Sunday, September 9, 2001, 1:00 p.m. EDT
ALLTEL Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
THIS WEEK: The Jacksonville Jaguars will open their seventh season when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1:00 p.m. EDT Sunday at ALLTEL Stadium. The Jaguars are hoping to get off to a fast start and get back into the playoffs after missing the postseason last season for the first time in five years. The Jaguars have won five straight games on opening day, dating back to their second season in 1996 when they beat the Steelers 24-9 in Game 1 on a hot day in ALLTEL Stadium. The five straight wins is the second-longest active streak in the NFL, and the Jaguars' .833 winning percentage (5-1) on opening day is the best of any NFL team.
The Jaguars are coming out of a preseason in which they finished 2-2, the sixth straight year they've had a non-losing preseason. In their preseason finale on August 30, they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 27-17. The month of September affords the Jaguars an opportunity to get off to a head start, with three home games against division rivals in the first four weeks of the season.
The Jaguars pared their roster down to the 53-man limit on Sunday, releasing among the 21 players safety Carnell Lake and backup quarterback Jamie Martin. Their opening day roster features 18 new players - five draft picks, three undrafted rookies, seven veterans and three new first-year players. However, Jacksonville still retains the same core group of players that advanced to the AFC Championship game two seasons ago. In fact, the Jaguars return 16 starters from two seasons ago - eight on offense and eight on a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league in 1999.
Jacksonville's 7-9 record during 2000 marked the team's first losing season since its inaugural year of 1995. Still, in the last four seasons, the Jaguars have the second-best record in the NFL. Their 43-21 record in that time is two games behind Minnesota (45-19) and tied with Denver. Jacksonville also has the third-best home record in the last four years (32-8, two games behind Green Bay), and their road record of 20-14 since 1996 is tied for the best in the league with Minnesota and Tennessee.
TELEVISION BROADCAST: The Jaguars-Steelers game will be televised regionally on CBS and locally on WJXT Channel 4, with Don Criqui calling the play-by-play, Craig James adding analysis and Beasley Reece as the field reporter.
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, with Sam Kouvaris serving as field reporter. Sexton and Robinson are in their seventh season together. Robinson, Vic Ketchman and Cole Pepper handle the pre-game show (one hour before kickoff on all three stations), and Pepper and ex-Oakland Raider Pete Banaszak do the post-game show. A total of 19 affiliates in three states on the Jaguars Radio Network will also broadcast the game.
ON THE INTERNET: For breaking news, press releases, historical information, video highlights, rosters, depth charts and statistics, go to www.jaguars.com Updated daily, the Jaguars' Official Web Site has been ranked among the 100 Best Sites in the World by PC Magazine. The site also features online ticket buying, new merchandise offerings and multimedia, including live video of Jaguars television shows and live radio broadcasts of games.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets are still available for $40, $50, $65 and $95 per ticket. Fans can call 1-866-4-JAGS-TIX or buy tickets on the Internet at www.jaguars.com
THE OPPONENT: The fifth-oldest franchise in the NFL, the Steelers have been members of the NFL since 1933, when they were founded by Art Rooney as the Pittsburgh Pirates. They made their first playoff appearance in 1947, losing to the Chicago Cardinals, and their second in 1962, then didn't make the playoffs again until 1972 after coach Chuck Noll had arrived. Behind Noll and eight other Hall of Famers, the Steelers developed into one of the NFL's true dynasties. They won four Super Bowls (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), then made the postseason only once in seven years from 1985 to '91. They have advanced to the playoffs five times in the last seven years under Bill Cowher, playing in the AFC championship game in 1994 and '97 and the Super Bowl in 1995. The Steelers have won the AFC Central Division in five of Cowher's nine seasons as head coach, but not since 1997. They finished 9-7 in 2000, in third place in the division.
THE SERIES: This is the 13th game between the Jaguars and the Steelers, with the Jaguars holding a 7-5 lead in the series. The home team won the first eight games in the series, until Jacksonville swept the series in 1999. The Jaguars won the first meeting in 1995 20-16 and then lost at Pittsburgh 24-7. In 1996, the Jaguars won the season opener between the two teams 24-9 and then lost at Three Rivers Stadium 28-3. In 1997, Jacksonville won 30-21 on "Monday Night Football" and then lost 23-17 in overtime in the rematch at Pittsburgh. In 1998, the Steelers won 30-15 in Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville won 21-3 at home on Monday night, December 28. In 1999, the Jaguars won 17-3 on October 3 at Pittsburgh and 20-6 on Dec. 2 at ALLTEL Stadium. And last season, Pittsburgh won the first game 24-13 on October 1, their first victory ever in Jacksonville. The Jaguars won the 2000 rematch 34-24 in Pittsburgh on November 19.
