A year ago, the Jaguars were opening a new era. This Sunday, the Jaguars will be trying to score that era's first road win.
"The challenge is in front of us. We go on the road to start the season," coach Jack Del Rio said at today's press conference.
Following a 0-8 road record last season, the Jaguars will open the 2004 season in what could be billed as a "statement game." The Jaguars need to prove they can win on the road; that they are, indeed, improved over last year's 5-11 finish.
"If we get a win up there, it'll make a statement," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said.
Smith and his teammates sent a clear message in electing Fred Taylor (offense), Mike Peterson (defense) and Nick Sorensen (special teams) captains for this season. Del Rio did not conduct such elections last season, but did so this year to emphasize the need for leaders to emerge.
"It's an honor from my teammates. I'll do what I can to let them know they didn't make a bad choice," Taylor said.
Taylor reported the foot injury that sidelined him for the final two preseason games is not an issue. "I feel all right. I feel good," Taylor said.
The Jaguars' official injury report listed Taylor, tight end George Wrighster (foot) and quarterback Byron Leftwich (hand) as "probable," running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (foot) as "questionable" and tight end Kyle Brady (finger) as "out." Buffalo reported veteran safety Lawyer Milloy as "out" of action with a forearm injury.
"Fred makes the offense go. We have one of the best running backs in the league. That's the catalyst to our offense," Smith said of Taylor.
"We have to be better at scoring on our opening possession, whether it's seven or three (points). Also, win some games early and jump out fast," Taylor said of a theme Del Rio presented to his players the night before training camp began.
A year ago, the Jaguars were notorious slow-starters. They made a habit of falling behind early in games and any hope of being a playoff contender was canceled by a 1-7 start.
So, a win in this Sunday's season-opener would certainly help the Jaguars put last season behind them. It would end the road losing streak – the Jaguars haven't won a road game since Dec. 15, 2002, when they won in Cincinnati – and it would reverse the trend of slow starts.
Del Rio acknowledges the importance of beating the Bills, but he has also been careful not to attach too much importance to one game.
"We can't get caught up in the hoopla if things go well and we can't get caught up in the doom and gloom if things don't go well," he said. "You can't have a successful season on one day."
That's the broad view. The sharp focus, however, acknowledges the need to win this one.
"The better teams find a way to win on the road. I don't believe in the stigma thing attached to it. When we become a good football team, you'll see wins on the road," Del Rio said. "Now we get to lay it on the line and compete; see where we are and go forward."
In other news, the Jaguars re-signed rookie defensive tackle Anthony Maddox and assigned him to the team's practice squad. Maddox, the team's fourth-round draft choice, was waived in final cuts this week. He is the eighth and final member of the practice team.