The Jaguars signed Dennis Northcutt to be the team's number three receiver and punt-returner. A lot of fans and media said the Jaguars paid too much for Northcutt, who had trouble getting playing time on one of the league's worst teams last year.
At best, it appeared Northcutt might be a role player for the Jaguars. No one considered the possibility Northcutt would become the team's number one receiver.
That is, however, exactly what Northcutt is after two weeks of the season. He leads all Jaguars receivers with nine catches for 132 yards. In both games, Northcutt has been David Garrard's go-to pass-catcher.
"Early in my career, there was no way I could've been a number one. I didn't know what it took to be a number one. I learned so much in my first three years. It made me make decisions in my life," Northcutt said.
The Browns selected Northcutt with the first pick of the second round of the 2000 draft. Northcutt was a speed-to-burn receiver with distinct punt-return and big-play ability and, through seven seasons in Cleveland, Northcutt had his moments.
Those moments of promise, however, seemed always to be sabotaged by untimely dropped passes. A 2002 season playoff loss to archrival Pittsburgh is the perfect example.
Northcutt was having the game of his life: six catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns and a 59-yard punt-return. Then, in the time it took to drop one pass, Northcutt went from hero to goat. It was a pass that, had he caught it, would've allowed the Browns to kill the clock and claim the win. Instead, the Steelers rallied to win.
Signing with the Jaguars represented a fresh start and Northcutt has seized the opportunity. He dropped a pass in the season-opener, but his overall performance has more than made up for that lone mistake.
"I feel good about the move. I feel good about this team. I'm glad to be here," Northcutt said.
His all-business attitude provides perfect leadership for young receivers such as John Broussard, a rookie with Northcutt-like big-play skills.
"You hear all the time the team has talent. Talent will only take you so far. It takes all 11 guys to get the ball into the end zone," Northcutt said.
The Jaguars offense hasn't gotten into the end zone often enough through two games, scoring just one touchdown in each game. Quarterback David Garrard will try to rectify that problem this Sunday in Denver.
"They will come," Garrard said of points. "My thing is win ballgames. We had some unfortunate things happen to us in the first week or we'd be 2-0."
Garrard is playing at the highest level of his career. He improved from week one to week two and he says that's the goal for game three.
"Just continue to get better. Just continue to get the ball in these guys' hands," Garrard said.
"I think it's just the number of years I've been in the league doing this," Garrard said when pressed for a reason for his improvement. "It's not my first go-round; not my second go-round. It's a perfect time for this. It's allowed me to be comfortable and to go out and do what David Garrard does."
Garrard would also seem to qualify as a late-bloomer. This is Garrard's sixth pro season and the first time in his career that he was a starter on opening day.
Maybe Northcutt and Garrard just needed to find each other.