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Will This Draft Lead to the Super Bowl?

May 04, 2015 -- 10:29am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

THE JAGUARS WON THE SUPER BOWL.

Well, OK, I am getting way ahead of myself. But you get the idea. Everything the Jacksonville Jaguars did over the weekend was a success. A win for the team, the NFL and our community. It’s like the franchise hit the “on” button and everything Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley did on Thursday, Friday and Saturday turned to gold. Dripping gold with plenty to go around. And with each move, Jaguars fans got more and more excited.

Heck, I’m excited just writing this blog.

It seems the eight players this team added to its roster over the weekend and the moves the team made in free agency has erased years of frustration, taken the stink off EverBank Field and now we all smell the sweetness of potential.

We should bottle that up and save it for a time when the team hits a bump in the road and it falls on hard times.

The fan base has another reason – well eight reasons to be excited about the teal and black. If Dante Fowler and TJ Yeldon wasn’t enough, then the selection of Rashad Greene, a player who may only be a rookie, but will give this team solid leadership at the wide receiver position, should make everyone very happy. Finally a pass catcher who comes in and can catch everything, played in a pro-style offense in college and better yet, played for four years and will do his job. Maybe we didn’t need Amari Cooper after all. Nothing to take away from the core of receivers we have, but Greene may have been that missing puzzle and Dave Caldwell’s patience paid off for the team.

Fans are jumping out of their seats right now, predicting playoffs and post season and Super Bowls and everything you can imagine the Jaguars haven’t done. It’s more exciting than a college football atmosphere. It’s the kind of thing that should have Gus Bradley dancing in the streets as well as the locker room and better yet, it should be something every Jaguars fans should finally see on the scoreboards – success.

A fan reached out to me over the weekend after I wrote a column for another site and told me this is the most exciting time for fans. There hasn’t been a lot to get excited about. There is hope – which we all know can be a dangerous thing. It leads to heartache and worse, heartbreak. Fans are betting they won’t be heartbroken again this season. Maybe the team doesn’t win nine games or competes for a playoff berth. Just a show of progression and some real offense will serve as the right antibiotic for this illness the Jaguars have suffered for years – losing.

And everyone around Jacksonville is willing to take their medicine if it means a better team and a brighter future.

Eight picks, a new pass rusher, a bellcow running back, help at safety and a solid slot receiver. The Jaguars had a solid – no GREAT – Draft this weekend. They had a solid free agency period and now they move forward to mini camps, OTAs and training camp. Things are heating up around here. But, for right now, the excitement we all feel about this team is just the way it was meant to be – white hot.

And the heat feels pretty good.

Welcome Dante Fowler

May 01, 2015 -- 9:14am

The Jacksonville Jaguars have a new sheriff in town. He’s 6’3 and 261 pounds and he can play multiple positions on defense. While he will be green when it comes to playing in the NFL, there is a whole lot to like about Dante Fowler, Jr and what he brings with him to our Jacksonville Jaguars.

For those of you who thought Leonard Williams should have been the pick at No. 3 (myself included) let’s rely on Dave Caldwell to know what he is doing and to keep the trust in the “family” over at EverBank Field.

Thursday night was a special night in Jacksonville. You don’t find many pass rushers who will change a defense, let alone our defense. A new era began after 8 pm last night. And with more changes expected tonight, we can only hope the trend of change for the better will continue.

If anything, we will learn more about our management and caching staff over the course of the next two days.

Fowler could be a total bust as I have talked about before (and as someone continues to point out to me who shall remain nameless) or he could be the next coming of Terrell Suggs of Simeon Rice. It just depends on how bad this kid wants to be the next big thing here in Jacksonville. There have been some pass rushers who have come and gone and teased us with talent, but we have not had a dominant pass rusher of any real caliber since the days of Tony Brackens.

It’s scary to think it has been that long.

My father is one of the biggest Gator fans around, but when the Jaguars pick was announced, he was one of the angriest Jaguars fans in the city. He wanted to see Williams in teal and black and figured Fowler was not the right move for a team that has been on this high since the beginning of free agency.

