You wouldn't know it by the record, but the Jaguars have players in the midst of terrific personal seasons. Unfortunately, all of those players are on one side of the ball, offense.
Running back Fred Taylor is just 81 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing, which would be his second time as a four-digit rusher in his three pro seasons. Even after missing the first three games of the season with a knee injury, and not rushing for 100 yards in a game until the seventh game of the season, Taylor is likely to exceed his rookie season's total of 1,223 yards rushing.
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith's numbers have been compromised by midseason knee and hamstring injuries, not to mention a greater reliance on Taylor and the running game, but Smith won't remember 2000 as a flop. He has 68 receptions (sixth in the AFC) for 904 yards (tied with teammate Keenan McCardell for seventh place in the AFC) and six touchdowns, which are only two behind his career high for a season.
Then there are tight end Kyle Brady, who is enjoying the best year of his career, quarterback Mark Brunell, whose numbers are rivaling the best of his career, and McCardell, whose success this season is especially sweet, since the Jaguars deemed it necessary to select wide receiver R. Jay Soward in the first round of last spring's draft. Most thought Soward would replace McCardell.
Brady's 51 catches are 15th-best in the AFC, and his 598 yards receiving are 16th in the conference.
Brunell is likely to throw for the second-most yards and the second-highest completion percentage of his career, in a season in which he has been on pace to be sacked more often than any quarterback in NFL history.
McCardell's 72 catches are fifth in the AFC, and afford him the opportunity to achieve something he has always wanted, 100 catches in a season.
"It would be nice to put that on your resume," McCardell said today. "It's nice if you can reach personal goals. I wanted 100 catches, 1,200 yards," he added.
Both goals are within reach, though he would have to have a terrific December, at a time when Taylor's rushing attempts are increasing. Making it especially tough for McCardell to get hot in December is the fact the Jaguars will be playing two cold-weather games: Dec. 17 in Cincinnati and Dec. 23 in the regular season finale in Giants Stadium.
"Numbers don't put up wins. Sometimes numbers lie to you, and sometimes they don't. There are other numbers that come into play. We have a chance to have a thousand-yard rusher and two thousand-yard receivers. That was the model Denver had in their Super Bowl years," said McCardell, whose previous bests were 85 catches in 1996 and '97, and 1,164 yards receiving in '97.
"For some players, it does matter," he said of individual statistics. "It means a lot of money to some players."
In the Jaguars' case, the numbers the offense is registering reflects hardest on the defense.