This stretch run will be different for Jaguars

There’s no doubt a lot is on the line right now for everyone involved with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It was easy to see this season was going to be pivotal for the Jaguars. Not only for the coach and the quarterback, but for an entire organization that wasn’t selling out games and had to run campaigns to avoid television blackouts. The team’s future in Jacksonville was also very much in jeopardy.

Everyone knew then that Jack Del Rio‘s job was up in the air. There was a lot of talk about whether David Garrard was the real deal and a franchise quarterback. Another failed season would bring about drastic changes, including the threat of the organization moving. Jaguars fans need to respond, but we all know they’re not going to respond to a team that drops the ball two Decembers in a row.

Last year, the Jaguars went 0-4 after a 7-5 start and missed the playoffs. Entering Week 14, the Jaguars found themselves right back at that 7-5 point. But what leads me to believe the stretch run will be different this time around is not only that Del Rio has taken a different approach, but also because young leaders have emerged for the Jaguars.

Del Rio has become more of a player’s coach this season. As Garrard told me, Del Rio is no longer coming down hard on players at stressful points. He’s enjoying the entire process, including coaching the young players, more this season. I think that manifested itself in the win over the Raiders.

The Jaguars are a young team that is growing up a little bit. I know that Maurice Jones-Drew pulled the team together at halftime against the Raiders and told them their time was now. Then they went out and did it. When Aaron Kampman went down, it was Terrence Knighton who called a meeting with the defensive line. Since then, their run defense has been stellar. When the Jaguars got behind last season, Garrard struggled to be a leader and displayed an inability to bring them back. Now he’s helping the team finish strong late in games.

I’m seeing young players step up and become significant leaders, and it leads me to believe the Jaguars have the right stuff.

Now they have to prove they can do it on the road in Indy, the ultimate test for this organization. That’s no easy task, but they stand one game away from accomplishing it. If they beat Indianapolis next week, you can go ahead and hand a playoff spot to the Jaguars.

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