**Sunday, December 14, 2003, 1:00 p.m. EST
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass. **
Television: Regionally on CBS and locally on WTEV Ch. 47 (Ch. 6 cable),
Greg Gumbel (play by play), Phil Simms (color analyst) and Armen Keteyian (field reporter)
Radio: WOKV (690 AM) and WKQL (96.9 FM) and the Jaguars Radio Network,
Brian Sexton (play by play), Jeff Lageman (color analyst) and Ryan Elijah (field reporter)
THIS WEEK: Defense is king in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars are coming off their first shutout in three years. They have allowed only 33 points in their last four games — the lowest total in the NFL in that time. And they now own the fifth-ranked defense in the league. That defense will get a strong test on Sunday when the Jaguars travel to New England to face the Patriots, who are tied with the best record in the NFL (11-2). Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. The Jaguars have won back-to-back games for the first time in 13 months and are now 4-9 this season, with three victories in their last five games. The Jaguars' three losses in the last six weeks have all been decided in the final minute of each game. The Jaguars have the most improved defense in the NFL and are looking to finish strong in their first season under head coach Jack Del Rio. They are coming off a 27-0 shutout of the Houston Texans. The Patriots are 11-2 this season after defeating the Miami Dolphins 12-0 at home last Sunday, meaning they will host a team from Florida for the second consecutive Sunday. The Patriots have clinched the AFC East title and are looking for home-field advantage in the postseason (they have the same record as the 11-2 Kansas City Chiefs). This will be the Jaguars' first trip to New England since the 1996 AFC Championship game and their first meeting with the Patriots since the 1998 playoffs. The Jaguars are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak on the road. They last won away from home on December 15, 2002 at Cincinnati. Three of those seven road losses were on opponent touchdowns in the final half-minute of play (16 seconds left at Carolina, the last play at Houston, and 26 seconds left at N.Y. Jets). The Jaguars' 33 points allowed in their last four games is their fewest given up in a four-game stretch since 1999. They have also allowed only 873 yards in those four games, an average of 218.3 per game, and they now rank fifth in the NFL in total defense through 13 games. That is their highest ranking since they had the fourth-ranked defense in 1999. In addition, Jacksonville's run defense ranks second in the league, the team's best ranking ever after 13 games. The Jaguars are 19-15 in December, and they are 2-2 in games played at 35 degrees or colder.
THE OPPONENT: The Patriots were charter members of the American Football League, beginning play in 1960 as the Boston Patriots. They failed to advance to the playoffs until their 16th season in 1975. In 1985, the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl as a Wild-Card team for the first time before losing to the Chicago Bears 46-10. The team finished out of the playoffs for the following seven seasons, then qualified for the postseason twice in four seasons under head coach Bill Parcells, advancing to the Super Bowl in 1996 before losing to Green Bay 35-21. in 2001, in Bill Belichick's second season as head coach, they finished 11-5 and defeated Oakland and Pittsburgh in the playoffs and then beat St. Louis 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI on Adam Vinatieri's last-second field goal. In 2002, the Patriots finished 9-7 and tied for the division lead but failed to make the playoffs because of a tiebreaker. This year, they are 11-2 and have already clinched the AFC East title.
THE SERIES: The Jaguars and Patriots have played four times — twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs. New England has won both regular-season games: 28-25 in overtime on September 22, 1996 at old Foxboro Stadium, and 26-20 on December 7, 1997 in Jacksonville. The Patriots won the 1996 AFC Championship game 20-6 on January 12, 1997 in New England, and Jacksonville won a 1998 Wild-Card Playoff game 25-10 on January 3, 1999 at ALLTEL Stadium.