THE LAST TIME: Fred Taylor rushed for a team-record 234 yards and scored four touchdowns, as the Jaguars won their third road game of the season 34-24 over the Pittsburgh Steelers in their final trip to Three Rivers Stadium on November 19, 2000. Taylor's rushing performance was at the time the 12th best in a game in NFL history and only 44 yards from the league's single-game record of 278 by Corey Dillon. He scored three touchdowns rushing and one on a pass reception, just one touchdown shy of the Jaguars' single-game record of five held by James Stewart. Taylor's yardage is the most ever by a running back against the Steelers, topping O.J. Simpson's mark of 227 yards in 1975, and his four scores tied the mark held by Jim Brown vs. the Steelers. Jacksonville scored 17 points in each of the second and third quarters, getting their first points in the third period since Week 2, and they took a 34-10 lead into the fourth quarter before the Steelers scored their final two touchdowns on scrambles by Kordell Stewart. Taylor rushed for more than 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game and became the first Jaguar to eclipse the 200-yard mark rushing. Mark Brunell passed for 190 yards and one touchdown, as the Jaguars relied on Taylor's running and a strong defensive performance. The Jaguars had five takeaways and five sacks and scored 24 points off Pittsburgh turnovers. The Steelers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, capitalizing on a fumble by Brunell that led to a TD pass from Stewart to Hines Ward. On its next four drives, Jacksonville was forced to punt every time until getting on track early in the second quarter and scoring on six straight possessions. Mike Hollis added field goals of 36 and 33 yards.
A JAGUARS VICTORY OVER THE STEELERS WOULD: Be the Jaguars' sixth straight victory on opening day and their eighth win over the Steelers in 13 games.
INJURY UPDATE: Several players are out indefinitely: WR Keenan McCardell (hernia surgery on Aug. 16), OT Tony Boselli (bruised bone in right knee on Aug. 19), CB Fernando Bryant (separated shoulder on Aug. 23), TE Kyle Brady (leg infection), LB Eric Westmoreland (arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 29), LB T.J. Slaughter (shoulder separation) and DE Tony Brackens (knee injury on Aug. 30). C John Wade (foot) was removed from the active/physically unable to perform list.
ROSTER MOVES: On Sunday, the Jaguars released six veterans: G LeShun Daniels, S Carnell Lake, G Dwayne Ledford, QB Jamie Martin, G/OT Reggie Nelson and LB Troy Pelshak. They also waived draft choices LS Randy Chevrier, WR Richmond Flowers, P David Leaverton and G Chad Ward; and first-year players DT Donald Broomfield, FB Kevin Clemens, TE Lawrence Hart and LB Joe Wesley; and undrafted rookies LB Ryan Goven, DE Brent Johnson, OT Dave Kadela, TE Ryan Prince, CB Chandler Smith, OT Patrick Venzke and S James Watkins.
On Monday, the Jaguars waived RB Shyrone Stith, S Delvin Brown and CB Shad Criss and claimed off waivers QB Phil Stambaugh, CB Earthwind Moreland, S Ainsley Battles and RB Frank Moreau. They also named their five-man practice squad, re-signing WR Richmond Flowers, TE Ryan Prince, OT Patrick Venzke and G Chad Ward and signing DE Randy Garner.