Leave it to my old man to throw me a curveball on Draft night.

Pass rushers who change football games and offer a team versatility come along once in a while. Fowler have that potential. If he is anything like Terrell Suggs, we have scored a touchdown. If he is anything like Mike Mamula or Eric Kumerow, then we have misfired on the pick.

No one knows how this will pan out yet, hopefully better than the pass rushers we have drafted in the past. But for now, Fowler is a Jaguar player, something he has dreamed about since he was a little boy. And if the enthusiasm he showed in Chicago when his name was called is any indication of how he will play here in town, then we got ourselves a winner.

It's the Most Wonderful Night of the Year

Apr 30, 2015 -- 10:44am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Dante Fowler Jr. swears he is going to be a Jacksonville Jaguar later this evening. Leonard Williams said he should be the first pick in the NFL Draft. Ryan O’Halloran has said on Twitter that Amari Cooper will be the team’s pick at No. 3.

Right about now, EverBank Field the happiest place on earth. Disney World cannot carry a pigskin to the excitement that is about to come the city’s way tonight as we all hold our breath and pray this team gets another building block to continue the creation of a winning football team.

And for this writer, it is the greatest night of the year – so far.

The best thing about the NFL Draft? In three days it will be all over. No more guessing. No more analysis (OK, that’s a lie). No more saying, “What if…” Everything related to the Jaguars will be a whole lot better once we know who our first pick will be (Fowler, Williams, Cooper, or maybe Vic Beasley). And as a writer, this is one of my Hanukkah’s – a time when the presents come to me in the former of sports events. There is no shame in admitting you are a Draft geek (Ian Rapoport is one as well).

But tonight is all about the Jaguars and creating more suspense, more drama and most importantly – more hope. We as fans need this. A 7-25 record the last two seasons hasn’t been an execution of sorts, but the firing squad would be loading ammo if it were to continue. For some reason, and this is the feeling of a lot of fans I talk to, the wait is over and the winning begins in 2015.

Maybe that should be the team’s mantra this year … The Winning Begins!

As I was listening to the 11th Annual 1010XL.com and 92.5 FM Media Draft yesterday, I was literally jumping through the car radio as the picks were made, anticipating each move, listening to media sorts from other cities, gathering material for other blogs and stories (I used D. Orlando Ledbetter for a story I wrote yesterday and gave 1010XL some love in the process) it got the feeling we as Jaguars fans are on to something really big here and the top on the cake is about to explode and pop with offense and scoring and a stifling defense.

Maybe I am ahead of myself, but it just seems like this is the THE year for all of this to happen. Set aside the blueprint both Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell have talked about. The chess match is still being played. Players are coming and going. Several pieces to this puzzle still need to fit properly. But for a moment when you catch your breath, you see it happening or better yet, you hear it happening.

I’ve been here since Day 1. I was a junior at FSU when we were awarded a team. I have supported this team, yelled at this team, cried when they were great and punched walls when they flat out stunk. Now, with this pick – which I pray to the NFL and Jaguar Gods that it is Williams out of USC – my hope as well as the others who have gone through the sands of the hourglass with me and this franchise is stronger than it has been in years.

The time is now. The pick will be announced tonight. There is this party going on at EverBank Field. The media is actually interested in what this team does and most of all, it’s football season all over again.

It's the Most Wonderful Night of the Year

Apr 30, 2015 -- 10:44am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Dante Fowler Jr. swears he is going to be a Jacksonville Jaguar later this evening. Leonard Williams said he should be the first pick in the NFL Draft. Ryan O’Halloran has said on Twitter that Amari Cooper will be the team’s pick at No. 3.

Right about now, EverBank Field the happiest place on earth. Disney World cannot carry a pigskin to the excitement that is about to come the city’s way tonight as we all hold our breath and pray this team gets another building block to continue the creation of a winning football team.

And for this writer, it is the greatest night of the year – so far.

