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1 Jacksonville Jaguars Everything is in place offensively, so the chances for a first trip to the Super Bowl will ride on the play of an underachieving defense

Aug. 30, 1999
Aug. 30, 1999

Table of Contents
Aug. 30, 1999

1999 NFL Preview

1 Jacksonville Jaguars Everything is in place offensively, so the chances for a first trip to the Super Bowl will ride on the play of an underachieving defense

The 96-by-203-foot mural is displayed on the side of an office
building in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. The tribute to
the Jaguars, however, doesn't feature quarterback Mark Brunell
or All-Pro tackle Tony Boselli or any of the offensive stars who
helped turn the expansion team into a perennial playoff
participant. Rather, front and center in the painting are
defensive linemen Joel Smeenge and Renaldo Wynn.

This is an article from the Aug. 30, 1999 issue Original Layout

As the Jaguars embark on their fifth NFL season, the selection
of subjects is fitting because if Jacksonville expects to make
its first Super Bowl appearance, the defense--and in particular
the team's pass rush unit--must raise its level of play. Though
the Jaguars have been to the playoffs each of the last three
years, they have never sent a defensive player to the Pro Bowl.
"We need an identity," says fourth-year linebacker Kevin Hardy.
"Teams used their entire playbooks against our defense last year
because we weren't solid in any one area. We need to get better
at everything."

Last season, using the bend-but-don't-break philosophy of
defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, Jacksonville had the third
fewest sacks (30) in the league and ranked 25th in total
defense. Nowhere were the Jaguars' shortcomings more evident
than in a 34-24 loss to the Jets in the AFC divisional playoffs.
Vinny Testaverde threw for 284 yards, Curtis Martin ran for 124
more and two scores as New York had its way against the
beleaguered defense. "We couldn't stop them," says Jacksonville
coach Tom Coughlin. "You can't beat anybody with a defense like
that. A game like that makes you think you might need to improve
your defense."

Last January, Coughlin hired former Panthers coach Dom Capers to
take over for Jauron, who had left to coach the Bears. Capers,
the former Steelers defensive coordinator, is a proponent of the
attack-style, zone-blitz scheme and likes to run a 3-4
alignment. Coughlin, however, prefers the more traditional 4-3
set, so the defense will have the mind of a 3-4 (lots of blitzes
and stunts) and the body of a 4-3 (steady gap control to stop
the run). "The players love this new defense," says Hardy,
"because for once we can start taking the game to people,
instead of the other way around."

It might not be as easy as that. Jacksonville lost defensive
linemen John Jurkovic and Kelvin Pritchett to free agency, and
Don Davey and Jeff Lageman to retirement. New faces include
Larry Smith, a second-round draft pick out of Florida State, and
Gary Walker, a free-agent pickup from Tennessee who had only one
sack in '98. Walker will start at right tackle. Capers hopes
that Smith will give the Jaguars some much-needed depth.

Wynn, the team's No. 1 pick in 1997, who lined up at tackle and
end last season, will play at left end full time. Smeenge, the
franchise's alltime sacks leader, will split time at right end
with Tony Brackens, a second-round draft pick in 1996 who is in
the final year of his contract. Coughlin is counting on Brackens
to finally emerge as a leader and the kind of player this unit
desperately needs: a guy who gets after the quarterback. An avid
rancher who spends his off-seasons on his family's 1,800-acre
spread in Fairfield, Texas, Brackens used most of his rookie
signing bonus to buy cattle, then wrassled up seven sacks in
each of his first two seasons. But shoulder and ankle problems
limited him to only eight starts and 3 1/2 sacks in 1998. "Tony
is absolutely the key," says Coughlin. Brackens concurs. "We all
know the order of business this year," he says. "If I struggle,
if the defense struggles, then the team will struggle. I'm
planning on being all over the place. It's going to be hard for
people to find me. I might even switch numbers."

But Brackens is in fact a quiet type who may not be suited for a
leadership role. A more likely candidate is Hardy. A Pro
Bowl-caliber linebacker, Hardy had a team-high 112 tackles last
year and should flourish even more in Capers's defense, blitzing
behind Brackens and in tandem with strongside linebacker Bryce
Paup. Hardy, who has been awarded eight game balls since the
Jaguars selected him with the second pick in the 1996 draft, is
a pitchman for a soda company. His smiling mug can be seen
splashed on billboards across Jacksonville. Considering the
Jaguars' defensive mission in 1999, those advertisements carry
an appropriate slogan: TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

--David Fleming

COLOR PHOTO: AL MESSERSCHMIDT On the rebound The Jaguars expect big things out of Brackens, whose production dropped during an injury-plagued 1998.COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES

