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Struggling to acquire an identity


The matter of the Jaguars' current identity, or lack of one, was the topic du jour on Wednesday. The questions came fast and furious and they had a high-brow tone to them.

Coach, what would you say is the identity of your team?

For the record, very little in the way of an answer was offered and for the obvious reason: Teams that have gutted their roster, turned it upside down and inside out for the purpose or ridding itself of last year's identity, usually haven't acquired a new identity just five weeks into the season.

What's your identity? Are you kidding me? On the heels of a 41-0 loss, which followed a 37-17 victory, you dare ask what the Jaguars' identity is?

Given that sweeping reversal of fortunes just seven days removed from each other, I would offer that the Jaguars' identity is that of a box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get.

This isn't new or unique. This is what you should expect from a team with 29 players on its current 53-man roster that weren't on last year's 53-man roster on opening day.

What is the identity? I'll tell you what the identity of this team is: It's a team in rebuilding. Please, repeat that three times until you know it by heart. I honestly and truly believe we need to understand and appreciate that.

This is not, folks, a team to be confused with the 2007 club we steadfastly use as the measuring stick for all things since. You know the team, the one that scored the only postseason victory since the 1999 club walloped a Miami team with a coach and a quarterback who were one game away from retirement.

Yet, the question came again today: Coach, your identity used to be that of a team that played smash-mouth football. It was that of a team that didn't care how many defenders were in the box, it was gonna run the ball. Why isn't that your identity today?

The coach, obviously avoiding the painfully-honest answer for the painfully-obvious reasons, said: "We're working on it."

He could've said much about his team has changed, including the Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew, one-two punch dynamic. The coach could've said his team is attempting to work in two rookie tackles and developing continuity on your offensive line is a difficult thing to do when you find yourself fighting change and injury. He very well could've also said the guy who made that running game go in '07, left guard Vince Manuwai, is in his comeback year from ACL surgery.

The coach could've said a lot of things, but he avoided making excuses and/or pointing the finger. When he was informed his star running back didn't sidestep the same question, the coach took the high road.

"I think he's a supreme competitor and I love that about him," Jack Del Rio said in response to Jones-Drew's remarks about failures to emphasize the running game, which Jones-Drew wants to be the team's true identity.

"We're built to run at you. It makes you weary," Jones-Drew said.

They are the words of a player who cares. Jones-Drew wants the ball and he should, but I think it's important to note that most offensive coordinators would find it difficult to stick to the run as the score climbed to 13-0, 20-0, 27-0, etc., and that 34 yards on 12 rushing attempts aren't the kinds of numbers that make a play-caller want to run the ball, especially when 18 of those 34 yards came on one play.

Del Rio would love for his team to have a run-the-ball identity, but strong running games go hand in hand with strong defenses and the Jaguars' defense is currently ranked 30th in the league.

What is the Jaguars' identity? It is that of a team struggling to defend the pass and rush the passer, and that's a bad identity to have in an age of explosive offense. The Jaguars' identity has nothing to do with a failure to run the ball. That's the result, not the cause.

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