THE COACHES: Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin (56-40 in regular season, 4-4 in postseason) has led the Jaguars to two AFC Central Division championships and two appearances in the AFC Championship game in six seasons as the only head coach in franchise history. The Jaguars made the playoffs all four seasons from 1996 to '99 - 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 his first six years (1992-97) as head coach in Pittsburgh, Bill Cowher guided the Steelers to six consecutive playoff appearances. It is a feat matched only by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown. He enters the 2001 season nine victories shy of 100 career wins. The 1997 Steelers finished 11-5, winning their fourth consecutive AFC Central Division championship. In 1995, Cowher led Pittsburgh to the AFC championship and Super Bowl XXX, losing to Dallas 27-17. In 1994, the team overcame a 3-4 start and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers won 53 regular-season games during Cowher's first five seasons (1992-96), which tied for third highest among coaches in their first five NFL seasons. In his second season, the Steelers appeared in the 1993 AFC playoffs as a Wild-Card entry. He was NFL Coach of the Year in 1992, his first season, after bringing the AFC Central Division title to Pittsburgh for the first time in eight years. Cowher served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs (1989-1991) after four seasons as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns (1985-88). Cowher began his NFL career as a free-agent linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles (1979). He played three seasons for the Cleveland Browns (1980-82) before being traded back to Philadelphia (1983-84). Cowher was a three-year starter at linebacker for North Carolina State (1976-78). He was the team's captain and most valuable player as a senior.
COUGHLIN IN SEVENTH SEASON WITH JAGUARS: Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin is in his seventh season as the team's head coach, fourth-longest length of any NFL coach with his current team. In addition, Coughlin has the fourth-best record of all current NFL coaches in division games and the sixth-best record in home games.
JACKSONVILLE-PITTSBURGH CONNECTIONS: The Jaguars have one former Steeler on their roster: MLB Hardy Nickerson (1987-92) … There are two former Jaguars on the Steelers' roster: S Mike Logan (Jaguars 1997-2000) and G Rich Tylski (practice squad in 1995 and active roster 1996-99) … Three Steelers have ties to the state of Florida: LB Earl Holmes (Tallahassee, Florida A&M), OT Wayne Gandy (Haines City), and G Keydrick Vincent (Bartow) … Four Jaguars have ties to the state of Pennsylvania: CB Aaron Beasley (Pottstown), TE Kyle Brady (New Cumberland and Penn State), RB Stacey Mack (Temple) and S James Boyd (Penn State). … Jaguars special teams coordinator Frank Gansz was born in Altoona, Pa. … Jaguars TE coach Fred Hoaglin started at center and linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh … Jaguars RB coach Jerald Ingram grew up in Beaver, Pa. … Jaguars DL coach John Pease was born in Pittsburgh … Jaguars director of player personnel Rick Reiprish was born in Shamokin, Pa. … Jaguars WR coach John McNulty was born in Scranton and played safety at Penn State … Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was born in Ft. Lauderdale and played at Florida. ... Players who were college teammates include: Jaguars TE Kyle Brady and Steelers FB Jon Witman and C Jeff Hartings at Penn State; Jaguars S James Boyd and Steelers LB Justin Kurpeikis at Penn State; Jaguars QB Mark Brunell and Steelers TE Mark Bruener at Washington; Jaguars DT Renaldo Wynn and Steelers RB Jerome Bettis at Notre Dame; Jaguars DT Gary Walker and Steelers OT Wayne Gandy at Auburn; Jaguars DT Marcus Stroud and Steelers LB Kendrell Bell at Georgia; Jaguars CB Jason Craft and Steelers LB Clark Haggans and OLB Joey Porter at Colorado State; Jaguars CB Fernando Bryant and Steelers CB Deshea Townsend at Alabama; Jaguars LBs Kevin Hardy and Danny Clark and Steelers TE Matt Cushing at Illinois; Jaguars OT Gannon Shepherd and Steelers DE Chris Combs at Duke; Jaguars LB Eric Westmoreland and Steelers QB Tee Martin at Tennessee; Jaguars OT Maurice Williams and Steelers TE Jerame Tuman at Michigan; and Jaguars CB Aaron Beasley and Steelers DB Mike Logan and RB Amos Zereoue at West Virginia.
JAGUARS VS. STEELERS: Jaguars QB Mark Brunell has started 11 of the 12 games against the Steelers, going 6-5. He is 207 of 380 for 2,257 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 71.1 passer rating vs. Pittsburgh is his lowest against any of the AFC Central teams.… Jimmy Smith is the Jaguars' leading receiver, with 55 catches for 725 yards and three TDs, as well as two 100-yard games. … In 11 games, Keenan McCardell has caught 47 passes for 614 yards, three TDs and a two-point conversion, with two 100-yard outings. … In five games, RB Fred Taylor has rushed for 424 yards on 124 carries and 9 TDs, with one 100-yard game. … PK Mike Hollis is 15 of 17 on field goals and 22 for 22 on extra points for 67 points. … For the Steelers, RB Jerome Bettis has 208 carries for 774 yards and four TDs … TE Mark Bruener has 21 catches for 153 yards and three TDs. … QB Kordell Stewart has played in all 12 games and completed 116 of 209 passes for 1,300 yards, six TDs and eight interceptions.
