The Jaguars and Jets are both teams that take after their respective head coaches as they love to play physical football which includes a mostly run-first philosophy with aggressive defenses.
The similarities begin with the head coaches as both Jack Del Rio and Rex Ryan used to coach together with the Baltimore Ravens where they won a title together with one of the greatest defenses in NFL history in 2000.
"We could stop anybody," Ryan said of his legendary Ravens defense. "We would look at the tapes, we would bounce things off each other and things and it's no surprise that Jack turned into a great football coach."
Jack Del Rio may have reached head coach status faster than Rex Ryan as the Jaguars head man is in his ninth season, but Ryan has had much more success. Where Del Rio has won a single playoff game during his tenure, Rex Ryan has made it to a pair of AFC Championship games in as many seasons as head coach.
Where the Jaguars began tentative rebuilding after a 2008 season in which the team went 5-11, New York traded up in the 2009 draft to get a quarterback- just four months after a playoff appearance. After a 9-7 season in 2008 New York made wholesale changes including the hiring of Ryan and his staff, as well as the beginning of the Mark Sanchez era.
"He's a young quarterback," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of Sanchez. "He's in year three I believe and the first two years they went to the AFC Championship game as a team, so a pretty good resume."
While New York's opening round playoff loss wasn't deemed good enough, Jacksonville stayed with the same coach and quarterback following their 5-11 season. The win-loss record has improved each year following, but the Jaguars are still waiting for their next postseason appearance.
Both teams like to play ball-control and there's nobody in football that will tell you that they'd rather have anyone in the Jets backfield over Maurice Jones-Drew.
"I think Jacksonville probably more than any other team in this league relies on the time of possession and running the football, and it's great to see," the outspoken Jets head coach said.
"If you can run the football and stop the run on defense then you've got a great chance," Ryan added.
Although running the football limits the opponent's opportunities to score, the best passing teams are the ones that the world tunes in to see on Super Bowl Sunday. The Jets realized that in their losses to Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in the AFC title games and they've addressed their passing game by acquiring Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.
"They have a great offense, great running game, they throw it pretty good, they've got good players all across the board," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "Every week you see teams and they all have firepower. That's going to be every week in the NFL and these guys are no different."
The Jaguars saw they were going nowhere fast with David Garrard, so like New York they traded up in the first round to get their quarterback, Blaine Gabbert-- Two years later. Where New York turned the keys immediately over to Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert didn't have the benefit of an offseason with the team and is learning from the sidelines as Luke McCown acts as a band-aid.
Where New York acquired accomplished veteran receivers, Jacksonville decided to let their only wideout with double-digit touchdowns (Mike Sims-Walker) go in free agency in favor of a slot receiver in Mike Thomas, a journeyman with more seasons accrued than touchdowns (Jason Hill) and a rookie from Division 3 Mount Union (Cecil Shorts).
Rex Ryan took the reigns of his defense and finished with the number one and number three ranked defenses respectively in 2009 and 2010. New York is as stingy as anyone against the run and boast the best cornerback in football in Darrelle Revis, who routinely makes opponents best wide receivers disappear.
Over the same period of time, Jack Del Rio's defenses finished with the 23rd and 28th rankings, while countless draft picks never seemed to work out. Still, the Jaguars signed five new players on defense this offseason in the hopes to improve the lackluster unit. With no offseason due to the lockout, the team must get the new pieces fitted as they learn on the go.
"We spent a lot of time teaching, motivating and working to develop the guys in the system," Tucker said. "They've reacted well and they know it's all about the team. We've still got a ways to go, but we're working on it."
The ultimate form of flattery in this league is imitation, and Jacksonville is trying to imitate the New York Jets. Two of the team's most underrated signings were players that were with the Jets last season in Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery.
"He's a great cover, a nickel, he can blitz, he's tough, he can cover kicks," Rex Ryan said when asked about Drew Coleman. "He can do a whole bunch of things and he's really an excellent player and obviously we would've loved to have Drew back."
The Jaguars traded with New York on cut day to acquire Dwight Lowery and the defensive back immediately pitched in with the game-clinching interception against Tennessee on opening day.
As good as the Jacksonville acquisitions could be, very few could actually play for New York, whose defense appears to be a finished product.
When these two teams will tangle on Sunday, Jaguars fans will see the finished product of what their team could be. New York general manager Mike Tannenbaum hired the right head coach, rebuilt before the team hit rock bottom, drafted the right quarterback and signed the right free agent wide receivers. If Gene Smith makes the right moves, similar success is attainable.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and the host of "The Sports Crunch" on the Aquarius 7 Broadcasting Network (national), and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie
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