THE LAST TIME: In the 1998 Wild-Card Playoff game played January 3, 1999, Jacksonville won 25-10 in their first postseason game at ALLTEL Stadium. Mark Brunell returned from an ankle injury after missing the three previous games and led the team to its first postseason victory in two years. RB Fred Taylor scored a touchdown and rushed 33 times for 163 yards, the third-most rushing yards by a rookie in NFL postseason history. Mike Hollis added four field goals and WR Jimmy Smith scored on a 37-yard pass from Brunell. In the last regular-season game between the two teams, the Patriots won 26-20 on December 17, 1997 at ALLTEL Stadium. The loss snapped the Jaguars' 13-game home winning streak, the longest in franchise history. Jacksonville fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter following two turnovers. Keenan McCardell caught 11 passes and scored two touchdowns, and Reggie Barlow's 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown closed the gap to six points with 2:15 to play. The Patriots tried to run out the clock and missed a field goal with 28 seconds remaining. Four plays later, Mark Brunell's Hail Mary pass to the end zone was batted down.
A JAGUARS VICTORY OVER THE PATRIOTS WOULD: Be their fifth win of the season, giving them a 5-9 record. It would be their first road victory since December 15, 2002 (snapping a seven-game losing streak) and their first three-game winning streak since the first month of the 2002 season. It would also be their first victory over the Patriots during the regular season.
INJURY UPDATE: There were no major injuries suffered in the Texans game. The only player who missed the game because of an injury was RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (knee). The status of all injured players will be updated on Wednesday.
THE COACHES: Jack Del Rio was named Jaguars head coach on January 17, 2003, becoming the second head coach in Jaguars' history. At 40, Del Rio is the second youngest head coach in the NFL (four months older than Jon Gruden). Del Rio spent 11 years as an NFL linebacker and had a standout college career at the University of Southern California. He previously coached in New Orleans (1997-98), Baltimore (1999-2001), and Carolina (2002). He was the Panthers' defensive coordinator, and in his only season with the club the defense improved from 31st in the NFL to second, the biggest one season defensive improvement in NFL history. Del Rio was the linebackers coach for three seasons in Baltimore, where the Ravens' defense also ranked second each season. He helped the team win Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants and coached the Ravens' talented linebackers, overseeing the development of Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper and Ray Lewis, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. Prior to coaching, Del Rio played 11 seasons in the NFL, with New Orleans (1985-86), Kansas City (1987-88), Dallas (1989-1991) and Minnesota (1992-95), playing in the Pro Bowl following the 1994 season. Del Rio was a starter at linebacker for Southern California (1981-84), where he earned All-America honors, was a runner-up for the Lombardi Award and co-MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl. Del Rio has learned from some of the best coaches in all of football. He was recruited to USC and played for John Robinson, and in the NFL he played under Bum Phillips, Jim Mora, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Green. As an assistant coach, he has worked for Hall of Famer Mike Ditka and Super Bowl winner Brian Billick, as well as John Fox. Drafted by baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, Del Rio batted .340 while playing catcher on USC's baseball team in 1983 and 1984 with future stars Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire. He was a third-round choice by the New Orleans Saints in 1985 and was named to the NFL's All-Rookie team. One of the NFL's premier defensive masterminds, Bill Belichick coached the Patriots to one of the biggest upsets in NFL history during his second season. New England's defense thwarted St. Louis' high-powered offense en route to the Patriots' stunning 20-17 victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. New England overcame an injury to starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, survived a scare against Oakland, and won on the road at Pittsburgh in the playoffs, before winning the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. It was Belichick's third title. He previously won titles during his tenure as a New York Giants' assistant (1979-1990). Belichick posted a 28-23 record in his first three seasons with the Patriots. He previously coached the Browns (1991-1995), posting a mark of 36-45, including one playoff appearance. He was an assistant with the Patriots (1996) and the Jets (1997-1999). Belichick was a center-tight end at Wesleyan (Conn.) College (1971-74) before becoming an NFL assistant with the Baltimore Colts (1975). He spent two years each with the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos before joining the New York Giants (1979). He was a linebackers and special teams coach (1981-84) before becoming the defensive coordinator (1985). In nine years with the Giants, the team won two Super Bowls.
