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Preseason Game Four - Jaguars vs. Falcons

Thursday, August 24, 2000, 7:30 p.m. EDT

ALLTEL Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.

THIS WEEK: The Jacksonville Jaguars will close out their 2000 preseason schedule - and attempt to go 4-0 for the second time in franchise history - when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night at ALLTEL Stadium. Kickoff for the game is 7:30 p.m. EDT.

If they defeat the Falcons, the Jaguars would go 4-0 in the preseason for the second time in four years, becoming the first team to do it twice since the Jaguars entered the league in 1995. Since 1970, only 30 teams have gone undefeated in the preseason and then advanced to the playoffs.

In this year's preseason, the Jaguars have defeated the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs, with the wins over Carolina and Kansas City coming on the road. Since 1995, the Jaguars are 9-2 at home during the preseason, having won the last eight games. Jacksonville's last preseason loss at home was August 2, 1996 to the Giants.

The two-time defending AFC Central Division champion Jaguars spent the offseason upgrading a team that had the NFL's best regular-season record in 1999 (14-2) but fell one game shy of the Super Bowl. Jacksonville's 14-2 record during 1999 was the best in franchise history and tied for the fourth most wins in NFL history. They also appeared in their second AFC Championship game in four years. Jacksonville was the only 1998 division winner to win its division in '99, and the Jaguars are one of only two teams to have qualified for postseason play each of the last four seasons (along with Minnesota).

The Jaguars have the best record in the NFL over the last three seasons. Their 36-12 record in that time is two games better than Minnesota and four games better than Denver and Green Bay. The Jaguars also have a 28-4 home record over the last four seasons, tied with Green Bay for the best mark in the NFL. And their 17-9 road record in the last three-plus seasons is also the best in the NFL.

The Jaguars allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 1999 (217) and had the No. 4-ranked defense. The Jacksonville offense led the league in rushing, ranked seventh overall and scored a team-record 396 points (sixth in the league). Jacksonville and St. Louis were the only teams whose offense and defense both ranked in the top 10 in the league.

TELEVISION BROADCAST: The Jaguars-Falcons game will be televised locally by WTLV Channel 12, with Dan Hicken calling the play-by-play, former Jaguars defensive end Jeff Lageman adding analysis, and Jeff Prosser as the field reporter. It will be the second year of preseason games for the Hicken-Lageman-Prosser team.

RADIO BROADCAST: All of the Jaguars' games are broadcast on WOKV (690 AM), WBWL (600 AM) and WKQL (96.9 FM) and the Jaguars Radio Network. Brian Sexton calls the play-by-play and former NFL quarterback Matt Robinson adds analysis. Jennifer Candelino serves as field reporter for the preseason games. Sexton and Robinson are in their sixth season together. Robinson, Candelino, Vic Ketchman and Cole Pepper handle the pre-game show, and Pepper and ex-Oakland Raider Pete Banaszak do the post-game show. A total of 18 affiliates in three states on the Jaguars Radio Network will also broadcast the game.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets are still available for $40, $50, $65 and $90 per ticket. Fans can call 1-888-397-0100 or buy tickets on the Internet at

THE OPPONENT: The Atlanta Falcons entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1966, going 3-11 in their first season. The team had it's first winning season in 1971, going 7-6-1, and they made the playoffs for the first time in 1978, winning their first game before losing in the second round. The Falcons won their first division title in 1980 and they advanced to the playoffs again in 1982. However, they finished out of postseason play for the next 10 years. In 1997, Atlanta hired Dan Reeves as their 10th head coach. He led the team to a 7-9 record in 1997 and then a franchise-best record of 14-2, the NFC championship and their first Super Bowl appearance in '98, although they were defeated by the Denver Broncos 34-19 in Miami. Last season, after a rash of injuries, the Falcons finished 5-11 and in third place in the NFC West.

