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They are stopping the run


The Jaguars defense is making good on one of Jack Del Rio's most emphatic promises, and Del Rio has every intention on making good on the Jaguars' promise to reward defensive end Tony Brackens.

"We will stop the run," Del Rio said during the preseason.

But nobody expected the Jaguars to climb all the way from 25th in the league in run-defense a year ago to second in the league and just 68 yards behind top-ranked Tennessee after 13 games this season.

"I've been around some good defenses, played on some good defenses and coached enough good defenses," Del Rio said, inferring he had seen enough talent on his first-edition Jaguars team to know it had the potential to be a sound run-defense. At that point, he said it became a matter of effort.

The result of Del Rio's and his defense's effort is one of the most stunning turnarounds in the NFL this season. A defense that finished last season ranked 20th in the league is 15 spots higher following Sunday's shutout victory over the Houston Texans. The Jaguars are 13th in the league against the pass, which is where they finished last season. The difference is in the dramatic improvement of the run-defense.

Houston tight end Billy Miller was so impressed Sunday that he praised the Jaguars defense as "the most physical defense I've ever played against, seen or heard of. I don't know what the head coach told those boys, but from the first game to this game, I think they went out and got 11 new guys on defense. I've never seen such a transformation."

"I think the defensive guys should be proud of that," Del Rio said in reaction to Miller's remarks. "It's a sign of respect. It's likely he didn't see the 'Steel Curtain,' though," Del Rio quipped.

Imagine that; the Jaguars defense mentioned in the same breath with the "Steel Curtain." That may say it all about what's happening in Jacksonville.

In the last six games, the Jaguars have only allowed one team to break the 100-yard rushing mark. Baltimore, then the number one rushing offense in the league, rushed for 103 yards against the Jaguars on Nov. 2.

Sunday, the Jaguars held Houston to 124 total net yards, seven first downs and permitted only one third-down conversion in 12 tries.

"I believe we're building something. It never happens as quickly as you'd like. We'd like to be talking about the playoffs, but it's not like that," Del Rio said.

Of course, success has its price, and the Jaguars will realize a major hit on their 2004 salary cap should Brackens register four more sacks this season. That would put Brackens at 10 sacks for the season and would equal an incentives clause that would pay Brackens $4.3 million in additional money. Del Rio said he will in no way reduce Brackens' playing time so the Jaguars might avoid paying that money.

"If he earns the money, he earns the money," Del Rio said. "What he did is put his (salary) into incentives," Del Rio added, referring to Brackens' willingness to negotiate down his salary to help the team reduce his salary cap figure. "He's done his part. We're going to do our part. If he earns it, he gets it. I think that's a fair deal for all involved."

Brackens missed almost all of training camp as he recovered from knee surgery. General opinion was that Brackens would be unable to stay on the field, but he's done that for 13 games this season. Sunday, he registered two sacks.

"He's overcome quite a bit. It's all anybody could've asked for, that he be on the field going into week 14," Del Rio said.

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