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2 JACKSONVILLE Jaguars
Jeffri Chadiha
August 28, 2000
'Hold that line (together)' is the battle cry of a team trying to get to—and win—a Super Bowl before old age sets in
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August 28, 2000

2 Jacksonville Jaguars

'Hold that line (together)' is the battle cry of a team trying to get to—and win—a Super Bowl before old age sets in

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PROJECTED LINEUP
WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Tom Coughlin
Sixth season with Jaguars (49-31 in NFL)

Offensive Backs

qb

Mark Brunell

18*

441 att.

259 comp.

58.7%

3,060 yds.

14 TDs

9 int.

82.0 rtg.

RB

Fred Taylor

27*

159 att.

732 yds.

4.6 avg.

10 rec.

83 yds.

8.3 avg.

6 TDs

RB

Stacey Mack

205*

7 att.

40 yds.

5.7 avg.

0 rec.

0 yds.

no avg.

0 TDs

FB

Daimon Shelton

318*

latt.

2 yds.

2.0 avg.

12 rec.

87 yds.

7.3 avg.

0 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

WR

Jimmy Smith

13*

116 rec.

1,636 yds.

6 TDs

WR

Keenan McCardell

73*

78 rec.

891yds.

5 TDs

WR

R. Jay Soward (R)

207*

51 rec.

655 yds.

4 TDs

TE

Kyle Brady

263*

32 rec.

346 yds.

1 TD

K

Mike Mollis

132*

37/37 XPs

31/38 FGs

130 pts.

PR

R. Jay Soward (R)#

207*

18 ret.

12.1 avg.

1 TD

KR

Reggie Barlow

176*

19 ret.

20.8 avg.

0 TDs

LT

Tony Boselli

6'7"

320 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

LG

Brad Meester (R)#

6'3"

302 lbs.

11 games

11 starts

C

John Wade

6'5"

300 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RG

Brenden Stai#

6'4"

312 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RT

Zach Wiegert

6'5"

310 lbs.

16 games

12 starts

Defense

LE

Renaldo Wynn

16 tackles

1� sacks

LT

Gary Walker

54 tackles

10 sacks

RT

Seth Payne

23 tackles

1� sacks

RE

Tony Brackens

66 tackles

12 sacks

OLB

Lonnie Marts

73 tackles

2 sacks

MLE

Hardy Nickerson#

107 tackles

2 int.

OLB

Kevin Hardy

97 tackles

10� sacks

CB

Fernando Bryant

69 tackles

2 int.

SS

Donovin Darius

78 tackles

4 int.

FS

Rayna Stewart

13 tackles

0 int.

CB

Aaron Beasley

64 tackles

6 int.

P

Bryan Barker

78 punts

41.8 avg.

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

On the morning of July 24, Leon Searcy, the Jaguars' Pro Bowl right tackle, sat dejectedly on the back of a cart that no player wants to ride in. He was leaving the practice fields behind Alltel Stadium, facing surgery to repair a torn right quadriceps tendon and up to four months of rehabilitation. At one point Searcy buried his face in his massive hands. Jacksonville fans probably did the same when they got the news. Another injury to the offensive line was the last thing they needed to hear about.

That's because the line that helped power the second-best rushing attack in the NFL last year was already in disarray. Only two players who started a majority of games up front last season return to their same positions, and one of those, All-Pro left tackle Tony Boselli, is still rehabbing the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in his right knee last January. Having to revamp the line is not the position to be in when you're in a division loaded with pass rushers.

"Losing Leon was big," says Boselli, who is expected to be at full strength when the season opens. "Obviously you want your best guys out there, but we don't have that luxury. We've overcome setbacks before, and that's what we expect to do now."

Zach Wiegert, who started 12 games at right guard for Jacksonville last season, moves to Searcy's spot. The good news: Wiegert, the 1994 Outland Trophy winner at Nebraska, spent his first two NFL seasons as the Rams' right tackle. The bad news: He missed two weeks of training camp with a hyperextended right elbow.

At guard the Jaguars were looking at rookie Brad Meester, a second-round draft pick out of Northern Iowa, and David Kempfert, who has been on and off practice squads for the past three seasons. But they thought better of starting two players who have never played an NFL down and on Aug. 16 traded for Chiefs guard Brenden Stai, a six-year veteran who started 16 games last season. He'll replace Kempfert and line up next to Wiegert. The center, John Wade, is coming off his first full season as a starter, but he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot on Aug. 2, an injury that sidelined him for three weeks.

Things seemed to be fine at the skill positions with quarterback Mark Brunell throwing to the wideout tandem of Jimmy Smith (a league-high 116 receptions last year) and Keenan McCardell (fourth in the league in receptions over the past four seasons) and Fred Taylor handling the rushing duties. But in an exhibition game against the Giants on Aug. 11, Taylor sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, putting his availability for the opener in question. Jacksonville went down this road last year. After running for 1,223 yards as a rookie in 1998, Taylor missed six games last season with hamstring injuries. He wasn't at full strength until the postseason, when he averaged 122.5 yards per game and 6.6 yards a carry. In an attempt to eliminate injuries like the ones that nagged him in '99, he is eating a couple of bananas a day (to eliminate cramping).

On defense the Jaguars added Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, formerly of the Buccaneers, to a unit that tied for the league lead with 57 sacks and surrendered a league-low 13.6 points a game. Even so, the pass rush needs a big year out of Pro Bowl defensive end Tony Brackens, who didn't re-sign until Aug. 11.

The Jaguars are coming off a season in which they won a league-best 14 games and reached the AFC Championship Game, and though the talent is still in place, there's a sense in Jacksonville that the window of opportunity for reaching the Super Bowl is closing. It's a notion that coach Tom Coughlin doesn't buy into—"I don't think there's any more urgency now than before," he says—but age is creeping up on a team that has played in two conference title games in its first five seasons of existence. Stars such as Brunell, Smith, McCardell, Searcy and Nickerson will all be 30 or older at the end of this season.

"Once you've been in the league a few years, you start thinking you have to get a ring soon or it might never happen," Wiegert says. "Eventually you stop climbing up the hill to a championship and you start going back down. We have some guys in their primes who want to win this thing now."

To do that the Jaguars will have to conquer division rival Tennessee. The Titans were the only team to beat Jacksonville last season, and they did it three times—twice in Alltel, including a 33-14 whipping for the AFC title. In those three losses the Jaguars committed 13 turnovers, six in the playoff meeting. They coughed up the ball only 11 times in their 14 other regular-season games.

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