THE SERIES: The two teams have played twice during the regular season, with Jacksonville having won both games. The first matchup between the Jaguars and Falcons was on December 22, 1996 in Jacksonville, the infamous "Morten's Miss' game in which Falcons placekicker Morten Andersen was wide left on a 30-yard field goal attempt that gave the Jaguars a 19-17 victory and sent them into the playoffs for the first time ever. Last year, the Jaguars defeated the Falcons 30-7 in Atlanta. The two teams also met in the 1997 preseason, with Jacksonville winning 26-17 at home.

THE LAST TIME: The Jaguars beat the Falcons 30-7 at the Georgia Dome on November 7, 1999 and improved to a best-ever 7-1 record. Mark Brunell threw for three touchdowns and Fred Taylor rushed for 124 yards. But the Jaguars' defense was the story of the day. They registered a team-record nine sacks and caused four turnovers, as they held an opponent to single-digit points for the fifth time in the first eight games of the season. Jacksonville held Atlanta to 182 total yards - 58 in the second half and only 101 yards on their 10 drives other than their one scoring possession.

A JAGUARS VICTORY OVER THE FALCONS WOULD: Give them a undefeated 4-0 record in the 2000 preseason, making them the first team to have two undefeated preseasons since the Jaguars started play in the NFL in 1995. In addition, it would give Jacksonville a 17-8 preseason record in six seasons and a 2-0 exhibition record vs. the Falcons. It would also be the Jaguars' ninth straight victory at home in the preseason, dating back to 1996.

INJURY UPDATE: S Carnell Lake (foot) and OT Joe Chustz (back) were placed on injured reserve last Friday … MLB T.J. Slaughter suffered bruised ribs in the Kansas City game … Eleven players missed the game against the Chiefs because of injuries: Running back Fred Taylor suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in the August 11th game and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks …OT Tony Boselli (knee) is rehabbing his Jan. 3, 2000 ACL injury but says he will be back for the season opener … OT Leon Searcy tore the quadriceps tendon in his right leg on July 24 and underwent surgery on July 27. His status has not yet been determined, but he said he hopes to be back in three months … C John Wade (stress fracture in his right foot) should be back in late August … FB Daimon Shelton underwent an operation to repair a broken finger on July 27 and is out indefinitely … DE Eric Curry (knee) is still rehabbing from a 1999 ACL injury … DE Joel Smeenge suffered a strained left calf in the first preseason game and is out indefinitely … DT Gary Walker has a groin pull but should return to practice … Also injured are: DE Tony Brackens (hamstring), S Blaine McElmurry (hernia) and G/OT Steve Ingram (hamstring) … In addition, P Bryan Barker, who sprained his right ankle on July 27, held for placekicks last week but did not do any punting.

THE COACHES: Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin (49-31 in regular season, 4-4 in postseason) has led the Jaguars to two consecutive AFC Central Division championships and two appearances in the AFC Championship game. The Jaguars have made the playoffs each of the last four seasons - a first for an NFL expansion team and one of only two teams in the NFL to do so (along with Minnesota). In 1999, the Jaguars had the best record in the NFL (14-2), advancing to the conference championship game before losing to Tennessee. In 1998, Coughlin guided them to their first AFC Central Division championship with an 11-5 record. They defeated the New England Patriots in a Wild-Card game before losing to the New York Jets in the Divisional playoffs. In 1997, the Jaguars were 11-5 and finished second in the AFC Central, and they were defeated by Denver in the Wild-Card playoffs. In their second season in 1996, the Jaguars advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game, finishing the regular season in second place in the division with a 9-7 record. In the playoffs, the Jaguars upset the Bills and Broncos on the road before losing at New England. In 1995, the Jaguars finished with four victories in their inaugural season. Coughlin became head coach of the Jaguars on February 21, 1994 following three successful seasons as head coach at Boston College. He compiled a record of 21-13-1 from 1991 to '93 at Boston College, and had two appearances in bowl games and a ranking of 13th in the final AP poll of 1993. A veteran of 30 years of coaching, he was previously an NFL assistant coach with the New York Giants (wide receivers, 1988-90), Green Bay Packers (wide receivers and passing game coordinator 1986-87) and Philadelphia Eagles (wide receivers, 1984-85).