LAST WEEK: The Jaguars lost their preseason finale 27-17 to the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium on August 30. Jacksonville finished the 2001 preseason 2-2, their sixth-straight non-losing preseason (they were 2-3 in their inaugural year). Stacey Mack scored two touchdowns, as the Jaguars played their backups most of the game. Mack scored on a one-yard run and a 49-yard cutback. The game was tied 17-17 in the second quarter, and the Jaguars were outscored 10-0 when the reserves played.
NOTES FROM THE COWBOYS GAME: The Jaguars had fewer first downs (13 to 19), fewer yards (229 to 341) and less time of possession (25:56 to 34:04). … Both teams converted 5 of 14 third downs (36 percent). … Jacksonville had two turnovers and one takeaway. … Mark Brunell completed 5 of 8 passes for 55 yards, Jamie Martin was 8 of 13 for 68 yards and Jonathan Quinn was 5 of 11 yards and one interception. … Mack led the team with 78 rushing yards on 15 carries. … MLB Joseph Tuipala led the team with 10 tackles, followed by SLB Danny Clark and LB Ryan Goven with 9 tackles each. … David Leaverton and Chris Hanson shared the punting duties. Hanson punted four times for a 35.8-yard average, and Leaverton kicked two times for a 44.0-yard average. … Players who did not play were: CB Fernando Bryant, LB Eric Westmoreland, LB T.J. Slaughter, OT Tony Boselli, OT Steve Zahursky, OT Dave Kadela, G/OT Reggie Nelson, TE Kyle Brady and WR Keenan McCardell. … Jaguars captains were DE Paul Spicer, LB Danny Clark and TE Damon Jones.
FROM COACH TOM COUGHLIN ON THE COWBOYS GAME: (on his team's performance in the second half) "The young people, when you get a chance to play, go play. There is nobody holding them back. Don't act like you have never seen the field before. We couldn't stop the run, and that's something we're going to have to do on defense. And offensively, we were three and out. Guys get a chance to go play the game. Don't deny yourself that opportunity. The thing that I am most disappointed in is I don't think some of those kids even showed what they had. That's what you're building up to. The first half was the other way around. We had all the possession time, they had some big plays, and they blocked a punt on us. We didn't play as well in the second half as we needed to play. We didn't win the physical battle again, which bothers me a whole lot. The next time we go, it's for all the marbles, and the guys play for 60 minutes."
(on the performance of the rookies being confusing to him) "It only becomes confusing because you start to say to yourself, some of the people you figured were making the club, what is it that they can contribute? Some of that you do need to take into consideration."
FROM QB MARK BRUNELL: (on the loss being the low point of the preseason) "It's hard to tell. Honestly, there are some areas we could improve upon. I just don't know if you look at your record in the preseason and judge how we are going into the season. The Giants were 0-4 last year in the preseason and they ended up in the Super Bowl. There are so many factors that come into play in this league. It's not just about talent; it's not just about X's and O's. There is something to be said about chemistry, about heart, about guys giving it everything they have, and if we do that we'll be a very good football team. I really believe that, but we have to do that."
(on making mistakes) "You learn from them. You can do that during the regular season, too. Over the course of the season, I'm going to make mistakes, and if I dwell on them, it'll hurt the team and it'll hurt my performance the following week. You learn from them, improve upon them and don't make the same ones again, and you just keeping fighting. That's football right there."
FROM LB KEVIN HARDY: (on not having a dominating performance in the last preseason game) "The real thing starts now. There are no more preseason games. There is no more playing a quarter, playing a half; we have to go out and just play football. We have a lot of guys nicked up, and we're going to have a lot of guys come back, because a lot of good players that we are counting on are guys that are sidelined right now, but we are going to have to buckle up and go. We have no other options."
(on Tony Brackens injury) "It was tough to see Tony limp off the field. Hopefully he'll come back as soon as he can, because, obviously Tony is a huge part of this football team, he's a huge part of this defense and we are going to need him. It makes it tough, because Tony is a guy that makes big plays for this defense. But what do we do? We have to carry on. I think Paul Spicer had an excellent camp. He made a lot of nice plays in the preseason for us. He's a guy who's going to have to step up. He has big shoes to fill. But I think Paul is going to be ready, and hopefully he can step in, play hard, and play well."
