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HIS Best Move YET
Jeffri Chadiha
June 05, 2000
Feeling unappreciated in Jacksonville, free agent James Stewart cast his lot with the Lions in hopes of becoming a featured attraction
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June 05, 2000

His Best Move Yet

Feeling unappreciated in Jacksonville, free agent James Stewart cast his lot with the Lions in hopes of becoming a featured attraction

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"We were satisfied with James's style of play," says Michael Huyghue, Jacksonville's senior vice president of football operations, noting that after last season, the Jaguars offered Stewart $2.5 million per year to remain with the team and back up Taylor. "We knew we couldn't play without two good backs in this league. Chances are you're going to lose one along the way."

In fact, Taylor started only nine games last season because of hamstring injuries. Stewart responded by rushing for a career-high 931 yards, helping Jacksonville to a 14-2 record and its first AFC Central title. "We wouldn't have done that without him," says Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin. Still, Stewart was hurt by comments in the media—some from his teammates—that the offense would be better off with Taylor in the lineup.

Stewart won't have to worry about whether his style will suit the Lions. Ross won in San Diego with big, straight-ahead backs like Means, Rod Bernstine and Marion Butts, and he plans to employ more of a power game this season. Detroit used its first-round draft pick on Oklahoma tackle Stockar McDougle; he's expected to start at left guard on a line that averages 6'4", 328 pounds. "Barry has an open-field style of running, whereas James is more of a consistent runner who will get more four-or five-yard runs," says Ross. "With James you have a guy who's going to bend the pile back. I like that."

Ross also loves Stewart's character and notes how admirably the 28-year-old handled himself in Jacksonville in the face of rejection. "I don't know what type of reaction I'll get here," Stewart says, "but I know one thing—it won't have anything to do with my being from Tennessee."

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