In 1999, injuries, such as the one to running back Jamal Anderson, hurt Dan Reeves's Falcons and they dropped to a 5-11 record. In 1998, Atlanta had its best season ever, going 14-2 and winning the NFC championship and a berth in Super Bowl XXXIII, the club's first. Reeves also is one of only three coaches to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl. Reeves spent four years as head coach of the New York Giants. In 1993, he earned consensus NFL coach-of-the-year honors for the second time (the first was in 1984). He was head coach of the Denver Broncos from 1981-1992. His 177 victories are the most among active coaches. Reeves coached Denver to three Super Bowl appearances (XXI, XXII, and XXIV) in four years. Reeves has participated in a record nine Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach, or head coach. He was an assistant in Dallas from 1970-1980, including three years (1970-72) as a player-coach. Reeves began his pro playing career as a free-agent running back with Dallas in 1965. He played eight seasons and finished as the Cowboys' fifth all-time leading rusher (1,990 yards). He played quarterback at the University of South Carolina.

JACKSONVILLE-ATLANTA CONNECTIONS: (list compiled before Jacksonville's cut to 65 players) The two teams' starting quarterbacks played collegiately at the University of Washington: Chris Chandler from 1984 to '87 and Mark Brunell from 1990 to '92 … Falcons vice president of football operations Ron Hill and his assistant, Les Snead, previously worked for the Jaguars, with Hill coming aboard during the startup in 1994 … Falcons LB Jon Hesse was a seventh-round draft pick of the Jaguars in 1997 … The Falcons have eight players with ties to the state of Florida: CB Elijah Williams and QB Doug Johnson (University of Florida), WR Shawn Jefferson and DE Emil Ekiyor (University of Central Florida), WR Jammi German (Ft. Myers, University of Miami), S Johndale Carty (Miami), LB Henri Crockett (Pompano Beach, Florida State), and QB Danny Kanell (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida State) … The Jaguars have seven active players with ties to the state of Georgia: DE Eric Curry (Thomasville), DT Emarlos Leroy (Albany, University of Georgia), DT Gary Walker (Lavonia), WR Emanuel Smith (Perry), CB Kiwaukee Thomas (Warner-Robins, Georgia Southern) and DT Larry Smith (Folkston) … Jaguars G/OT Todd Fordham (Tifton), DT Larry Smith and C Eric Thomas were teammates of Falcons QB Danny Kanell and LB Henri Crockett at Florida State … Jaguars RB Fred Taylor was a teammate of Falcons QB Doug Johnson and CB Elijah Williams at Florida … Jaguars OG/OT Zach Wiegert and G Brenden Stai played with Falcons CB Michael Booker at the University of Nebraska. Wiegert also played for the St. Louis Rams in 1995 and '96 when current Falcons assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Rich Brooks was the Rams' head coach ... Jaguars WR Damon Gibson and FB Trevor Bollers played with Falcons WR/KR Tim Dwight at Iowa ... Jaguars LB Chester Burnett and Falcons OT Jose Portilla were teammates at Arizona ... Jaguars LB Brandon Southward was a teammate of Falcons T Ryan Johanningmeier at Colorado ... Jaguars RB Chris Howard played with Falcons DT Ben Huff at Michigan ... Jaguars WR Lenzie Jackson and DT Ryan Reilly were teammates of Falcons DT Shawn Swayda at Arizona State … Jaguars S Blaine McElmurry and C/G David Kempfert were teammates of Falcons P Dallas Neil at the University of Montana ... Jaguars RB Shyrone Stith played with Falcons CB Anthony Midget at Virginia Tech.

LAST WEEK: The Jaguars improved to 3-0 for the preseason by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 26-22 at Arrowhead Stadium on August 19. Quarterback Mark Brunell led the Jaguars to a 10-6 lead, and then, after falling behind in the fourth quarter, the reserves had to pull out the victory. Rookie Shyrone Stith rushed for 103 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown run, and Brunell connected with Jimmy Smith on a 32-yard TD pass to go with Mike Hollis' four field goals. The Jaguars, however, managed only 14 first downs and were sacked seven times.

