It's the question on everyone's mind as July comes to an end, training camp approaches, and preseason football is just three weeks away: despite the brilliant efforts by Team Teal and Tony Boselli, will the Jaguars manage to sell enough season tickets to avoid blackouts for the 2010 season?
Jaguars VP and CFO Bill Prescott discussed the ticket situation with Jeff Lageman on Jaguars This Week. While encouraged by the numbers (approximately 13,000 news season tickets have been sold thus far) and effort put forth by both the organization and the fans, Prescott acknowledged that more must be done by both parties in order to ensure games will be televised and the future of the franchise is secured. So what's separating Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard from entering living rooms across Jacksonville come September? About 5,000 season tickets. The Jaguars organization has accepted the responsibility of selling an additional 5,000 tickets as part of group sales, corporate packages, and half-season deals.
Despite this seemingly daunting number, Prescott believes the biggest challenge facing the ticket sales push is making game day a more attractive option for fans. "We've got to get the crowd into it," he said. "It's going to be an exciting environment, [thinking] that's why I've got to be here instead of watching the game at home." With continued sponsorship from Winn-Dixie, the Jags are making a concerted effort to lower water prices, especially on hot days, and find new, creative ways to fill The Jack with an atmosphere fans simply cannot find anywhere else. But despite the long path that still stands between blackouts and the possible preservation of professional football in Jacksonville, Prescott is grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with the fanbase: "Tony [Boselli] has gotten people to realize that this franchise is more than the head coach, the quarterback, the price of concessions, that it really is important to the city, and now these people are saying, 'Okay, I've got to put those things aside to support the franchise,' and that's what we're seeing happen."
Lageman also sat down with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and defensive line coach Joe Cullen to discuss their plans for taking one of the worst defenses of 2009 and transforming it into the respected and feared group it used to be. A huge part of the reinvention of the Jaguars' defense is the infusion of rookies and veterans. One veteran in particular, former Green Bay standout Aaron Kampman, continues to impress Tucker with his work ethic, leadership abilities, and willingness to do whatever is asked of him on and off the field. As he attempts to come back from ACL surgery, Kampman's recovery is ahead of schedule, and Tucker expects him to participate in one practice a day during training camp, though he's not opposed to having him do more or less depending on his progress. "With Aaron, you've got to hold him back," Tucker noted. "He's trying to do everything all the time."
It's no mystery that the Jaguars plan to run a 4-3 defense, but Tucker expanded on his notion of what, exactly, he wants to see from his group. "It's going to be a penetrating, attacking, up-the-field, 4-3 front, and that's a philosophy that we feel we can go with and be sound and solid. We've got to put pressure on the quarterback and it starts up front with our defensive line....If it's a run, we'll stop it, and if it's not a run, we're to the quarterback."
Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen discussed the rookie class and what he has seen from his players during OTAs and what he hopes each will bring to the field:
"Tyson has a great motor and that's one of the things we look for in a defensive linemen. That's not something you want to train. Great energy, great motor, and great talent. He's going to be a great player for us inside."
"D'Anthony Smith, all the qualities you talk about in Warren Sapp, he has it. He's explosive, really fluid in his hips, and he has a knack for rushing the passer, and that's what we need at that position."
"Larry was as good a pass rusher as I thought there was in the draft. His thing is his strength. There's nobody stronger in his lower body than him."
"[Austen Lane] has great energy, a great motor, he's powerful, and I'm just looking forward to getting him healthy in training camp."
Tucker and Cullen clearly have a sense of optimism heading into the 2010 season about the abilities and potential of their defensive players. With Kampman and Morrison, the rookie class, and familiar faces like Mathis and Durant, the Jaguars hope this is the season they will re-establish their traditional, smash-mouth defensive image, and sell another 5,000 season tickets along the way.