FROM RB FRED TAYLOR: (on the preseason) "We did not play as well as we would have liked. But its good to see what we need to work on and the problems we need to attack, and of course we're going to try our best to get them smoothed out before our season opener."
(on the offense without Tony Boselli and Keenan McCardell) "Its tough. Those guys are a big part of our offense, and hopefully we'll get them back soon. If not, hopefully, we can win a few games while they are out, until they come back. We miss them, and we are going to need them."
NEXT WEEK: The Jaguars will travel to Chicago to face the Bears at 4:15 p.m. EDT Sunday, September 16 at Soldier Field. The two teams have played twice before, with each team winning once and both games coming down to the final minute. In 1995, Mike Hollis missed a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the game, and Jacksonville lost 30-27 at home. In the opening game of the 1998 season, Mark Brunell threw a four-yard TD pass to Jimmy Smith with 29 seconds remaining for a 24-23 win in Chicago.
2001 POSITION ANALYSIS: Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the Jaguars as they head into the regular season:
Quarterbacks (3) - Mark Brunell returns for his seventh season with the Jaguars. In 2000, he started all 16 games for the second time in his career. He completed 311 of 512 passes for 3,640 yards, numbers that were the second highest of his career, and passed for 20 touchdowns, tying his career high. The No. 6-ranked passer in NFL history, he is the only quarterback in the league who has rated among the top 11 in each of the last five seasons. He has a 51-33 record as a starting quarterback, the seventh-best percentage in the league, and his 48 wins the past five seasons are second to Brett Favre. The backup is Jonathan Quinn, who led the Berlin Thunder to the NFL Europe League title earlier this year. Quinn started two games in 1998, his rookie season, but has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since then. Third-stringer Phil Stambaugh was claimed off waivers from New Orleans. Gone: Jamie Martin
Running Backs (5) - 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. In 2000, Taylor missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury, then went on to rush for 1,399 yards and score 14 touchdowns. His streak of nine consecutive 100-yard rushing games tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history but was snapped in the season finale when he was injured again. Now healthy again, Taylor holds 30 team records. The backups are Stacey Mack, rookie Elvis Joseph and Frank Moreau, who was claimed off waivers from the Chiefs. Mack, a third-year pro out of Temple, started two games last season and rushed for 145 yards on 54 carries. Stith, who led the team in kickoff returns with a 23.8-yard average, played sparingly at running back as a rookie last year, gaining 55 yards on 22 carries. He was a seventh-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech who left college a year early. Joseph won a roster spot with a fine preseason, when he also returned kickoffs. Moreau rushed for 179 yards after being drafted in the fourth round by Kansas City in 2000. The new fullback is undrafted rookie Patrick Washington. Gone: Daimon Shelton, Anthony Johnson, Shyrone Stith
Wide Receivers (6) - Perhaps the deepest position on the team. Jimmy Smith has the most receptions (450) for the most yards (6,599) of any NFL receiver over the last five seasons, will continue to start alongside Keenan McCardell (sidelined indefinitely following hernia surgery), who has caught 406 balls for 5,283 yards in that time (ranking fifth and seventh, respectively). In 2000, McCardell led the team with 94 catches and his first 1,000-yard season since 1997, proving he still has a lot left. Smith had 91 receptions for a team-leading 1,213 yards in making the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. Sean Dawkins was the biggest veteran acquisition during the offseason. In eight years, the former first-rounder has caught 435 passes for 6,057 yards and 26 touchdowns. R. Jay Soward, the first-round draft choice a year ago, had a stellar training camp but will miss the first four games of the regular season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. When he returns, he will compete for the No. 3 role, as well as return punts. Alvis Whitted had the finest season of his career in 2000, scoring three times on 13 receptions. A talented and speedy fourth-year player, he can also return kickoffs. The others are Damon Gibson, who will return punts, and rookie Randal Williams. Gone: Reggie Barlow, Emanuel Smith