NOTES FROM THE CHIEFS GAME: For the second straight week, the Jaguars had fewer first downs (14 to 21), fewer total yards (337 to 348) and less time of possession (29:13 to 30:47) but still won the game. … The Jaguars converted just 5 of 15 third downs (33 percent), while the Chiefs converted 8 of 18 (44 percent). … The Jaguars had only one sack and allowed seven sacks, and both teams turned the ball over once. … Shyrone Stith led both teams with 103 yards on nine carries, including his 78-yard TD run. Starter Stacey Mack had 27 yards on 10 carries … Keenan McCardell was the leading receiver with five catches for 89 yards, and R. Jay Soward had four catches for 68 yards … Mark Brunell started the game and completed 9 of 14 attempts for 115 yards. Jonathan Quinn was 3 of 5 for 51 yards, and Jamie Martin was 4 of 10 for 78 yards. None of the quarterbacks were intercepted. … Rookie LB Danny Clark had a fumble recovery for the Jaguars' only takeaway. … MLB Hardy Nickerson led the team with 16 tackles (11 solo), followed by DT Seth Payne with nine tackles (1 solo) … Steve Lindsey punted five times for a 41.4-yard average, with one inside the 20. … Players who dressed but did not play were: QB Roderick Robinson, WR Emanuel Smith, S Kevin Peoples, C Eric Thomas and G Eric Moss… Jaguars captains were WR Jimmy Smith, DT Seth Payne and S Mike Logan.

FROM COACH TOM COUGHLIN ON THE CHIEFS GAME: "It was a good football game. I knew coming into Kansas City we would rush the football, and we tried to rush the football. We did a good job, particularly in the first half, when it was a nip-and-tuck game. We got the long run out of Shyrone (Stith) in the fourth quarter, which was the deciding factor. Lots of people had opportunities to play. It was a good opportunity for our team to be on the road in this environment, particularly going in or coming out of the goal line when the noise was at great volume and being able to play under those circumstances. I am pleased that we won, but we still have a lot of things to address, though guys played hard. The intensity level was definitely up from the week before."

(on the offensive line and the hits the Jaguars' quarterbacks were taking) "Obviously, we had some problems with protection. We got some people run over. We have to continue to work and lock up those holes in the offensive line. Yes, I was very concerned. Some of the (sacks) have to be shared by everybody. We get into a maximum protection scheme, and the tackle who sits on an island gets beat. Then he's a guy who doesn't get any help. That happened twice tonight, so I was concerned. Mark (Brunell) got knocked around pretty good, but he hung in there, and as long as he was not hurt, there was something to be gained by (being in there). With the other quarterbacks, I thought Jamie (Martin) was going to be down (injured), but he battled back into the game. I'm sure they will be sore tomorrow. We did not go strictly three step drops tonight, which is the biggest statement on why we got hits on the quarterbacks."

(on Shyrone Stith's run) "Outstanding. We had three or four plays that were leads that he ran very effectively. We just kept coming back to that. He broke out of there and showed he had some speed as he got in front of the corner and outran everybody."

(on either backup quarterback separating himself as the No. 2) "Each one of them made some plays, but not a lot. I would just have to look at the tape. I would say offhand no, but I will look at the tape and see how it looks. I was looking for one of those two quarterbacks to assert himself and make a play, make something happen under difficult circumstances, especially in the second half. We made some plays, but we had the ball on the 11-yard line and didn't score a touchdown. We were able to get single-highs for both fade balls, we should have had at least touchdowns, but it didn't happen. We had our hands on the second one but couldn't catch it. There was some frustration. The defense didn't have many turnovers, but we were sitting in point-blank range and didn't score."

(on the free safeties, now that Carnell Lake is out for the year) "Rayna (Stewart) has been the starter the whole time in the preseason, so it's not like it is any new experience for him. I look forward to seeing on film how Mike Logan played on film, and (Erik) Olson as well. I am interested in seeing the progress of all three."

