A year ago, Derek Cox (pictured) was a star cornerback for William and Mary, preparing to open the season against North Carolina State. This week, Cox is a Jaguars rookie cornerback preparing for a game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
"I really don't think about it in that light. At the end of the day, they're all just regular guys. You can't make them out to be super human," Cox said when asked if he was overwhelmed about facing what has been the NFL's best passing attack over the last several years.
Cox could be one of four rookies in the starting lineup for the Jaguars on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium. It's expected rookie offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton and rookie defensive tackle Terrance Knighton will also be in the starting lineup.
"You enter a competition with your best players," coach Jack Del Rio said on Monday. "Ideally, you'd like guys who are proven commodities. We have some younger guys who are going to play right away and we expect them to play well."
The Colts may not recognize these Jaguars. Gone are Fred Taylor and half the roster that scored an upset win in Indianapolis in week three of last season, replaced by 21 new faces that'll be wearing a newly-designed uniform. The coach and the quarterback are the same, but these aren't the same old Jaguars. These Jaguars have beards.
"I'm not going to shave, unless I have to do something outside football," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "You can't start a movement and not stick with it."
Jones-Drew is the creator of the bearded movement, which is meant to symbolize team solidarity and commitment. The Jaguars are counting on those types of intangibles to help carry them through what would appear to be a rebuilding year.
Is this a season to compare to Del Rio's first as the team's head coach, in 2003, when he faced a major rebuilding job?
"I don't look at it that way. In 2003, it was all brand new. From a sheer turnover point, you could draw that comparison," Del Rio said.
Del Rio agreed he's counting on intangibles to help overcome what the Jaguars may lack in talent, and his expectations are clearly geared toward the team's development.
"I expect to get better every day. I expect us to play well and go out and win. We have to make the commitment to preparing to play well and then go out and do it on Sunday," he said.
It would help the Jaguars' effort in Indianapolis to have a fully-recovered Jones-Drew, who sustained a shin contusion in the preseason finale last Thursday. Del Rio said he expects Jones-Drew to participate in practice on Wednesday.
Keeping Garrard healthy will be a subject of attention on Sunday. His chief pass-protectors, Monroe and Britton, will be facing one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the NFL, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
"I have all the confidence in the world in those guys," Garrard said of Monroe and Britton. "They'll have their rookie moments but they'll get better each week."
It would seem to be a theme.