The best thing about the NFL Draft? In three days it will be all over. No more guessing. No more analysis (OK, that’s a lie). No more saying, “What if…” Everything related to the Jaguars will be a whole lot better once we know who our first pick will be (Fowler, Williams, Cooper, or maybe Vic Beasley). And as a writer, this is one of my Hanukkah’s – a time when the presents come to me in the former of sports events. There is no shame in admitting you are a Draft geek (Ian Rapoport is one as well).

But tonight is all about the Jaguars and creating more suspense, more drama and most importantly – more hope. We as fans need this. A 7-25 record the last two seasons hasn’t been an execution of sorts, but the firing squad would be loading ammo if it were to continue. For some reason, and this is the feeling of a lot of fans I talk to, the wait is over and the winning begins in 2015.

Maybe that should be the team’s mantra this year … The Winning Begins!

As I was listening to the 11th Annual 1010XL.com and 92.5 FM Media Draft yesterday, I was literally jumping through the car radio as the picks were made, anticipating each move, listening to media sorts from other cities, gathering material for other blogs and stories (I used D. Orlando Ledbetter for a story I wrote yesterday and gave 1010XL some love in the process) it got the feeling we as Jaguars fans are on to something really big here and the top on the cake is about to explode and pop with offense and scoring and a stifling defense.

Maybe I am ahead of myself, but it just seems like this is the THE year for all of this to happen. Set aside the blueprint both Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell have talked about. The chess match is still being played. Players are coming and going. Several pieces to this puzzle still need to fit properly. But for a moment when you catch your breath, you see it happening or better yet, you hear it happening.

I’ve been here since Day 1. I was a junior at FSU when we were awarded a team. I have supported this team, yelled at this team, cried when they were great and punched walls when they flat out stunk. Now, with this pick – which I pray to the NFL and Jaguar Gods that it is Williams out of USC – my hope as well as the others who have gone through the sands of the hourglass with me and this franchise is stronger than it has been in years.

The time is now. The pick will be announced tonight. There is this party going on at EverBank Field. The media is actually interested in what this team does and most of all, it’s football season all over again.

Jaguars sign Maurice Jones-Drew to one-day contract, veteran retires as a Jaguar

Apr 28, 2015 -- 2:02pm

The Jacksonville Jaguars today signed running back Maurice Jones-Drew to a one-day contract so that he could retire as a Jaguar.  Jones-Drew will be placed on the reserve/retired list. 

 

Jones-Drew, the club’s second-round draft pick in 2006, started 70 of 114 games in eight seasons with the Jaguars and led the team in rushing in six of his eight seasons.  He concluded his career in 2014 with the Oakland Raiders, playing in 12 games with one start.  His career totals include 1,847 rushes for 8,167 yards and 68 touchdowns, 346 receptions for 2,944 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Jones-Drew was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, earning the honors in three straight years from 2009-11, and is the only player in Jaguars history with at least 1,300 rushing yards in three consecutive seasons.  He became the first player in franchise history to lead the NFL in rushing as he finished with a team-record 1,606 yards on 343 carries (4.7 avg.) in 2011.  

 

The former UCLA standout holds Jaguars career records for touchdowns (81) and rushing touchdowns (68) while he owns single-season franchise records for rushing touchdowns (15, 2009) and yards from scrimmage (1,980, 2011).  He ranks second in franchise history for career rushing yards (8,071), rushing attempts (1,804), all-purpose yards (13,131) and 100-yard rushing games (27). Jones-Drew holds the franchise record for receptions (335) and receiving touchdowns (11) by a running back, and his 486 career points are the most in team history by a non-kicker.  He is tied with Fred Taylor for most consecutive games scoring a touchdown, with eight, and holds the club record with eight consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.  He registered two of the three longest runs in team history including a record-tying 80-yard rush on Nov. 1, 2009 at Tennessee. 

 

Jones-Drew also saw action as a return specialist and owns team records for career kickoff return average (26.0), kickoff return touchdowns (2), kickoff returns (79) and kickoff return yards (2,054) while adding an 8.9-yard average on 15 punt returns.  He is the only player in franchise history to record two career kickoff returns for touchdowns including the longest return in team history (100 yards, Oct. 4, 2007 at New Orleans).