JACKSONVILLE-NEW ENGLAND CONNECTIONS: The only Patriot who has played for the Jaguars is WR J.J. Stokes, who played in Jacksonville the first two months of this season (three starts in six games played). … The only Jaguar who is a former Patriot is FB Marc Edwards (2001-2002). … Jaguars DL coach Ray Hamilton played for the Patriots from 1973-81 and coached New England's defensive line from 1985-1989 and 1997-99. … Patriots QB coach John Hufnagel held the same position with the Jaguars in 2002. … Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio played for the Dallas Cowboys the same time Patriots strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik held the same position with the team (1990-91). … Jaguars OL coach Paul Boudreau held the same position with the Patriots in 1997-98. … Jaguars DB coach Alvin Reynolds and Patriots DB coach Eric Mangini shared sidelines with the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. … Jaguars director of pro personnel Charles Bailey and Patriots assistant strength and conditioning coach Marcus Paul worked for the New Orleans Saints in 1999. … Jaguars DE Hugh Douglas was coached by Patriots defensive coordinator/DL coach Romeo Crennel with the Jets in 1997. … The Patriots have two players with ties to Florida: DT Ted Washington (Tampa) and CB Asante Samuel (University of Central Florida). … Players who were college teammates include: Jaguars DT Marcus Stroud with Patriots DT Richard Seymour and FB Patrick Pass at Georgia; Jaguars LB Akin Ayodele and Patriots OT Brandon Gorin and OT Matt Light at Purdue; Jaguars QB Mark Brunell and Patriots QB Damon Huard at Washington; Jaguars S Deke Cooper and Patriots WR David Givens at Notre Dame; Jaguars TE Chris Luzar and Patriots S Antwan Harris at Virginia; Jaguars C Bred Meester and Patriots WR Dedric Ward at Northern Iowa; Jaguars G Chris Naeole with Patriots LB Ted Washington and TE Christian Fauria at Colorado; Jaguars RB LaBrandon Toefield with Patriots DL Jarvis Green and QB Rohan Davey at Louisiana State; and Jaguar OT Maurice Williams and Patriots QB Tom Brady at Michigan. … Jaguars WR Kevin Johnson and Patriots S Chris Akins were teammates with the Cleveland Browns (2001-2002).
LAST WEEK: The Jaguars shut out the Houston Texans 27-0 behind a stifling defense that allowed only 124 yards, the second-lowest total ever given up by Jacksonville. It marked the third shutout in Jaguars history and their third straight victory at home. Fred Taylor rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown and Jimmy Smith caught a 32-yard TD pass from Byron Leftwich, as the Jaguars won back-to-back games for the first time in 13 months. The Jaguars gained 390 yards on offense, including 208 on the ground (seventh-most in franchise history), as they controlled the ball for 35:46. The Jaguars had three takeaways and forced Houston to punt a franchise-record 10 times. LaBrandon Toefield scored his first NFL touchdown and Seth Marker kicked two field goals, as the Jaguars improved to 4-9.