(on Stacey Mack's first start) "He is a big, powerful back. I'm sure there were times where he should have stayed inside, when he bounced it outside. I would have liked to have more of a rush gain. When I look at it (on film) I will see there were some things we should have done more of, but Stacey's a hard runner, a big back, and the more he plays, the better he will be."

FROM QB MARK BRUNELL: (on the play of the first-team offense) "I took a few hits tonight. I don't think we ran the ball as well as we would have liked, but hopefully that will come. We scored 10 points, which not as much as you like to have, but we didn't have the ball a whole lot. We had a few drives, had some good things and obviously, some bad too."

(on the offensive line) "We took our share (of hits) tonight. We have a couple of weeks to fix that, and fortunately we get some guys back. There were some young guys up there with not a lot of experience. We will get (the line play) shaped up."

(on getting enough work to be ready for the season) "Each game I have gotten a little bit more playing time, and I was glad to get a half tonight. Hopefully, this upcoming game against Atlanta I'll get another half, but once the regular season starts I will be ready. We have been at this for about four weeks now and we have worked on everything, maybe not in a game situation. But we did get a good two-minute (drill) in tonight. That was something I was hoping we would get and we executed well and got a field goal out of it. That was good."

FROM WR JIMMY SMITH: (on having one more preseason game) "I think we need another preseason game offensively. I really can't speak for the defense; they seem to be playing well and the special teams seem to be playing OK. But the offense needs another preseason game to gel. We are still not satisfied on offense. We have a long way to go. It is good that we have veteran receivers, a veteran quarterback and probably the best trio in the league. It's good to be a part of it. Up front we have to be able to protect Mark (Brunell) and create holes for the running backs. We are gradually making progress, but we are going to need this next preseason game before we start the season."

FROM RB SHYRONE STITH: (on the 78-yard run making the difference in the win) "Probably for the fans and other teams, but not for this team. They know what I can do from practice. Hopefully this gave them a little idea of what I can do if I make the team. This will be a tough week, knowing that you might be cut or you might not make the second cut. You just take it in stride and hopefully if you don't make it here another team will pick you up and give you a chance."

(on which he liked more - his TD run or his big tackle on a kick return) "Probably the big hit on special teams. If it wasn't for that they would have scored."

NEXT WEEK: The Jaguars will open the 2000 regular season on Sunday, September 3 on the road vs. the Cleveland Browns. It will be the third time in six seasons that the Jaguars will open a season away from home, and they won both of the previous two road openers (1997 at Baltimore and 1998 at Chicago). Altogether, the Jaguars are 4-1 on opening day, with a four-game winning streak that is tied for the second-longest in the league. The Jaguars are 4-0 lifetime against the Browns, sweeping the series in both 1995 and 1999.

2000 POSITION ANALYSIS: Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the Jaguars:

Quarterbacks - Mark Brunell is back for his sixth season with the Jaguars. In 1999, he passed for 3,060 yards and 14 touchdowns, with only nine interceptions, in leading the Jaguars to 13 wins in 15 starts. In five years in Jacksonville, he has thrown for 15,477 yards and a 44-24 record. Although Brunell hasn't started a full season since 1996, he tied for the third-most starts among NFL quarterbacks over the last three seasons. Vying for the No. 2 job are third-year pro Jonathan Quinn and Jamie Martin, who was with the Jaguars in 1998. Quinn started two games in 1998, his rookie season, but did not play during the '99 regular season (he did play in the Divisional playoff game vs. Miami). Martin re-joined the Jaguars after a season in Cleveland. The three of them have combined for 79 of the 88 starts in franchise history (including playoff games).

