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Sudden impact


Drew Coleman didn't say there was pressure, exactly.

In the NFL, you don't control your opportunities for big plays, so in this past Sunday's regular-season opener, the veteran nickelback said the Jaguars' defensive newcomers didn't feel they absolutely had to do something memorable.

Still, given the situation – new team, home game, big moment – making an impact . . .

Well, it was a lot better than the alternative.

"We just wanted to come out and show them how hard we've been working to get where we are," Coleman said in the wake of the Jaguars' 16-14 season-opening victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday at EverBank Field.

"It was tremendous for us. We just have to keep working."

The work will continue Sunday when the Jaguars visit the New York Jets, a game in which the defense likely will need not only to repeat, but to improve upon a season-opening defensive performance that left them optimistic about the coming weeks.

There are several reasons for that optimism.

One is the improvement of several returning players, particularly defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton, but another is the play of a defensive free-agent class that has overcome some difficult circumstances to show signs of living up to expectations.

Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. Outside linebacker Clint Session. Coleman.

Safety Dawan Landry. Defensive end Matt Roth.

Those five players signed with the Jaguars early in training camp, and shortly after the final preseason game, the team acquired safety/corner Dwight Lowery in a trade from the Jets.

The feeling around the Jaguars throughout training camp and preseason was the additions without question would improve a defense that ranked 28thin the NFL a season ago, and against the Titans, the additions made a major mark.

Roth, who started 16 games for Cleveland last season, registered a sack on the game's first play. Later in the half, Coleman – who led all NFL cornerbacks with four sacks last season while with the Jets – registered the Jaguars' other sack when a blitz forced a fumble by Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Lowery's interception ended Tennessee's final drive.

"One of them showed up on the first play with a sack," Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "One of them ended (Tennessee's last drive) with an interception.  We have a good combination of veteran players who have been added to a good core of young players. "

Landry tied with Coleman for the Week 1 lead in tackles with seven, and Posluszny not only had four tackles, he also had a pass defensed.

"It was good for all of us to get to the regular season, have everybody stay healthy and be able to play together," Posluszny said. "That's something we'll be able to expand on and grow. We'll only get better with that, with communication, feeling each other out on the field.

"It's great, because once we really get rolling, I think we have a lot of studs on defense and we'll really be able to play well."

Not that the free agents' early situation with the team was easy.

Unable to practice until essentially the second week of training camp, the new players basically had five weeks to learn the defense and mesh with teammates. Although Del Rio said throughout training camp there would be no grace period for the unit to become the front-line defense he envisioned, there is still a process to learning schemes – and adapting to a new situation.

The Jaguars weren't perfect defensively Sunday. They allowed an 80-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to wide receiver Kenny Britt. And the reality is the Titans aren't considered one of the league's top offenses.

Still, the Jaguars entering Week 2 are ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense, second against the run and 17thagainst the pass.

Defensive end Aaron Kampman, who joined the Jaguars as a free agent during the 2010 off-season, said the key to the quick acclimation is the newcomers sharing an approach with the players who were already here.

"You have confidence in what our personnel department does, and what (General Manager) Gene (Smith) is looking for both in this locker room and on the field," Kampman said. "You can go around and each one of these nameplates – we have guys who love football, want to get better and they care. You don't always get that at this level."

Coleman was asked if it felt as if he had been with the Jaguars six weeks.

"It's been six weeks?" Coleman said. "It feels more like three weeks. It's going to take some time, but our group has very intelligent, smart guys on and off the field. The communication is there. The work ethic is there. We're just trying to get better."

Coleman said veterans such as linebacker Daryl Smith, Knighton and cornerback Rashean Mathis have helped the transition.

"They've definitely made the process very easy," Coleman said.

And while Del Rio said improvement must be made, he said nothing he saw from the newcomers Sunday changed his mind about them – or their impact on the Jaguars' defense.

 "We're going to play good defense again," Del Rio said. "It's been a number of years since I felt this way about us defensively. We're going to be a strong unit and I have a lot of confidence in that because of the players we acquired and the way they're attacking. The attention to details and assignments; the little things that make a difference, the temperament they have. 

"They are going to want to go after people; they're going to be stout; they're going to shed blocks; they're going to strike; they're going to play with courage. We'll play together. Those are all things I've been seeing in practice and we'll continue to see.  It's just going to grow and we'll get better and gain confidence as the year goes on."

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