|NFL 2007: Consistently inconsistent Jaguars trying to change roller-coaster ways|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 31 August 2007 14:09|
They are tired of the ups and downs and highs and lows that come from beating a division leader or playoff-caliber team one week, then dishearteningly losing to a less-talented team the next.
It happened more than they care to remember last season, and coach Jack Del Rio has made consistency the team's motto for 2007. He talked about it during the first team meeting before training camp and has mentioned it repeatedly since.
``That is the battle cry,'' said Del Rio, whose team begins the season Sept. 9 against Tennessee. ``I've made that statement very clear. We're going to be more consistent in our approach. I think the best way to ensure that you smooth out that ride - get off the roller coaster - and become more consistent week in and week out is through preparation and attention to detail.
``We'll continue to beat that drum.''
The message clearly didn't reach the Jaguars last year.
Although the team had plenty of excuses for the three-game losing streak that ended an 8-8 season - quarterback Byron Leftwich sat out 10 games because of an ankle injury and four defensive starters missed most of the year - Jacksonville's biggest problem was an inability to play at the same level week to week.
Del Rio hopes Garrard will make a difference.
The Jaguars made Garrard their starting quarterback and said they were parting ways with Leftwich after four frustrating, injury-filled seasons.
``He's shown some explosive capability as a football player and we want to show more,'' Del Rio said.
Garrard also has been fairly consistent, something the Jaguars lacked last year.
The Jaguars opened with convincing wins against Dallas and defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh, then lost at Washington two weeks later.
They rebounded with a 41-0 drubbing of the Jets, then lost badly at Houston following a bye.
It didn't stop there, either. Jacksonville hammered the playoff-bound New York Giants with stellar defense, then seemingly couldn't stop anything in Buffalo.
The frustrating season culminated after one of the most surprising wins of the year. Jacksonville ran for a franchise-record 375 yards while dismantling Indianapolis 44-17. The Jaguars promptly lost the following week at Tennessee, the same team they had beaten 37-7 six weeks earlier.
``We are tired of being right there and falling short,'' defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said. ``We have the talent in place. Now it's time to prepare like you're supposed to prepare. Everybody has a different mental approach this year and our heads are in different places right now. If we carry that into the season, this will become something special.''
Jacksonville was 1-4 against teams with losing records in 2006, and 7-4 against teams .500 or better.
It's been a trend, too.
In December 2004, the Jaguars could have clinched a postseason berth at home against lowly Houston. But they came out flat, lost 21-0 and were essentially knocked out of the playoff picture.
The following year, Jacksonville upset Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks, then lost at struggling St. Louis.
The Jaguars have been called consistently inconsistent, referred to as the poster child for NFL parity and ripped for typically playing up or down to the level of competition.
Del Rio hasn't been able to figure out the problem, which could cost him his job if it continues. He realizes the same thing happens around the league, but not to the extent it does in Jacksonville.
``If you're going against Peyton Manning, you know you may get embarrassed if you don't get your stuff together,'' Del Rio said. ``When you know that you're being challenged like that it certainly creates a sense of urgency. What we really are seeking to establish here is a sense of urgency each week for a purpose beyond just matching what our opponent is capable of.
``The purpose that we're working toward is to be the most explosive football team in the NFL. You don't do that by playing up one week and down the next. You do that by playing up every week. ... The team that executes is the team that wins in this league, and the team that executes with urgency wins more often.''
It didn't happen for Jacksonville last season, and Del Rio responded by replacing five assistant coaches and completely revamping the offense for the second time in four years.
Now, the Jaguars have a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback, a new quarterbacks coach, a new special teams coach and two new receivers coaches.
But will the changes lead to more consistency and better results?
``The key to this team putting it all together is being consistent,'' defensive end Paul Spicer said. ``That was one of the things Jack definitely touched on when we were in our first team meeting at training camp. We all know there are no more excuses. It's time to get it done.''