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Jags are team of change


It's the greatest roster turnover in Jaguars history. Twenty-six of the 53 players on this year's roster are new to the team.

To put that into historical perspective, there were only 20 new faces on the 1996 roster, a year removed from the Jaguars' inaugural season, when the team was 4-12. Of course, the Jaguars made it to the AFC title game in 1996.

Considering the 21 new players on last year's opening-day roster, the 47 in two years represents nearly a total reconstruction of this football team. Mark Brunell may still be the Jaguars' starting quarterback, but most everything else about this team is new, including its coaching staff.

So, what does all of this mean?

"The (league) average is 25 percent turnover. What is it on this team, 50 percent? That's a very new team," tight end Kyle Brady said. "One thing that's good is there's no residual feeling from last year. Can we do this? You have a totally new feeling."

That new feeling will be on the "first tee" at one o'clock Sunday afternoon in Carolina, where this new era in Jaguars football will officially begin against the Jaguars' 1995 expansion brethren, the Carolina Panthers. A few hours later we'll have an idea what the impact of the radical change in the Jaguars roster will mean to the 2003 season.

"That makes it harder, when you have a lot of youth," Brady admitted of achieving success this season. "Based on what I saw of the defense, it's a very solid unit. If you've got that you're going to be in every game. We have enough guys (on offense) to make plays. Special teams are a matter of desire."

When last season ended with a 20-13 loss in Indianapolis, the Jaguars were a 6-10 team that would fire its head coach the following morning. The wheels of change were about to begin.

Head coach Jack Del Rio and personnel boss James "Shack" Harris are at the root of the change. Harris and Director of College Scouting Gene Smith have put together a draft class that marks the first time since that '95 inaugural season that the entire class has made the final roster. Thirteen rookies, in all, are on the final roster, which rivals the 19 rookies on Baltimore's opening-day roster last season. Of course, Harris was the Ravens' pro personnel director then.

"It's a new beginning. All of us have the mind-set that we're as good as any team in the league," running back Fred Taylor said.

For now, the offseason "new era" hype continues, but for just a few more days. Through an eventful training camp and a 3-1 preseason, the anticipation and intrigue that accompany change increased. Now, it's at peak in season-opener week. What will this offseason of change produce?

"We're going to find out on Sunday. That's what all this work is for," Del Rio said as he came off the practice field today.

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