Two teams that had come to know each other as well as they knew themselves, might have difficulty recognizing each other on Sunday. Gone from this rivalry are Tony Dungy, Fred Taylor, Marvin Harrison and half a roster of players from last year's Jaguars team. This is a season of change for both the Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts.
"One thing I know, I'll miss seeing my buddy, my former coach and mentor, Tony Dungy," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. Dungy, of course, stepped down as Colts coach following last season, after leading the Colts to the playoffs in seven consecutive years.
Jim Caldwell has replaced Dungy as the Colts' head man and the transition hasn't been seamless. Dungy was a defensive-minded coach who built a fast, disciplined defense that allowed yards but denied big plays. Caldwell's background is on the offensive side of the ball and much about the Colts defense and its philosophy has changed.
"They're actually blitzing," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.
Under Dungy, the Colts were famous for their double-high safety, "cover two" defense that featured hard-hitting safety Bob Sanders. He has been the Colts' star defensive player, the most feared player on the field in most games, but Sanders will not play against the Jaguars on Sunday. He has been ruled out of action with a knee injury.
What the Jaguars will see is a Colts defense in transition. It struggled to a number 30 league ranking in the preseason, 31st in the league in run-defense. Clearly, especially with Sanders sidelined, the Colts will be inviting the Jaguars to run the ball at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
Meanwhile, with rookie tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton in their NFL debuts, the Colts will no doubt feel a strong invitation to rush the quarterback. Monroe and Britton will be facing the strength of the Colts defense in ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who combined for 22 sacks last season.
"I don't know if they understand the rivalry we have, but they will," defensive end Reggie Hayward said of the Jaguars' rookies, which may number four in the starting lineup. Third-round draft picks Terrance Knighton and Derek Cox are expected to be starters at defensive tackle and cornerback.
"He can't put added pressure on himself and have the pressure tighten him up so he can't play at all," veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis said of Cox. "He has the tools to do great. If he uses those tools, he'll do very well."
Knighton is being counted on to stop the Colts' inside running game. "I'm going to keep taking on blocks and standing guys up," Knighton said.
Del Rio has vowed the Jaguars' pass-rush will be improved this season. The Colts offensive line allowed 16 sacks in the preseason; five against quarterback Peyton Manning.
"We just have to finish on the quarterback and we should have enough chances this week, as much as they throw the ball," Knighton said.
"We're ready. The urgency is clearly there. We've got a great group of guys in this locker room. We have new guys who can lead by example," wide receiver Torry Holt said.