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Jags bask in Polian's praise


The buzz the Jaguars claim to feel was confirmed by Colts President Bill Polian when Polian recently referred to the Jaguars as the most improved team in the AFC.

"I see Jacksonville as both a very improved football team and a team that has changed 90 degrees, in terms of their approach to personnel, their approach to playing the game. They may not be a playoff team, yet, because this division is so strong, but they are going to be the most improved team, I would say without question, in the AFC," Polian said during a recent radio interview.

It is high praise, indeed, coming from the most esteemed personnel man in the league. Polian's comments are confirmation the Jaguars' rebuilding efforts are succeeding.

"Coming from a guy like him, he's the best of the best, it's flattering, but we have a lot of work to do," Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough said during Monday evening's practice.

The Jaguars needed that kind of validation. Mostly, they need their fans to feel good about the team and its future. Draft picks that were criticized by fans as reaches for players from small schools were praised by Polian.

"(Tyson Alualu) is a terrific addition," Polian said of the Jaguars' first-round pick. "Their draft, top to bottom, we thought was absolutely first rate. They've made great additions throughout the year. Last year, they took away the people that were non-contributors. They moved them on. Jack Del Rio and his general manager are right on the same page and they're doing a heck of a job. Look for them to be a contender."

McDonough surveyed the practice field with his eyes and said he saw a "lot of youth and speed on the defensive line and excellent veteran leadership."

Are the Jaguars a playoff contender this year?

"Yeah, I believe we are. I believe we have talent here to win: a veteran quarterback, a stable of running backs, two proven starting corners, a good offensive line and a young and athletic defensive line. A year ago, we weren't athletic and fast," McDonough said.

The transformation of the roster from old and slow to young and fast has happened quickly, but it's still a work in progress.

"It was a reconstruction job; no question about it, and we're two years in," McDonough said.

What's made the difference?

"Gene Smith has an unbelievable work ethic, intellect," McDonough said of the team's general manager. "He doesn't panic. He's a tremendous talent evaluator. He's not concerned with others' perceptions. He's made sound decisions based on fact."

Already, others in the league are taking notice, but the Jaguars' fans are demanding wins.

McDonough says "staying healthy, like we did in 2007," is the key to whatever chance the Jaguars have of being a playoff contender this season. "David Garrard has looked exceptional. We're expecting a big year out of David. We'll go as David goes," McDonough added.

Garrard took a night off from practice on Monday. Meanwhile, rookie defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith sustained an injury early in practice and was carted from the field.

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