NOTES FROM THE TEXANS GAME: The game was the Jaguars' final division contest of the season. They finished with a 2-4 record … The Jaguars are 4-3 at home this season and are assured of at least a .500 record at home for the first time since 2000, when they went 4-4. … The shutout was the Jaguars' first since 12/3/00, a 48-0 win over Cleveland, and their third ever. They won back-to-back games for the first time since November 2002, and they won their third straight game at home, their longest streak since the 2000 season. … The previous three meetings in the series were decided by four points or less. … The Texans suffered their first shutout ever, and PK Kris Brown had a 60-game scoring streak snapped. … The Jaguars have allowed only 33 points in their last four games, the second-best four-game streak in team history. In 1999, the Jaguars allowed only 36 points in a six-game streak. … For the fourth straight week, the Jaguars had more first downs (23 to 7), more yards (390 to 124) and more time of possession (35:46 to 24:14). … The Texans' 54 net yards passing is the second-fewest ever against the Jaguars. … The Jaguars converted 7 of 17 third downs, while the Texans converted just 1 of 12 third downs … QB Byron Leftwich is now 4-0 when he does not throw an interception and 0-6 when he is intercepted. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 194 yards, one TD and no interceptions and a passer rating of 93.2, his third highest of the season. … Fred Taylor rushed for 163 yards on 24 carries and scored one touchdown. That marks the fourth-highest single-game rushing total in team history. His 62-yard run was his and the team's fifth-longest ever and a season long. It was also his fifth 100-yard game of the season (third straight) and 28th of his career. He finished the game with 5,984 yards, 16 short of 6,000 career yards. His 85 carries the last three weeks is the most in any three-game stretch of his career. … Jimmy Smith caught three passes for 58 yards, including a 32-yard TD. He has now caught a pass in 41 straight games, the third-longest streak in team history (he also has the longest streak of 86 straight games). Smith has career totals of 710 receptions and 9,970 receiving yards, 30 shy of the 10,000-yard mark. … Rookie WR Cortez Hankton led the team with four receptions for 49 yards. … Kevin Johnson caught a pass in his 76th straight game, every one in his career. He had three catches for 29 yards. … Mark Royals punted six times for a 41.0-yard average, with one touchback, one inside the 20 and a 48 long. He had three kicks returned for three yards and a 37.2-yard net average. … Tony Brackens had two sacks and took over the team lead with six for the season. It was the seventh multi-sack game of his career. … Rob Meier had the team's other sack, giving him 1.5 this year. … The Jaguars allowed only one sack and have allowed only three sacks in the last five games. … Paul Spicer became only the second Jaguars defensive linemen to make an interception, joining Tony Brackens, who has four. … David Allen returned six punts for 55 yards, including a 26-yarder. He tied the team single-game record with six returns that is held by Reggie Barlow (three times) and R. Jay Soward (one time). Allen also had three fair catches… The Jaguars had no turnovers and three takeaway and are minus-two for the season. … MLB Mike Peterson led the team with 9 tackles (4 solo), followed by SLB Akin Ayodelewith 8 tackles (5 solo), and CB Rashean Mathis and DT John Henderson (7 tackles each). … Every player who dressed saw action except QB David Garrard and OT/G Leander Jordan. The inactive players were: QB Mark Brunell, CB Blue Adams, RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, OT/G Sammy Williams, C Brett Romberg, OL Marques Ogden, WR Matthew Hatchette and DT Matt Leonard. … Jaguars captains were: RB Fred Taylor, C Brad Meester, SS Donovin Darius, DT John Henderson and S Nick Sorensen.
FROM COACH JACK DEL RIO ON THE TEXANS GAME: (on his first shutout as a head coach) "We're very proud of the fact that we put together another solid effort. We've shown signs for the last month or so, and it was nice to go out and put it together for 60 minutes. We took care of the ball, and we're going to continue to go after the ball and be aggressive on defense. Our front was dominant and made life difficult for them on both offense and defense. It was a complete victory against a division opponent here at home in front of our fans."
(on the rushing attack) "The line is doing a nice job blocking and Fred (Taylor) is running real hard. LaBrandon Toefield came in and gave us a nice changeup. We rested Fu (Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala). We wanted to get him ready for the last three games. Fred continues to be a workhorse and do some special things for us. He had some crucial runs. He's bringing it every week."
(on Fred Taylor) "Fred is unique in that he brings size, speed and power and combines it with elusiveness. A lot of guys that are big and that fast don't have the ability to stop and cut and do the things that he does. He's proven to be very tough in everything, physically and mentally."
(on the turning point for the team this season) "I know that there was a turning point. I didn't mark it down on my calendar. I have kept my head down and grinded through things and pushed and demanded because I feel this group is capable if they'll make that commitment to stay focused and play hard. Then we have a chance to do some things. The minute you let any of that slip, things can get away from you."
(on if the game is special) "First shutout for our staff. That makes it special. Three wins in a row at home. We've been playing good football, and we're beginning to see some of the rewards in the won-loss column, and that's what we're all ultimately judged by. We're finding a way to get those Ws, and if it happens in a convincing manner, that's all the better."
