), Willie Jackson (10), Kyle Brady (9), Pete Mitchell (9), James Stewart (5), Fred Taylor (4), Ernest Givins (3), Cedric Tillman (3), Alvis Whitted (3), Andre Rison (2), Elvis Joseph (2), Patrick Johnson (2), Kevin Lockett (2), Derek Brown (1), Ty Hallock (1), Desmond Howard (1), Natrone Means (1), R. Jay Soward (1), Stacey Mack (1) and Bobby Shaw (1).
STATS AND SUCH: Mark Brunell is 63-51 in 114 regular-season starts, 67-55 overall. … WR Jimmy Smith has played in 127 of the 128 games in Jaguars history. Of the current players, next are QB Mark Brunell (117) and DE Tony Brackens (92). … The longest streak of consecutive starts is held by G Brad Meester (48), followed by TE Kyle Brady (46) and WR Jimmy Smith (39). … Seven players have played in 100 or more games during their careers: CB James Trapp (144), WR Jimmy Smith (134), TE Kyle Brady (124), QB Mark Brunell (119), WR J.J. Stokes (111), DE Hugh Douglas (106) and WR/KR Jermaine Lewis (100). … Brady leads with 118 career starts, followed by Brunell (114) and Smith (106). **