Tight Ends (3) - Kyle Brady realized his vast potential in 2000, when he doubled his career highs for both catches and yards (64 for 729). He is finally being recognized as one of the top tight ends in the league. Damon Jones, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury on the second play of the 2000 season, played in his first game two weeks ago and scored on his first reception. He will be the No. 2 tight end again. In 1999, Jones caught 19 balls for 221 yards and four TDs. Both Brady and Jones are excellent blockers, one reason why the Jaguars are the NFL's only team to rush for more than 2,000 yards each of the last three seasons. The No. 3 tight end will be ex-Redskin and 49er Joe Zelenka, who also handles the long snapping. Gone: Rich Griffith
Offensive Line (9) - When Fred Taylor was running for more than 100 yards in nine straight games last season, the offensive line was the key. A problem-area early in the 2000 season after being decimated by injuries, the line jelled over the second half of the season. Four starters return in 2000. Left tackle Tony Boselli, who has been named to five straight Pro Bowls, is returning from a bruised bone in his right knee suffered on August 19. Returning at left guard is Brad Meester, a 2000 second-round draft choice who started all 16 games and is being touted as a future Pro Bowler. Jeff Smith, who started the final 12 games at center last season, re-signed as an unrestricted free agent and mans the center position. An underrated sixth-year pro, he was a key to the team's resurgence in the second half of the 2000 season. The right side of the line will be second-round draft choice Maurice Williams at right tackle and veteran Zach Wiegert at right guard. Williams, the fourth offensive tackle drafted this year, is attempting to become the third Jaguars rookie to start the opener on the offensive line (Brian DeMarco in 1995 and Meester last year). Wiegert, a seventh-year pro who won the 1994 Outland Trophy at Nebraska, has started 20 games for the Jaguars over the last two seasons at both guard and tackle. He tore his left ACL in the eighth game last season and missed the rest of the year, but his rehab has gone well. The backups are tackles Gannon Shepherd and Steve Zahursky (who started all 16 games for Cleveland in 2000), as well as Aaron Koch, who can play all three positions. John Wade, who has 22 starts in his first three seasons at center, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in June and spent the preseason on the active/physically unable to perform list. He made the 53-man roster and can back up at both center and guard. Gone: Leon Searcy, Brenden Stai, Todd Fordham, Quentin Neujahr, Mark Baniewicz (on I.R.)
Defensive Line (8) - In the last five years, only three teams have allowed fewer than the 50 rushing touchdowns given up by Jacksonville, and the line should be improved this season with the addition of No. 1 draft pick Marcus Stroud, a defensive tackle from Georgia. Stroud worked with the second team in training camp but is expected either to start or see heavy play in the rotation with veterans Gary Walker and Seth Payne. Stroud was the 13th overall pick in this year's draft. Walker is a physical run-stopper who can also rush the passer, as evidenced by his 15 sacks in two seasons with the Jaguars. Payne has started the last two seasons, posting a career-high 74 tackles in 2000. At end, Tony Brackens and Renaldo Wynn return, although Brackens is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. Brackens is one of the top pass rushers in the game and had missed only five games in five seasons until suffering a knee injury in the preseason finale. The leading sacker in Jaguars history, Brackens owns team records for forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and takeaways. Wynn had his finest season in 2000, once he was settled in at left end (he had started at the other three defensive line positions during his first three seasons). Paul Spicer, who has never started a game in the NFL, will take over until Brackens returns. Wynn has 47 starts in his career and had a personal-best 3.5 sacks in 2000. Depth will be provided by second-year pro Rob Meier, who impressed Tom Coughlin in limited play in 2000, and third-year pro Larry Smith, who has moved from defensive tackle to end and will also see plenty of time in the rotation. Gone: Joel Smeenge, Emarlos Leroy
Linebackers (7) - The Hardy Boyz - Kevin Hardy and Hardy Nickerson return, but there will be a new starter at weakside linebacker. Hardy, an All-Pro selection in 1999, has moved back to strongside linebacker, the position he held his first two seasons. The team's leading tackler the last three seasons, he has 23 sacks, five interceptions and eight forced fumbles in five years. Nickerson, a free-agent acquisition who played in only six games in 2000 because of hamstring and knee injuries, has vowed a complete return. One of the league's leading tacklers for the last decade, Nickerson did make 75 tackles in his six starts. He returns for his 15th season. The new weakside starter is T.J. Slaughter, who started six games at middle linebacker