There were complaints during the preseason that the Jaguars' intensity had been something less than feverish. Of course, that was the preseason, which isn't exactly the blood-and-guts time of the year.
This Sunday will not be the preseason. Sunday, the Jaguars will begin the 2001 regular season with one of the most important openers in their history, and their opponent will be no less inspiring a foe than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If the Jaguars can't get their motor running for this game, then we'll have to start considering a major repair. No less an authority than Tom Coughlin predicted there will be no such engine problems.
"It'll be a much more intense running back this week than you saw in the preseason," Coughlin said of Fred Taylor, whose meager 64 yards rushing on 27 carries in the preseason made it appear as though his primary goal was to not get hurt. He succeeded.
You'll remember that the last time Taylor played against the Steelers, he rushed for 234 yards, an all-time Steelers opponent record. For sure, that'll have the Steelers' motor running this Sunday.
The Jaguars will remember that the last time the Steelers played in Jacksonville, Taylor was held to 24 yards on 15 carries, in a 24-13 win by the Steelers that was the beginning of the end of the Jaguars' playoffs streak. That should have the Jaguars' motor running this Sunday.
Everything about the rivalry between these two teams speaks of high drama and emotional intensity.
The Steelers have played head games with the Jaguars this week, claiming plans to unveil a new offense and new defense in this game. The Jaguars countered by claiming Ainsley Battles off waivers from the Steelers, then admitting they would interrogate Battles about these new Steelers doings.
That's great fodder for sportswriters. We're talking about real flavor for a game that's never lacked taste. We're talking about two teams heading into a game with their motors racing.
"It's a good feeling," Coughlin said of preparing to play the Steelers, which has always been a special week for both teams.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher didn't downplay the storylines of this game, when Cowher spoke to Jacksonville reporters on Wednesday.
"It was nice of Tom Coughlin to tell us to wear the black jerseys, too. I wanted to thank him for that. It's going to be hot. We've been down there before, so, we know it's going to be hot. We came down there (in 1996) and we finished up with about 24 guys. We had a lot of guys going down with the heat. It's hard to prepare for weather like that," said Cowher, who has no doubt noted that the Steelers will be playing their third early-season, one o'clock game in Jacksonville. Two weeks from now, the Titans will tie the Steelers for that distinction.
Coughlin and Cowher each enjoy the rivalry aspect of the game. They revel in the little storylines because they want their players to rev their engines.
"I think it's been a great rivalry," Cowher said.
It's the kind of game that tightens everyone's insides. It's as good as it gets for a season-opener. Intensity should not be an issue.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.