The image speaks for itself...
Opening day attendance 2009... 46,520
Opening day attendance 2010... 63,636
One word suffices... Wow.
The Jaguars' success on the field against the Broncos only served to complement the surge in fan support we saw begin with the Team Teal initiative last year. This team is here to stay, folks. Forget telling me it is to early, I know what I see. This team is on the verge of breaking out, and the city with it. We're seeing a return of fans to the team based on the acquisition of high character individuals who perform on Sunday. The fanbase is not only learning to trust that Gene Smith knows what he's doing, they're flat out betting the (figurative)house on this guy as a top tier GM. Smith has done nothing to erode our trust in him. What a difference a year makes...Gene Smith's draft picks and signings carried the day for the Jaguars on Sunday, save for a few of the stars from the Shack Harris era. Tiquan Underwood provided excellent field position all day and showed one of two things are certain, either the Jaguars' special teams blockers are extraordinary, or the Jaguars have a stable of returners (Thomas, Underwood, McGee, Karim) who can get the job done, and done well. Osgood showed why the team paid him millions in the offseason by stopping a punt short of the goal and catching a touchdown pass to seal the victory for the Jaguars.
Uche got a contract extension, so even though he was a draftee of Harris, he's now officially one of Gene's "adopted" children, much like Kampman and Osgood are. When Gene gives a player a big contract, it means the cat can play and works hard. Uche and Smiley both seemed to perform well against the Broncos' depleted defensive line and Justin surely raised my opinion of his play on Sunday. I had Vince ahead of him based on game tape, but Smiley showed why the team made him the pick, pulling smoothly and pass blocking well.
Kampman is slowly turning out to be one of the best signings of the Gene Smith era. Holy cow! We've got a leader in the huddle and a guy who obviously hasn't lost a single step since going through a major knee surgery. Props to the team doctors, Gene Smith, and the training staff for clearing the guy, signing him, and getting him back on the field for the first game, respectively. Kampman finished with 1.5 sacks on the day... I'm not kidding. A guy playing his first real game since undergoing major surgery just registered a sack and a half. HELLO! Oh yeah, that other guy from Hawaii did okay, too.
The "other guy" from Hawaii is going to quickly become the King of the Island. Alualu registered his first sack Sunday, beating Ryan Clady to get to the QB and bring down Kyle Orton and "Ebenezer" Field in one fell swoop. Every fan was thinking the same thing... "Was that Alualu?!? Did our first round pick just sack the QB?!?" Remember that moment. What did you do? I was jumping in the living room with my daughter, ha! This is how you build a football team, from the inside out.
Mike Thomas showed that he can easily fill the no. 2 WR spot and I don't think anyone should put a ceiling on what this young man can accomplish. He has exceeded every expectation thus far, and there's no reason to think he won't continue to do so. We could have the next Steve Smith. In fact, if Thomas performs at Sunday's level all year, we will have the makings of a star. We've got offensive weapons in the passing game again after a considerable drought, Gene has done especially well in that regard.