last year. Slaughter, a third-round pick a year ago, is one of only four Jaguars to make more than 100 tackles as a rookie and is a fierce tackler against the run. He suffered a separated shoulder in the preseason and may not be back or the opener. The backup on the weakside is third-round draft choice Eric Westmoreland, who has been compared to former Minnesota Viking Ed McDaniel. He, too, is injured, having undergone arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 29 and will be out 2-4 weeks. Second-year pro Edward Thomas started the final preseason game. The top backup at strongside linebacker is Danny Clark, who led the team in special teams tackles as a rookie in 2000. Providing depth in the middle is Joseph Tuipala, a star in the XFL last spring. Gone: Lonnie Marts, Brant Boyer, Erik Storz
Defensive Backs (9) - For the third straight year, the cornerbacks will be Aaron Beasley and Fernando Bryant. A sixth-year pro and the team's single-season and career interception leader, Beasley mans the right side. He turned in five sacks last season, tied for third among NFL defensive backs. Bryant, who was named to every All-Rookie team in 1999, plays left cornerback and excels in man coverage. Marlon McCree, a seventh-round draft choice from Kentucky, is expected to be the new starter at free safety, replacing Carnell Lake, who was released in the final cuts. McCree impressed the coaching staff from the start of training camp, and he finished fourth on the team in tackles in the preseason. Donovin Darius will start at strong safety for the fourth season. He has led the team's secondary in tackles each of his three years, and he has started all 46 games in which he has played. The nickel back is backup corner Jason Craft, who started three games in 2000. The reserves are CBs Kiwaukee Thomas and Earthwind Moreland (who were college teammates at Georgia Southern), and Ss James Boyd and Ainsley Battles. Gone: Carnell Lake, Mike Logan, Rayna Stewart, Erik Olson, CB Shad Criss
Kickers (3) - Mike Hollis is back for his seventh season. The third-most-accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, he has led the Jaguars in scoring all six seasons and is one of only four NFL kickers with more than 100 points each of the last five years. Hollis had perhaps his finest year in 2000, when he was forced to miss four games in September and October after undergoing in-season back surgery. He returned to kick 24 field goals in 26 attempts. For the first time, the punter will be new. Second-year player Chris Hanson beat out fifth-round draft pick David Leaverton for the job. Hanson, who was acquired two games into the preseason, spent the 2000 season on Miami's injured reserve list after getting injured in the NFL Europe League in spring 2000. Jim Tarle, who played the final six games of 2000, will handle kickoffs again after a fine preseason. Hollis' holder will be new this year, either Jonathan Quinn or Chris Hanson. Former Redskin and 49er Joe Zelenka will handle the long snapping duties. Gone: Bryan Barker
NFL EXPANSION TEAMS SINCE 1960 ... Of the 10 expansion teams in NFL history, the Jaguars have the best record and the most postseason appearances in any franchise's first six seasons. However, the Jaguars' seventh season poses a big hurdle, as they strive to match the accomplishments of the Dallas Cowboys (who were conference champions in 1965) and the Miami Dolphins (who were Super Bowl champions in 1972, when they went undefeated).
JAGUARS SCORE ON THE GROUND … In the last four seasons, the Jaguars have rushed for 77 touchdowns, second most in the NFL.
… AND STOP THEIR OPPONENTS: In the last five seasons, the Jaguars have allowed only 50 rushing TDs, the NFL's fourth-best mark.
JAGUARS HAVE BALANCED OFFENSE ... Although the Jaguars are often referred to as a passing team, in reality they have a balanced attack that features the run.
In the last three seasons, the Jaguars have rushed for 6,225 yards on the ground, the fifth most in the NFL, and they are the only team to have more than 2,000 yards rushing each of the last three seasons. And, over the past five seasons, the Jaguars have the sixth-most passing yards in the NFL.
SMITH IS NFL'S LEADING RECEIVER SINCE 1996 ... Since the start of the 1996 season, Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith has the most receptions in the NFL, and teammate Keenan McCardell is fifth (Smith missed one game and most of three others in 2000). They are the only wide receiver tandem in NFL history to have 400 receptions each over a five-year span. The two receivers are close friends, with McCardell nicknamed "Thunder" and Smith called "Lightning." Smith was the NFL leader in 1999 with 116 receptions - the sixth most in a season in NFL history - and he easily broke the team record of 85 set in 1996 and '97 by McCardell. McCardell has a total of 486 career receptions, while Smith has 472.