SCHEDULE

Sept. 12 SAN FRANCISCO
19 at Carolina
26 TENNESSEE
Oct. 3 at Pittsburgh
11 at N.Y. Jets (Mon.)
17 CLEVELAND
24 Open date
31 at Cincinnati
Nov. 7 at Atlanta
14 BALTIMORE
21 NEW ORLEANS
28 at Baltimore
Dec. 2 PITTSBURGH (Thurs.)
13 DENVER (Mon.)
19 at Cleveland
26 at Tennessee
Jan. 2 CINCINNATI

FAST FACTS

1998 Record 11-5 (1st in AFC Central)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 5/20/10; defense 22/23/25

1999 Schedule strength NFL rank: 22 Opponents' 1998 winning
percentage: .491 Games against playoff teams: 4

SURVIVING SACKS

The Jaguars have played 64 regular-season games in their
history, and they have allowed at least one sack in each
game--the longest current such streak in the NFL. Since the
league began keeping track of sacks in 1963, five other teams
have had streaks of 48 or more games (the equivalent of three
seasons today). Unlike the Jaguars, however, none of those teams
played anything close to .500 ball, much less put together a
winning record.

Quarterback with
Team Streak Years W-L-T Pct. the most starts

Cardinals 74 games 1984-88 30-43-1 .412 Neil Lomax
Falcons 65 games 1982-86 23-41-1 .362 Steve Bartkowski
Jaguars 64 games 1995-98 35-29 .547 Mark Brunell
Bills 50 games 1969-73 12-36-2 .260 Dennis Shaw
Seahawks 48 games 1991-94 16-32 .333 Rick Mirer
Cardinals 48 games 1994-96 19-29 .396 Dave Krieg

PLAYER TO WATCH

The first thing that free-agent tight end Kyle Brady did after
signing with the Jaguars was walk up to second-year strong
safety Donovin Darius and show him the scar on his chin. While
running a slant pattern in the playoffs last season, Brady, then
a Jet, was knocked so silly by a Darius tackle that he needed
smelling salts. It was just one of the many nasty hits
administered by Darius, a 1998 first-round draft pick. "Donovin
has one speed," says Jacksonville linebacker Kevin Hardy. "Full
tilt." Last year Darius topped the secondary with 74 tackles,
leading then defensive coordinator Dick Jauron to comment that
the safety brought an element of violence to the defense. Says
Darius, "That's the highest compliment I can think of."

PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1998 STATISTICS

Coach: Tom Coughlin
Fifth season with Jaguars (35-29 in NFL)

Offensive Backs PVR*

QB Mark Brunell 9
354 att. 208 comp. 58.8% 2,601 yds. 20 TDs 9 int. 89.9 rtg.

RB Fred Taylor 7
264 att. 1,223 yds. 4.6 avg. 44 rec. 421 yds. 9.6 avg. 17 TDs

RB Tavian Banks 278
26 att. 140 yds. 5.4 avg. 4 rec. 20 yds. 5.0 avg. 1 TD

FB Daimon Shelton 317
30 att. 95 yds. 3.2 avg. 10 rec. 79 yds. 7.9 avg. 1 TD

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
[PVR]
WR Jimmy Smith 35 78 rec. 1,182 yds. 8 TDs
WR Keenan McCardell 78 64 rec. 892 yds. 6 TDs
WR Reggie Barlow 230 11 rec. 168 yds. 0 TDs
TE Kyle Brady[1] 204 30 rec. 315 yds. 5 TDs
K Mike Hollis 125 45/45 XPs 21/26 FGs 108 pts.
PR Reggie Barlow 230 43 ret. 12.9 avg. 1 TD
KR Reggie Barlow 230 30 ret. 24.9 avg. 0 TDs
LT Tony Boselli 6'7" 323 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
LG Ben Coleman 6'5" 325 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Quentin Neujahr 6'4" 305 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Rich Tylski 6'5" 309 lbs. 12 games 8 starts
RT Leon Searcy 6'4" 324 lbs. 15 games 15 starts

Defense

LE Renaldo Wynn 34 tackles 1 sack
LT Seth Payne 11 tackles 0 sacks
RT Gary Walker[1] 47 tackles 1 sack
RE Tony Brackens 39 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
OLB Bryce Paup 68 tackles 6 1/2 sacks
MLB Bryan Schwartz 60 tackles 0 sacks
OLB Kevin Hardy 112 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
CB Aaron Beasley 67 tackles 0 int.
SS Donovin Darius 74 tackles 0 int.
FS Carnell Lake[1] 69 tackles 4 int.
CB Fernando Bryant(R)[1] 51 tackles 2 int.
P Bryan Barker 85 punts 45.0 avg.

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 122)