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Jaguars have good chemistry

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The Jaguars' locker room is a happy place, again, following a season that was said to have been compromised by bad chemistry.

"I feel like we're all on the same page. Win or lose, I feel like our hearts are on the same page," tight end Marcedes Lewis said of the harmony the Jaguars seem to have achieved in their locker room this year.

As the team fell toward a 5-11 finish last season, the Jaguars locker room became sullen. Fewer and fewer players availed themselves to the media. Then, late in the year, players began to tell of "bad chemistry" and coach Jack Del Rio even confirmed it. He then spoke of the need for a new commitment to winning in the offseason.

That was followed by new General Manager Gene Smith's roster cleaning. Quickly, those players who didn't fit Smith's ideal were released or allowed to leave in free agency. Now, at 2-2 and entertaining thoughts of becoming one of the NFL's surprise teams in 2009, it's obvious Smith kept the right players.

"I feel like they did," Lewis said. "The leadership on the team this year is better. There's a different attitude about everything. On our off days, everybody is in here. In the offseason, everybody was here."

None of this was accomplished by accident. Smith knew exactly what he was seeking in the way of player attitude.

"Character is a player's greatest talent," Smith said. "When you go through a trying season, as we did in 2008, there are some things that are revealing. I've always been a believer that football builds character, but it also exposes it. It's a privilege for players to perform in the NFL. I want guys who understand that. We had some people here who were taking something great, playing in this league, for granted. Football is a we game and we had some guys with a me mentality and that isn't conducive to winning."

The Jaguars roster, which has undergone massive turnover and fits most definitions of the term rebuilding, is comprised of three main groups: 1.) The holdovers who represent the core of the team; 2.) Thirteen rookies who represent the future of Jaguars football, some of which are major players in the present; 3.) Cast-offs seeking a chance to prove they can play in this league.

Defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison is a member of the latter group. After failing in tries with four other teams, Ellison appears to have found a home with the Jaguars.

"It's a big boost to be somewhere they want you. I want to prove I belong here and not let down the people that brought me here," Ellison said.

Lewis may be the player who is benefitting most from Del Rio's new commitment demand. Del Rio convinced Lewis to stay in Jacksonville in the offseason, to work in the heat and more fully prepare his body for the season. That new dedication is being credited for Lewis' strong start this season; he's caught 11 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's tough when you have guys not on the same page. You could tell," Lewis said of last year's team. "This year is totally different. We're excited to be out there on the practice field."

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