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Jaguars' return to glory

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Jaguars.com Senior Editor Vic Ketchman is on vacation this week, so five "Ask Vic" readers were randomly selected to be "Vic For A Day." Each guest columnist was given a topic on which to write and the guest columnists' work will appear this week on jaguars.com. Clayton Roberson, III of Jacksonville is today's guest columnist and his assigned topic is: What do you believe the Jaguars' prospects are for 2005 and why?

By Clayton Roberson, III

This is the point in the year at which almost every fan of every NFL team feels they have a chance to have a good season. It's a fun time because there aren't any stats or records to prove you wrong. It's easy to think your team will be the Cinderella surprise this year.

Fans look at the upcoming schedule and start picking the games they know are certain wins and the games their team has a chance of losing. Getting 10 wins and making the playoffs always seems like a strong possibility this time of year.

You can find optimism everywhere. For example, the Tennessee Titans have lost several key players over the last two years due to salary cap problems and their woes are almost certain to continue. This is a team picked by many to finish at the bottom of the AFC South this year as it is simply financially unable to field a strong team. Well, Titans fans were given hope recently when defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth said that despite losing almost all of the starting defensive line from two years ago, "We're going to be better than we've ever been." And for all we know, he may be right.

So how about the Jaguars? We witnessed the signing of Reggie Hayward, who addressed what many fans considered to be our biggest need, a pass-rusher at defensive end.

We hired a new offensive coordinator who plans on adding some excitement and, more importantly, points.

According to most Arkansas fans, we just landed the sleeper of the century when we drafted Matt Jones and we've heard that Jones might be our long-term answer for finding a replacement for aging wide receiver Jimmy Smith. And to add to the good news at the wide receiver position, we've read the stories of how Reggie Williams came into camp this year looking like the wide receiver we hoped he would be last year.

There's a feeling in the air here in Jacksonville that we've got something good again. However, after feeling that same way for the last five preseasons, I can't help but ask myself, "Self, is this just another case of me being overconfident again?"

The first four years of the franchise spoiled us. Going to the playoffs four times in the first five years, including two trips to the AFC championship game, made us believe winning was easy. The Jaguars sure made it look easy.

Now, one huge reality check later, we've seen that winning is not all that easy after all. Like so many other teams, we swung for the fence by disregarding the future impact of the salary cap and, making matters worse, we struck out. We paid the inevitable price for taking that swing and it cost us four consecutive losing seasons.

Is our wait finally over?

Our team has shown many signs that we are poised to return to the playoffs and, with our cap in such a healthy state, it looks like this will be the beginning of another team who will make winning look easy for years to come.

The 2005 season will be the Jaguars' return to glory.

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