 

The duo of Jones-Drew and Taylor formed the NFL’s second-best rushing tandem in 2006 and 2007.  They helped the Jaguars set a single-season franchise record for rushing yards in 2006 with 2,541 (158.8 yards per game).  As a rookie in 2006, Jones-Drew finished with 2,250 all-purpose yards, the third-most by a rookie NFL history, and set single-season franchise record by a running back with a 5.7-yard average per rush.

 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT MAURICE JONES-DREW

 

Dwight Freeney, former Indianapolis Colts defensive end

“MJD was one of the best running backs that I have faced over the years. His combination of speed and power in that type of frame was unmatched by anyone.”

 

Fred Taylor, former Jaguar running back

“I have tons of great memories of MJD which makes giving a single quote quite difficult without feeling as if I’m leaving something out.  Maurice came into the league NFL-ready, unlike most rookies.  He was very confident, assertive and anxious to hit the field so he could prove the critics wrong who thought he was too small.  MJD aspired to be the best running back in the history of the game.  He was never a big talker as he led by example and aspired his teammates through his play and passion for the game.  Big-time runs, breaking tackle after tackle, stalemating blitzing linebackers who were much bigger than him; those are a few memories that immediately come to mind.  I think it’s safe to say MJD had a great career.”

 

Arian Foster, Houston Texans running back

“It was an honor playing in MJD’s era.  I feel like he was one of the best backs of this era and he is the quintessential,prototypical, underdog story.  He’s exactly what you think of when you think of people placing expectations and odds on you, and he defied that to have a very prosperous and illustriouscareer. I’m extremely happy for his retirement and his next journey in life. May his next journey be his best journey.  I have the utmost respect for him as a man and as a football player. Nothing but love for him in Houston.”     

 

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos quarterback

“Maurice Jones Drew was a great running back.  It was always a challenge for our team to play against him. We had some good battles with the Jaguars when Maurice played there. On any given play, our defense knew that he could go the distance. They were always focused on trying to contain him. He had the explosiveness and the strength to make all different kinds of runs. He had an unbelievable career. I wish him the best in his post-playing days.”

 

Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman/linebacker

“Maurice Jones-Drew was a problem.   He was the type of guy you hate going against but you respect his game to the utmost.  After his rookie year I don’t think he could have used the whole disrespect card because he brought his A game and he made guys pay.  Just want to congratulate him on a successful career.  Hate to see you go but glad to see you go at the same time.”

                                               

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach

“Maurice Jones-Drew was a dynamic player and a dynamic, dedicated man. He played the game the way it was supposed to be played. He was a football player first and a running back second. I just had a great deal of appreciation for what he was able to do as a player. I even appreciated his kick return and punt return abilities as a young guy. He’s done it all in the business and he should be congratulated on an outstanding career.”

 

Antoine Bethea, San Francisco 49ers safety

“MJD was not only one of the best backs during his time in the NFL, but he became a good friend!  Facing him twice a year when I was with the Colts was brutal, but fun at the same time.  Wishing him much success!”

 

Sylvester Croom, Tennessee Titans running backs coach and former Jaguars assistant

“I was always impressed with MoJo when I played against him at other places.  In the back of my mind, I wondered what it would be like to coach a player like that because he was a very strong and powerful downhill runner and he had a chance to make people miss.  Then when I got to Jacksonville, I had that opportunity to coach him and I found out not only was he a great player, but he was really a fun person to work with.  He was talented and he was very smart.  He truly loved the game, but also people.  I enjoyed being around him and I really count it as a great privilege and honor to have had a chance to coach him.  He is one of my favorite people I have been around in this business and one of my favorite players I have coached in my career.  I wish him nothing but success in the future.”

 

Terrance Knighton, Washington Redskins defensive tackle and former Jaguar

“MJD is just one of those guys that I have the utmost respect for. He basically carried the load and was the face of the organization. He carried himself well in the community - off the field. He overcame a lot prior to coming into the NFL and was overlooked because of his size, and was probably one of the best backs I’ve ever played with. On a personal level, he’s just a family person, man. His kids are always around, and he took my family and me in when we first moved to Jacksonville. I’ve got younger brothers and they looked up to him, obviously. You know, he’s just the perfect role model.”