FROM QB BYRON LEFTWICH: (on his performance) "I think it could have been better, I missed some throws out there, but as a team we found a way to win the game. We won all three phases of the game today."
(on the Jaguars' defense) "They just keep giving us the ball. There were some drives when we didn't make any plays and we had to punt, but they kept giving us the ball back. On offense, when you can play with the kind of defense we have, it always helps."
FROM DT MARCUS STROUD: (on getting the team's first shutout of the season) "The shutout today was huge. We went out and did what we needed to do and we ended up with the shutout."
(on what it would mean to have the fewest rushing yards allowed in the league) "It would mean a lot. It would show that, despite our record, we never give up. We're going to go out and play hard and we are going to be competitive against any team we play."
FROM RB FRED TAYLOR: (on his performance) "We definitely played every aspect of the game: special teams, offense and defense. We all played a great game today. Going in, we knew we had a chance to beat these guys. They got lucky up there in Houston (in September), and we wanted them to come in here thinking they could beat us. We knew all along it wasn't going to happen. "
(on having three consecutive 100-yard games) "It should have been five. The offensive line is in a zone. The coaches have been calling good games, good running plays, and the line is doing a great job up front. Along with my little bit, I'm going to add my two cents in there. We're all jelling and everyone understands each other a lot better. We just need to keep it going. We have three more games and maybe we can get some momentum that carries over to next year."
FROM WR JIMMY SMITH: (on the team throwing the ball early) "We want to be aggressive. We were aggressive against Tampa Bay and we were aggressive in all of our wins. We come out and go at people, and that's something I hope continues. I hope that (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave has the confidence in us and continues to go at people. If we do that, then we'll be OK. By him calling those couple of plays going deep early on, that's letting other teams know that we mean business and that we're coming out to make a statement."
(on Byron Leftwich) "He's learning, and we're coming along. Gradually, we'll get the thing Mark (Brunell) and I had that worked for so many years."
FROM CB FERNANDO BRYANT: (on the importance of the shutout for the defense) "Things are coming together, they really are. If you look at the last three or four weeks, the defense is playing some really good ball. You won't find another defense that is playing as good as we are right now. We'll go up against anybody."
(on next week's game at New England Patriots) "Next week is going to be a great test. They have a great offense and Tom Brady is throwing the ball unbelievably, and that's what you want to measure yourself by. New England is looking good right now and our defense is looking good. We're going to go out there and try to make some things happen."
NEXT WEEK: The Jaguars will play their final home game of the season when they host the New Orleans at 1:00 p.m. EST at ALLTEL Stadium. It will be the third meeting between the two teams. The Saints won 17-13 in 1996 at the Superdome in New Orleans, and the Jaguars won 41-23 at home in 1999. This season, the Saints are 6-7 and tied for second place in the NFC South. They are led by RB Deuce McAllister, who had a streak of nine straight 100-yard rushing games snapped last Sunday, when the Saints lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-7.
OH, THAT D: When Jack Del Rio was named head coach of the Jaguars last January 17, he promised a stifling, aggressive defense. That's what he has.
Through 13 games, the Jaguars rank fifth in the NFL in total defense and second in run defense. That is the Jaguars' highest overall defensive ranking since 1999 when they finished fourth in the league. Their run defense has its highest ranking ever after 13 games.
In the last four games, the Jaguars have allowed only 33 points, the fewest in the NFL in that time and their fewest in a four-game stretch since 1999. They have also given up only 873 yards in those four games, an average of 218.3 per game.
In the last three games, opposing offenses have converted only 7 of 37 third downs (18.9 percent), as compared to 62 of 138 (44.9 percent) in the first 10 games. The league average is 37.0 percent.
