Since the week-two groin injury that will cause Fred Taylor to miss his fourth consecutive game this Sunday, Taylor has attempted to stay in a positive frame of mind, at the request of his coach.
Taylor has been a supportive presence on the field, demonstratively cheering on his teammates from the sideline. And while his teammates have talked of the need to have their star running back in the lineup, Taylor has maintained the Jaguars can win without him.
"I don't think one person makes that much of a difference," Taylor said.
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith emphatically disagrees.
"It's one of the main issues. Without Fred in the backfield, you can see how the offense is struggling. We have to have him back," Smith said.
The Jaguars didn't have Taylor in the lineup in a week-two loss in Baltimore last season. The Jaguars scored 36 points, as Mark Brunell threw for 386 yards and Smith caught 15 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, however, fumbles by Taylor replacements Chris Howard and Stacey Mack allowed the Ravens to rally from a 17-0, first-quarter deficit.
"Mark was on fire. He couldn't be stopped that day," Smith said.
In the first three seasons of their existence, it was how the Jaguars won. Brunell was the Jaguars' clear-cut star and the team rested its success on its passing game.
That all began to change when Taylor arrived in 1998, and his importance was never more distinct than last season, when the Jaguars rallied from 2-6 to 7-7 on the strength of consecutive 100-yard rushing performances by Taylor that reached nine games.
"You've got to keep your defense on the sideline," Smith said of the importance of the running game.
Beyond that, the Jaguars need to re-discover their running game so they can make opposing defenses respect the line of scrimmage, instead of dropping as many as eight defenders into pass-coverage.
This Sunday, the slump-ridden Jaguars offense will again "tackle" the top-ranked Ravens defense with little more than they had a year ago in Baltimore. The outcome would seem to rest with Brunell, Smith and the Jaguars passing attack, again.
"You look at our run game and there's not enough consistency. These people have to be the ones to do it," head coach Tom Coughlin said of the personnel who will line up Sunday against Ray Lewis and company.