 

Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars tight end

“Maurice has been like a brother to me dating back to our days at UCLA. It’s been a blessing having him by my side throughout this journey and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Maurice was a warrior on the football field and I enjoyed going to battle with him. He is an incredible leader, but an even better friend.”

David Caldwell, Jaguars general manager

“Maurice Jones-Drew had a tremendous NFL career.  It was easy to see his love for the game of football.  His energy, passion and determination were contagious for everyone around him.  I remember when he came in as a rookie in 2006 when I was with the Colts and you just marveled at his strength, speed and power on the field.  He came to play every Sunday regardless of the circumstances and he always fought until the end.  I know he was a great influence for our younger players in 2013 on how to be a professional on and off the field.  He will always be a Jaguar and we will forever be grateful to him for helping lay the foundation for what we are building here in Jacksonville.”   

 

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears running back

“It is with great respect and joy that I'd like to congratulate MJD for a great career as one of the top running backs in the NFL year after year. I've been lucky enough to watch him throughout his career.  He’s been a great player, husband and father and, an excellent friend to me.  You've been blessed with much and I pray God blesses your post-NFL life and next career in more abundance. Enjoy this next phase of your life, brother, and may God bless you and your family.”

 

Denard Robinson, Jaguars running back

"When I came into the league as a rookie in 2013, Maurice took me under his wing and taught me how to be a professional, on and off the field. I admired his work ethic and love for the game and truly benefitted from being with him every day. His leadership and desire to help those around him are traits that definitely stood out to me. It was honor to play with him and I wish him the best of luck in the future. Wolfpack for life!!!"

 

Josh Scobee, Jaguars kicker

"Maurice was one of my favorite teammates I've ever had the chance to play with. He was a selfless, tough, relentless and intelligent player. He was simply just fun to watch."

 

Brad Meester, former Jaguars center

"First of all, I want congratulate Maurice Jones-Drew on his retirement.    He had just a tremendous career and it was truly an honor to play beside him for all those years.  From day one when he stepped into that locker room , he was a tremendous leader.  He played each and every game with a contagious energy that all his teammates fed off of.  I owe him a special thanks.”

 

Jeremy Mincey, Dallas Cowboys defensive end and former Jaguar

“He is a good friend of mine, and we played together for a long time. He is the ultimate competitor and a true professional who played the game the right way. He put his heart into every snap he took. He was the smallest guy with the biggest heart I have ever seen. He is a fierce competitor with a heart of a lion.”

 

DeMeco Ryans, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker

“Jones-Drew was a tough back to defend. He was short, which made him tough to see over the offensive line and when you finally got your eyes on him, he was really tough to bring down because he was just so strong. He was a tough, hard-nosed runner – a really competitive guy.”

 

Mark Duffner, Miami Dolphins linebackers coach and former Jaguars assistant

“What a great day in Jacksonville it was when Maurice was drafted.  I know how excited the fan base was at the time just based off his collegiate career and then how excited we were as a staff when we saw him live in practice.  This guy was a natural football player and he knew only one word and that was to compete.  He competed fiercely every day.  He’s just a special guy to be around.  I was with him for many seasons and as competitive as he was, he carried the team, not just running the ball as a great running back, but he truly exemplified what it means to be a pro.  He was a superb player for the organization.  He would come to me often and tell me about his prowess as a linebacker and he would love to have a chance to play the position.  Well, he probably could have because he’s a baller.  It was great to see him learn from the great Fred Taylor and the way they worked together.  Maurice did the same thing to not only the younger running backs but he took other players under his wing while he was there.  He’s a great Jaguar and I’m so pleased he’s going to retire as a Jaguar because he means so much to that organization and the city of Jacksonville, and frankly to the NFL .”

 

Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati Bengals safety and former Jaguar

“There’s nothing but great things you can say about Maurice. He’s been a great back and he was a great teammate. I’m proud to say I played with him. Maurice had great talent, and you always knew as a teammate that he was going to give you his best every day.”

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