After the Jaguars shut out Houston 27-0 on December 7, holding the Texans to 124 yards on offense, TE Billy Miller, a five-year veteran from Southern Cal, said of the Jacksonville defense: "This was by far the most physical defense I've ever played against, seen or heard of. I don't know what their coach told those boys, but from the first game (on September 28) to this game, I'm not sure that they didn't go out and get 11 new guys on defense. I've never seen such a transformation. They just had their way with us today. Boy, they got after us. If you played today on offense, you got hit somehow, someway. They kicked our butts."
Even though the Jaguars are in fourth place in the AFC South, they have allowed the second-fewest points in the division (264, just three more than Tennessee and 17 fewer than first-place Indianapolis).
TAYLOR, SMITH CLOSE TO MILESTONES:
RB Fred Taylor has 5,984 yards rushing for his career and needs 16 to reach 6,000 yards. He would become the 56th player in NFL history to hit the 6,000-yard mark. WR Jimmy Smith has 9,970 receiving yards for his career and needs 30 to reach 10,000 yards. He would become the 18th player in NFL history to hit the 10,000-yard mark.
TAYLOR RANKS THIRD IN RUSHING YARDS PER GAME: Jaguars RB Fred Taylor ranks third among active NFL running backs with an average of 86.7 rushing yards per game (minimum 50 games).
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY: Five of the Jaguars' nine losses this season have been decided in the final minute of play.
JAGUARS ON PACE TO ALLOW TEAM'S FEWEST SACKS EVER:The Jaguars have allowed only 25 sacks this season — just three in the last five games, the best five-game stretch in team history — and are on pace to set a team record for fewest allowed. With an average of 1.9 sacks allowed per game, the Jaguars would finish the season at 31, breaking the team record of 36 sacks given up in 1999.
O-LINE AND D-LINE: The key to the success of the Jaguars' rushing offense — Fred Taylor is the AFC's fifth-leading rusher — and run defense this season — ranked second in the NFL — has been the consistency of the two lines.
The starting offensive line has remained the same all season, except for Game 10 at Tennessee, when rookie LG Vince Manuwai was sidelined and the following week when Jamar Nesbit started but Manuwai returned on the third series. For the season's first nine games, for the first time in Jaguars history, the starting offensive line and defensive line had stayed the same. The other four offensive linemen — LT Mike Pearson, C Brad Meester, RG Chris Naeole and RT Maurice Williams — have started all 13 games, and Meester, Naeole and Williams have played every offensive snap so far. The Jaguars' offensive line has allowed only three sacks in the last five games, the fewest ever in any five-game stretch for the team.
The defensive line has been intact for all 13 games so far. In the franchise's first eight seasons, the defensive line had never gone past the fourth game of the season before the starters changed. This year, the starters — LE Tony Brackens, DTs Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, and RE Hugh Douglas — play 40 to 90 percent of the defensive snaps, while often rotating with backups such as DEs Lionel Barnes and Paul Spicer and DT Rob Meier.
SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON: The Jaguars won three of six games since the start of November, and the three losses were all decided in the final minute of play.
THE RUSH STOPS HERE: This season, the Jaguars rank second in the NFL in rushing defense (84.2 yards per game) and first in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt (3.2). In the last 12 games, the Jaguars have held opposing starting ballcarriers to an average of 5.2 yards per game and an average of only 3.0 yards per rush. For the season, Jacksonville has allowed only 68 more rushing yards than Tennessee, which has the No. 1-ranked run defense.
LEFTWICH RANKS NO. 2 AMONG ROOKIE PASSERS 1983-2003: Of the 37 quarterbacks who have been drafted in the first round in the last 21 years — since the great quarterback draft of 1983 — the Jaguars' Byron Leftwich has the second-highest passer rating for his rookie season.
SMITH 17TH AND 18TH AMONG ALL-TIME RECEIVERS: Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith ranks 17th on the NFL's all-time receiving list and 20th in career receiving yards. Smith has 710 career receptions for 9,970 yards.
BRADY RANKS NO. 5 AMONG TIGHT ENDS: In the last five seasons, the Jaguars' Kyle Brady has the fifth most receptions of active tight ends.
