Early indications are the 2003 draft class will not be remembered as one of the strongest in NFL draft history. That's not to say there aren't rookies making big contributions, because there are, it's just that there aren't a lot of them.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson has caught a lot of passes for the Texans. Cornerbacks Terence Newman and Marcus Trufant have been big hits. Jordan Gross has settled in nicely at offensive tackle for the Panthers. Anquan Boldin of the Cardinals and Domanick Davis of the Texans have been dynamite second and fourth-round picks.
There are certainly others, but by and large this isn't a particularly good rookie crop. In fact, you might even say this year's draft is a good year not to have a lot of picks.
If that holds true, the Jaguars' 2003 draft crop could turn out to be the league's home-run class. Byron Leftwich gives it that potential, based on the position he plays and the level of efficiency he's already achieved. In fact, Leftwich could run away with this year's rookie of the year award if he turns in a strong second-half-of-the-season performance.
Beyond Leftwich, second-rounder Rashean Mathis may be developing into a quality cornerback for this team's long-term future, and we might venture the same prediction for guard Vince Manuwai. And beyond those players, tight end George Wrighster and running back LaBrandon Toefield have had their moments, and undrafted kicker Seth Marler has given the Jaguars reason to believe he can become one of the league's best.
So, what's the point of all of this information? Well, it's how you beat the Titans. You draft well.
Here's 10 other things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Titans.
- Win turnover battle--The Jaguars are minus-17 in turnover differential in the last 10 games between the two teams. Winning the turnover battle is one half of the Titans' formula for beating the Jaguars, and three weeks ago the Titans were plus-2 in their win at Alltel Stadium.
- Win the sacks battle--Sacking the quarterback is the other half of the Titans' formula. The Titans are plus-17 in sacks differential in those "last 10 games." The Jaguars need to protect their quarterback and sack the Titans'.
- Find the motivation--What is it going to take for the Jaguars to find the motivation to win this game? Against the Titans three weeks ago they let the Titans take a 10-0 lead on the first two possessions of the game. Let's try this: "Take Their House." We'd like to say "Take Back Their House," but the Jaguars have never won at The Coliseum. The last time the Jaguars won a football game in Nashville was in September of 1998, when the Titans were the Oilers and they played at Vanderbilt University. Is it time for the Jaguars to win a game at The Coliseum? You bet it is.
- Stop Eddie George--Every other team in the league has. Over the hill? Not when he plays against the Jaguars. That has to change. If the Jaguars can stop Jamal Lewis, they should certainly be able to shut down George.
- Contain Steve McNair--Stop McNair? No way. That's too much to expect. But the Jaguars must find a way to contain or limit McNair.
- Commit to the running game--That's one way to contain McNair; limit his playing time by dominating time of possession. To do that, the Jaguars must run the ball effectively. Fred Taylor got a big contract in the offseason. He got it for big games like this one.
- Make every yard count--As Jack Del Rio said prior to the first meeting between these two teams, there is a gap between them. Make no mistake, the Titans are a better football team and have a much greater margin for error than the Jaguars, who must make every yard count toward scoring points.
- Take it personally--Forget about avenging what the Titans did to the 1999 team. That was the '99 team's problem. These Jaguars have to avenge what the Titans did to this year's team three weeks ago.
- Turn the tables--Titans coach Jeff Fisher has always gotten into this team's head with curt, little remarks and smirky stratagems. It's time to turn the tables; you know, basketball teams that press don't like to be pressed.
- Have an attitude--Actually, this should be number one. This team has to go to Nashville with a really nasty disposition. It must be prepared to confront the Titans at the first hint of intimidation. What do the Jaguars have to lose? The Titans are the ones playing for the postseason. Go ahead, punch 'em in the nose.