Running Backs - Fred Taylor is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, which is why Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin wants to keep Taylor healthy for a full season and in the lineup. However, Taylor suffered a strained left MCL against the New York Giants and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. In 1999, his second year, Taylor missed six full games and parts of several others, mainly because of a recurring hamstring injury. Still, he rushed for 732 yards on 159 carries, matching the 4.6-yard average of his rookie year. He also scored six touchdowns. The top backup is Stacey Mack, although Chris Howard will also see action. Mack, a second-year pro out of Temple who was the only undrafted rookie to make the Jaguars in 1999, carried the ball only seven times for 40 yards as a rookie. Howard, who has been in Jacksonville for two years, has rushed 20 times for 71 yards (he carried 15 more times in the 1999 playoffs). Daimon Shelton will be back as the starting fullback for the third season. He paved the way for the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing offense in 1999, and he's proven to be an adept pass receiver, too. However, he's now sidelined with a broken finger, with Trevor Bollers filling in. Shyrone Stith was drafted in the seventh round out of Virginia Tech and had a 78-yard TD run in the third preseason game. He is competing for a possible roster spot.

Wide Receivers - Jimmy Smith, who has caught the second-most passes (359) for the most yards (5,386) over the last four seasons, will start alongside Keenan McCardell, who has caught 312 balls for 4,076 yards in that time. In 1999, Smith led the NFL with 116 receptions, the sixth most ever in a season, and he had nine 100-yard games in making the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year. McCardell is a solid possession receiver who led the team in receiving in 1996 and '97. R. Jay Soward was chosen in the first round of this year's draft and is the favorite to be the No. 3 wideout. Soward caught four passes for 68 yards at Kansas City. A speedster who ranked third on Southern Cal's career list with 168 receptions, Soward can also return punts and kickoffs. He scored 32 touchdowns four different ways in college. Reggie Barlow is also competing for a reserve role. Last year he caught 11 passes and was the team's top punt and kickoff returner. He is the league's only player who has scored on a kick return each of the last three years. Alvis Whitted also had his best training camp and figures in the pictures at both wide receiver and as a kickoff returner.

Tight Ends- Kyle Brady and Damon Jones, the top two tight ends, both set career highs for receptions and yards last year. They also form one of the league's best blocking tandems at the position. Brady caught 32 passes for 346 yards and one TD, and Jones caught 19 balls for 221 yards and four TDs. The third tight end is expected to be veteran Rich Griffith, who is also the team's long snapper.

Offensive Line - The biggest changes on offense are on the offensive line. Currently, nobody is starting where he finished the 1999 season. Tony Boselli is rehabbing an injured ACL and will be out until late in the preseason. He has said he'll return in time for the regular-season opener. Steve Ingram, who saw playing time at both guard and tackle in 1999, and Todd Fordham, who missed all of 1999 with a torn ACL, are manning the left tackle spot until Boselli's return. Rookie Brad Meester, a second-round pick out of Northern Iowa who played center in college, has taken over at left guard. John Wade has started the Jaguars' last 20 games (including playoffs), but he has a stress fracture and will be out until late August. He has been replaced by both first-year player David Kempfert (who spent all of 1999 on the Jaguars' practice squad) and veteran Quentin Neujahr, who started all 16 regular-season games in 1998. Right guard is open, because Zach Wiegert, who started 12 games there in 1999, has been switched to right tackle following Leon Searcy's injury. But the Jaguars obtained six-year veteran Brenden Stai from the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade on August 16, and he is expected to eventually start. In the preseason, right guard has been manned by both Kempfert and Anthony Cesario, a third-round pick in '99. Wiegert will play right tackle until Searcy's return, although Searcy's status has not yet been determined. Wiegert started all 16 games at right tackle for the Rams in 1996, so he isn't new to the position (he played more than four quarters of 1999 at right tackle, too). Rookie Mark Baniewicz is also competing for a backup position at offensive tackle.