TAYLOR HAS SEVENTH-MOST TOUCHDOWNS LAST FIVE YEARS: Despite missing 24 full games and parts of nine others, Jaguars RB Fred Taylor has scored the seventh-most touchdowns over the last six seasons among active players.
DOUGLAS IS EIGHTH-LEADING ACTIVE SACKER: Jaguars DE Hugh Douglas is tied for eighth among active players in sacks.
NEW FACES: There are 29 new faces among the 53 players on the Jaguars' current roster. Here is the breakdown.
Unrestricted Free Agents (3) — DE Hugh Douglas, FB Marc Edwards, LB Mike Peterson
Veteran Free Agents (10) — DE Lionel Barnes, S Deke Cooper, WR Troy Edwards, RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, WR Matthew Hatchette, LB Deon Humphrey, G Jamar Nesbit, P Mark Royals, S Nick Sorensen, OT/G Sammy William
First-year free agents (2) — RB/KR David Allen, S Ray Perryman
Trade (1) — S Anthony Mitchell
Waivers (1) — WR Kevin Johnson
Draft Choices (8) — QB Byron Leftwich, DB Rashean Mathis, G Vince Manuwai, TE George Wrighster, RB LaBrandon Toefield, OT Marques Ogden, CB Blue Adams (signed off Tampa Bay's practice squad), LB Tony Gilbert (signed off Arizona's practice squad)
Undrafted Rookies (4) — WR Cortez Hankton, DT Matt Leonard, PK Seth Marler, C Brett Romberg
JAGUARS ROOKIE STARTERS ON OPENING DAY: Two members of this year's draft class started the season opener, becoming the 11th and 12th rookies to start for the Jaguars on opening day.
1995 — OT Brian DeMarco, TE Pete Mitchell, RB James Stewart
1996 — LB Kevin Hardy
1997 — None
1998 — S Donovin Darius
1999 — CB Fernando Bryant
2000 — G Brad Meester, DB Kiwaukee Thomas
2001 — S Marlon McCree, OT Maurice Williams
2002 — None
2003 — G Vince Manuwai, S Rashean Mathis
JAGUARS IN THE COMMUNITY: Each week during the NFL season, Jaguars players are involved in the community making visits to schools and other non-profit agencies. This week's visit is the annual Operation Blessing program:
Monday, December 8
8:00 – 11:00 p.m. FB Marc Edwards will host a billiards tournament at Sneakers Sports Grille at 10750-8 Atlantic Blvd. to benefit the D.A.R.E. Program. Edwards will be joined by several of his Jaguars teammates.
Tuesday, December 9
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. OT Marques Ogden will visit students at Mandarin Middle School to participate in an incentive program that will allow students to attend a Jaguars home game.
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. WR Jimmy Smith and former teammate Keenan McCardell will participate in a 3-minute grocery shopping spree with a local contest winner at the Point Meadows Winn-Dixie located at 10915 Baymeadows Road
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. DT Marcus Stroud will visit third-graders at Twin Lakes Academy Elementary to read to students and speak with them about the importance of literacy and education.
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. LB Akin Ayodele will be recognized as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Community Champion at a news conference at ALLTEL Stadium. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida will donate $2,500 to the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Akin's behalf.
5:00 – 7:00 p.m. C Brad Meester and his wife will meet fans and sign autographs at the Ponte Vedra Square Winn-Dixie located at 290 Solano Road to help promote the sale of the JagNet cookbook.
7:00 – 9:00 p.m. PK Seth Marler will meet Jaguars fans and sign autographs at Dick and Jane's Sports Cards at 1819 Dean Road in Jacksonville.
