|AFC CENTRAL NEWS
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS TEAM PREVIEW
By Rachael Brandon, NFL.com
R. Jay Soward, the Jaguars' first-round draft pick. Despite boasting
arguably the best receiving tandem in the AFC in Jimmy Smith and Keenan
McCardell, the Jaguars couldn't resist taking the Southern California star
off the board in the first round of April's draft. Soward was a three-year
starter and a four-year letterman for the Trojans, the same school that
produced Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Keyshawn Johnson.
NFL INSIDER POWER RATINGS
Ratings based on analysis of 1999 team and individual statistics,
offseason personnel moves and feedback from respected experts (from NFL
Insider's Season Preview issue) Rushing offense: 10.0 Passing offense:
9.0 Rushing defense: 9.5 Passing defense: 9.6 Special teams: 8.5 Coaching:
9.3 Intangibles: 9.1 TOTAL: 65.0 Scale of 1-10; Perfect score=70
ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL...
Tony Boselli tore his ACL in the season-ending game against the Cincinnati
Bengals last season and missed most of training camp in rehab or
practicing by himself. He is expected to be back for the season opener.
With all the other injuries the Jaguars have suffered on the offensive
line, they will not take the risk of rushing Boselli, a four-time Pro Bowl
pick who was named to the All-Decade team earlier this season.
With injuries hampering the offensive line, the Jaguars are crossing their
fingers that Brad Meester can make an immediate impact. The former
Northern Iowa product is slotted to start at left guard but he could also
play center if needed; that where he played in college. Meester is small
compared to some offensive lineman at 6-foot-3 and 298, but he's athletic
and smart on the field.
Brandon Christenson, a fourth-string tight end, scored one of the weirdest
touchdowns in Jaguars history to give Jacksonville a 16-13 preseason win
over the New York Giants on Aug. 11.
Giants rookie cornerback Fred Lewis intercepted a Jags pass near the end
of the game. Lewis' momentum carried him into the end zone, but he stepped
just outside the goal line again. Teammate Jack Golden tried to tackle
him, hoping Lewis would go down and essentially end the game, but Golden's
hit popped the ball loose and Christenson recovered for the game-winning
"It was the most amazing play I've ever been involved in," said
Christenson. "It just shows that you should keep playing, keep playing and
see what happens. I'll take whatever I can get. I need all the help I can
Anthony Cesario has to be one of Tom Coughlin's favorite players right now
since the lineman is healthy and ready to go. Cesario didn't play a down
during his rookie season in 1999, but he spent part of training camp
working with the first team at right guard, a position he will likely
relinquish now that the club traded for veteran Brenden Stai. He's also
Zach Wiegert's backup at right tackle and started the preseason opener at
"One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity," Coughlin said. "If
some guys can take advantage of that, we'll be a better football team when
we get them all back competing again."
JAGUARS AT A GLANCE
Head coach: Tom Coughlin (sixth year with Jacksonville). 1999 record:
14-2 (first year in AFC Central) 1999 rankings: Offense - 7th overall
(349.1 yards/game), 2nd run, (130.7), 12th pass (218.4) Defense - 4th
overall (270.9 yards/game), 7th run (90.3), 3rd pass (180.6)
KEY COMINGS QB Jamie Martin (Browns) LB Hardy Nickerson (Buccaneers) QB
Brenden Stai (Chiefs)
KEY GOINGS RB Tavian Banks OT Ben Coleman (Chargers) QB Jay Fiedler
(Dolphins) OT Joe Patton (Chargers) LB Bryce Paup (Vikings) RB James
Stewart (Lions) CB Dave Thomas (Giants) G Rich Tylski (Steelers) DE Regan
TOP DRAFT CHOICES WR R. Jay Soward (1st round) OL Brad Meester (2nd) LB
T.J. Slaughter (3rd)
The two-time defending AFC champion Jaguars have 34 new players - 11 draft
picks, five undrafted rookies, nine veterans and nine new first-year
players. ... Jacksonville?s 14-2 record during 1999 was the best in
franchise history and tied for the fourth most wins in NFL history. ...
The Jaguars really knew how to wear opponents down last season as the
margin by which they outscored foes increased every quarter. In the first
quarter, the Jags outscored opponents 61-44; in the second quarter 109-81;
in the third quarter 103-40; and in the fourth quarter 123-52.
The Jaguars weren't threatened all that often last season, but the
Baltimore Ravens scared them twice. Jacksonville escaped with 6-3 and
30-23 victories. Find out if the Ravens are any better this year when the
Jags travel to Baltimore on Sept. 10.
The Tennessee Titans were the only team to beat Jacksonville last season,
and the Jaguars have to wait until Oct. 16, on Monday Night Football, to
get revenge. But nothing would be sweeter for the Jags than to knock off
Tennessee in Nashville. And a victory definitely would be worth the wait.
TO BE ANSWERED...
Will the running game struggle without James Stewart?
A healthy Fred Taylor means everything to the Jaguars offense, but
unfortunately, the third-year runner has struggled to combat nagging
injuries since entering the league in 1998. Jacksonville had the luxury of
turning to Stewart in the past, but those days are over after Stewart
signed with the Detroit Lions in the offseason. Stacey Mack and Chris
Howard will be on the spot now, especially since Taylor sprained his MCL
in the Jags' preseason win over the Giants.
Will the Jaguars offensive line hold up?
It was a rough training camp for the O-line. The Jags started camp without
Boselli, still recovering from offseason knee surgery, and soon lost Leon
Searcy, who had to have surgery for a torn quadriceps tendon. Other
linemen, including Joe Chustz (back), Todd Fordham (knee) and Wiegert
(elbow) missed varying amounts of practice with nagging injuries. Searcy
could still be placed on injured reserve. To ease their pain going into
the season, the Jags traded a draft pick to the Chiefs to get Stai.