Defensive Line - The Jaguars tied for the NFL lead with 57 sacks in 1999, with 34.5 of them coming from the linemen. But the D-line is also equally formidable against the run. In 1999, the Jaguars allowed only six rushing touchdowns, and they ranked fourth vs. the run. The star of the line is Tony Brackens, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 1999. Brackens missed the first two weeks of training camp because of a holdout, but he signed a one-year tender offer on August 11 and returned to practice two days later before suffering a hamstring injury. He had a team-record 12 sacks in 1999. Renaldo Wynn starts at left end, and he has started 33 of 43 games played in three years in Jacksonville. He plays mainly on the strong side. The top reserve at defensive end is Joel Smeenge, who trails only Brackens on the team's career sack list, has started 46 games in five seasons with the Jaguars and he's never had fewer than four sacks in a season. Gary Walker and Seth Payne start on the inside. Walker was a big surprise in 1999, his first year in Jacksonville, when he turned in a career-high 10 sacks from the interior of the line, ranking fourth among the NFL's defensive tackles. Payne started all 16 games for the first time in his career and is now completely healthy from a 1998 shoulder injury that still hampered him in 1999. Larry Smith and Emarlos Leroy are the primary backups at tackle, and on the outside there's a battle between Eric Curry (a former first-round draft choice who missed most of '99 with a knee injury), rookie Rob Meier and Rahmaan Streater (a 1999 practice squad player who started at Kansas City).

Linebackers - Kevin Hardy developed into an All-Pro outside linebacker in his fourth season, and even more is expected of him in '00. Hardy led the team in tackles for the second straight season and had a career-high 10.5 sacks. Hardy Nickerson takes over at middle linebacker, and the former Steeler and Buccaneer solidifies the position for the Jaguars for the first time ever. A five-time Pro Bowler, Nickerson can go sideline to sideline, cover tight ends downfield or run with backs out of the backfield. He averages more than 100 tackles in each of his 14 NFL seasons. With the addition of Nickerson, Lonnie Marts moves to strongside linebacker, where he is more suited. In 1999, he started two games on the strong side and 14 at middle linebacker, finishing third on the Jaguars in tackles. (In fact, all three Jaguars linebackers had more than 100 tackles in 1999.) The top backup is Brant Boyer, who is an original Jaguar and plays primarily in short-yardage and goal-line situations (he's also a top special teams player). Competing for a reserve role on the strong side are Corey Terry and Erik Storz. Third-round draft pick T.J. Slaughter will back up Nickerson in the middle and play on special teams, and seventh-rounder Danny Clark is working on the weak side.

Defensive Backs - In 1999, the Jaguars' pass defense improved from 23rd to third, CB Aaron Beasley set a team record with six interceptions (two for touchdowns), safety Carnell Lake became the first Jaguars defensive back to be voted to the Pro Bowl, cornerback Fernando Bryant made nearly every All-Rookie team, and strong safety Donovin Darius was named second-team All-Pro. However, Lake never recovered from offseason foot surgery and underwent a second operation on August 21 and was placed on injured reserve. He will be replaced by either Rayna Stewart, who started the first three preseason games, or 1997 second-round draft choice Mike Logan. Bryant will only get better in his second season. Darius has started 30 of 32 games and will call the signals in the secondary from his strong safety position. The secondary accounted for 15 interceptions last year, more than the entire Jaguars team had ever had in a season. There's depth, too, in cornerbacks Jason Craft (fifth-round choice in 1999), Kiwaukee Thomas (fifth-rounder this year), Corey Chamblin and Michael Swift.

Kickers- Mike Hollis and Bryan Barker have done all of the kicking for the Jaguars in the first five seasons, and that shouldn't change in 2000. Hollis has scored 576 points in five years, with four consecutive seasons of 100 or more points. He is also the second-most-accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, with an 81.60 percentage, just seven-hundredths of a point behind San Diego's John Carney. Barker suffered a sprained ankle on July 27 but should be back for the season opener (he held for placekicks in the third preseaason game but did not punt). In 1999, Barker set a team record with 32 kicks inside the 20 in what he considers the finest season of his career. As a Jaguar, he averages 43.8 yards per punt, with a net of 37.7. Steve Lindsey has handled the punting in Barker's absence. In his first season with the Jaguars handling the kickoff duties in 1999, Lindsey led the NFL with 22 touchbacks and helped the team improve its kickoff coverage from 13th in the AFC in 1998 to second in '99.

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