JAGUARS AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS: The Jaguars rank 14th in the NFL in total offense (11th rushing, 13th passing), and they are 5th in defense (2nd rushing and 15th passing). … QB Byron Leftwich is 12th in the AFC in passing with a 74.4 passer rating. … PK Seth Marler is 11th in the AFC with 73 points (25 of 25 PATS, 16 of 26 FGAs). … RB Fred Taylor is fifth in the AFC with 1,200 rushing yards. He ranks fifth in the conference with 1,503 yards from scrimmage and is tied for 18th in the AFC with 6 TDs. … WR Jimmy Smith is 24th in the AFC with 46 receptions and 16th with 683 receiving yards. … P Mark Royals is eighth in the AFC with a 35.8-yard net average and is 10th in the AFC with a 41.1 gross average. … David Allen is fifth in the AFC with a 12.0 average on punt returns. … DE Tony Brackens is tied for 15th in the AFC with 6.0 sacks. … LB Akin Ayodele is tied for the AFC lead among defensive players with three fumble recoveries.
STATS AND SUCH: A total of 15 players have started every game this season (six on offense and nine on defense): OTs Mike Pearson and Maurice Williams, G Chris Naeole, C Brad Meester, RB Fred Taylor, FB Marc Edwards, DEs Tony Brackens and Hugh Douglas, DTs Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, LBs Mike Peterson and Akin Ayodele, CB Fernando Bryant, and S Donovin Darius and CB/S Rashean Mathis. … In 13 games, the Jaguars have used four different starting lineup combinations on offense and four different starting combinations on defense. The Jaguars have used turnovers to score 31 points, while their opponents scored 71 points off Jaguars' turnovers. … The Jaguars have had 16 plays of 30 or more yards in 2003. They had only 16 plays of 30-plus yards in 2002, 11 in 2001, 26 in 2000, 23 in 1999, 29 in 1998, 22 in 1997, 26 in 1996 and 12 in 1995. The Jaguars have allowed 14 30-plus plays this season… Of the Jaguars' 254 completed passes, 136 have been to wide receivers, 37 to tight ends and 81 to running backs. Sixteen different players have caught passes this season, the most in franchise history. … The Jaguars have 14 interceptions this season, five shy of their 1999 single-season record of 19. Two of those interceptions are by defensive linemen (Tony Brackens and Paul Spicer) and three are by linebackers (Mike Peterson with two and Akin Ayodele). … The Jaguars are 10 for 21 on fourth-down conversions; their opponents are 6 for 10 … On 34 drives inside the opponent's 20, the Jaguars have scored 16 touchdowns and 10 field goals. Their opponents have had 35 trips inside the red zone and have come away with 18 touchdowns and 13 field goals. … Jaguars opponents have begun 19 possessions inside their own 20 and scored on two of those drives (2 TDs), while the Jaguars have begun 36 possessions inside their own 20 and scored on nine of those drives (6 TDs, 3 FGs). … In nine seasons, the Jaguars are 17 for 27 on two-point conversions (0 for 1 in 2003), while their opponents are 8 for 26 (1 for 3 in 2003). … In nine seasons, the Jaguars' record for each month is: 1-0 in August, 16-17 in September, 14-21 in October, 21-15 in November, 19-15 in December and 1-1 in January. Mark Brunell is 63-54 in 117 regular-season starts, 67-58 overall. Byron Leftwich is 4-6. … WR Jimmy Smith has played in 136 of the 141 games in Jaguars history. Of the current players, next are QB Mark Brunell (120) and DE Tony Brackens (105). … The longest streak of consecutive starts is held by C Brad Meester (team-record 61), followed by WR Jimmy Smith (48) and then four players with 28 consecutive starts: CB Fernando Bryant, RB Fred Taylor, DT Marcus Stroud and G Chris Naeole (who has 69 straight starts dating back to 1999 with New Orleans) … The Jaguars' current longest streak of games played is held by TE Kyle Brady (63), followed by Meester and DT Rob Meier (61 each). … Seven players have played in 100 or more games during their careers: P Mark Royals (221), WR Jimmy Smith (143), TE Kyle Brady (137), QB Mark Brunell (122), DE Hugh Douglas (119), FB Marc Edwards (109) and DE Tony Brackens (105). … Brady leads with 130 career starts, followed by Brunell (117), Smith (115) and DE Hugh Douglas (102).