... AND SMITH LEADS ALL RECEIVERS IN YARDAGE: Over the last five seasons, Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith has amassed more receiving yardage than any receiver in the NFL, and teammate Keenan McCardell is seventh.
SMITH'S LAST FIVE SEASONS SURPASSED ONLY BY RICE: From 1996 through 2000, Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith caught 450 passes for 6,599 yards. No other receiver in NFL history - except for future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice - has caught more passes for more yards in any five-year period.
In three different five-year periods, Rice had more catches and more receiving yards than Smith's totals. In addition to Rice, only three other players ever caught more passes in a five-year period than Smith, but they always had fewer yards receiving. Similarly, one other player ever had more receiving yards but fewer receptions than Smith.
The three players who had more receptions but fewer yards in a five-year period were: Cris Carter (three times: 1993-1997, 515, 6,379; 1994-1998, 507, 5,870; and 1995-1999, 475, 5,858), Herman Moore (1994-1998, 487, 6,431), and Tim Brown (1995-1999, 454, 6,210). The only player who had more yards receiving but fewer receptions in a five-year period was Michael Irvin (1991-1995, 449, 7,093).
Smith's career totals of 472 receptions for 6,887 yards are more than six of 17 receivers already inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he has been a starter for only the last four-and-a-half seasons.
SMITH HAS FIVE STRAIGHT 1,000-YARD SEASONS: Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark receiving five straight seasons, a feat accomplished by only six other players in NFL history and which ties him for fifth all time behind Jerry Rice (11 straight 1,000-yard seasons), Tim Brown and Cris Carter (8 straight), and Lance Alworth (7 straight).
SMITH AND McCARDELL SET NFL RECORD: Jaguars WRs Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell set an NFL record on November 12, 2000 vs. Seattle when they both had 100 yards receiving in the same game for the eighth time (the record has since been tied by Minnesota's Cris Carter and Randy Moss). That broke the league mark they shared with Don Maynard and George Sauer of the New York Jets, who combined for 100-yard games seven times in the 1960s.
THE ORIGINAL THUNDER AND LIGHTNING: Jaguars WRs Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell are only the sixth tandem in NFL history to each have 1,000 yards receiving in the same season three different years.
TAYLOR TIED WITH THIRD-MOST TOUCHDOWNS LAST THREE YEARS: Despite missing 10 full games and parts of eight others, Jaguars RB Fred Taylor is tied with the third-most touchdowns over the last three seasons.
HOLLIS IS NFL'S THIRD-MOST ACCURATE FIELD GOAL KICKER EVER: Jaguars PK Mike Hollis is the third-most-accurate field goal kicker in NFL history in the regular season (he is also the second-most accurate in the postseason). In 2000, Hollis was successful on 24 of his 26 attempts (a career-high 92.3%), giving him a career accuracy mark of 83.07, although he fell behind Miami's Olindo Mare on October 29. Mare held the No. 1 position for two weeks until being passed by Green Bay's Ryan Longwell.
HOLLIS IS 12TH-LEADING ACTIVE SCORER: Jaguars PK Mike Hollis has scored 681 career points in six seasons in the NFL, which ranks 12th among active players.
BRUNELL HAS SEVENTH-BEST WINNING PERCENTAGE: Jaguars QB Mark Brunell has the sixth-best career winning percentage of active quarterbacks (minimum 20 wins). Also, in the last five years, Brunell has the second-most victories (48) of any quarterback other than Green Bay's Brett Favre.
BRUNELL ON CENTRAL TIME: Jaguars QB Mark Brunell has the NFL's second-best division record as a starter among active quarterbacks. Since joining the Jaguars in 1995, Brunell has compiled a 30-14 (.682) record as a starter against the AFC Central.
BRUNELL'S TOUCHDOWN TARGETS: Mark Brunell has thrown 106 TD passes in six seasons in Jacksonville. Here are the 17 players who have caught them: Jimmy Smith (30), Keenan McCardell (21), Damon Jones (10), Willie Jackson (10), Pete Mitchell (7), James Stewart (5), Fred Taylor (4), Ernest Givins (3), Cedric Tillman (3), Alvis Whitted (3), Kyle Brady (3), Andre Rison (2), Derek Brown (1), Ty Hallock (1), Desmond Howard (1), Natrone Means (1) and R. Jay Soward (1).