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Koetter a welcome addition

Jaguars' offensive boss finds rhythm

Email|Print| Text size + By Mark Long
Associated Press / January 4, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Dirk Koetter swears he doesn't look at the statistics.

The Jaguars' first-year offensive coordinator does check out the scoreboard, and that's all anyone needs to see to know Koetter's offense is rolling heading into the postseason tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville has scored 256 points during the last eight games, second most in the NFL and 2 points fewer than the unbeaten Patriots.

"We are playing good on offense right now," Koetter said. "We're just in a good rhythm. We've got a lot of guys playing well."

And Koetter is running the show.

The Jaguars (11-5) have scored at least 24 points in nine consecutive games and have totaled at least 400 yards of offense in five of their last six.

Playing without quarterback David Garrard, running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and several other offensive starters last week at Houston, Jacksonville still managed 381 yards.

"You have to remember that I'm coming from college, so a 400-yard game and 24 points in college isn't that much," said Koetter, a former head coach at Boise State (1998-2000) and Arizona State (2001-06). "In college, 24 points doesn't get you anything. There are teams in college putting up 600 yards. Historically speaking, those don't mean anything."

They mean everything in Jacksonville, where coach Jack Del Rio fired two offensive coordinators in the previous four years for failing to deliver enough of a scoring threat.

The Jaguars averaged 16.8 points a game under Bill Musgrave (2003-04), then 22.9 points under Carl Smith (2005-06).

Neither was good enough for Del Rio, who was convinced he had enough playmakers to move the ball more consistently and get in the end zone more often.

Del Rio was right, and Koetter proved it.

Taylor has enjoyed one of his best seasons, running for 1,202 yards and five touchdowns and averaging a career-best 5.4 yards per carry.

Garrard didn't have a bad game in his first full season as a starter. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,509 yards, with 18 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a 102.2 passer rating.

Also under Koetter, the tight ends became an integral part of the passing game, fullback Greg Jones showed he's one of the league's best blockers, and receiver Reggie Williams finally proved to be worthy of a first-round pick.

"His offense, his ability to call plays at the right time, his scheme, his whole philosophy, it's all great," said Williams, who caught 38 passes for 629 yards and a franchise-record 10 touchdowns. "He's not afraid to throw it on fourth and 1. He's not afraid to run it on third and 9. He's that confident in his attack and his players. We love it."

The Steelers should remember Koetter's attack as well as anyone.

He called two key runs on third-and-long plays that helped Jacksonville win, 29-22, at Pittsburgh three weeks ago. Jones-Drew ran for 17 yards on a third-and-10 play in the third quarter that set up a touchdown and gave the Jaguars a 16-7 lead.

Jones-Drew also gained 20 yards on third and 11 in the fourth, setting up Taylor's 12-yard TD run that turned out to be the game-winner.

"He's not afraid," receiver Ernest Wilford said. "He's having fun, everybody's maturing, everybody's confident, everybody's trusting each other to be in the right spots at the right times. It's a little bit of everything."

It's added up to something special.

Despite playing four games with a backup quarterback, Jacksonville set franchise records for points (411) and touchdowns (50).

The Jaguars also have seven 400-yard games (tied for second in the league) and rank third with 33 plays of 20 or more yards.

Koetter and the offense have been at their best down the stretch. Garrard's return from an ankle injury and Taylor's surge have been big reasons for the success. But Koetter's comfort level has played an equal role.

"I was very conservative early because we could run the ball and we can be in the game that way," Koetter said. "I didn't want to be the one that screwed us up by taking too many chances. I'm a big believer that as you execute your stuff better in practice, then it gives everybody more confidence to do it in a game.

"We've gotten to the point where we have started practicing better. It's showing up in practice, guys are making plays and now that has carried over. It makes you want to do more."

Maybe he'll even start looking at the stats.

"He orchestrates the whole thing," Del Rio said. "I think he's done a great job of really blending what he knew about the passing game with what we are all about with our running game and the protections.

"The biggest thing is he's done a nice job of putting players in position to do the things they're capable of doing."

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