Wilford knows as much as anybody inside the Jaguars' locker room about the anonymity of the players on the team's roster.
So I asked him as he dressed after practice Tuesday to name the players on his team that the NFL fan in Kansas might know.
"Maurice Jones-Drew for sure," Wilford said.
"Rashean (Mathis), maybe?" he said.
He then scanned the locker room.
"David (Garrard)," he said. "I think they'd know him"
That's just it: Who are these guys?
If the playoffs started today, the Jaguars (7-6) would be in as the No. 6 seed in the AFC. If they win their remaining three games, they will be a playoff team. Yet most football fans, and many in the football media, know little about the Jaguars players or give them much thought since they have defeated just one team (Jets) with a winning record.
Do you even know that future Hall of Fame receiver Torry Holt is a Jaguars starter?
The Jaguars play their first and only nationally televised game of the year Thursday night against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, who come in with the star-studded team led by Peyton Manning, the national commercial-making madman.
The Jaguars barely get any local commercial spots in their hometown.
What do you know about the Jaguars? They have a spunky little back in Jones-Drew and they don't sell out their games. Admit it. That's pretty much the extent of the knowledge of most people outside Duval County when it comes to the team.
Even when the Jaguars went 14-2 in 1999, falling one game short of the Super Bowl with an offense that featured a stellar passing game and runner Fred Taylor, the team didn't get much national attention. That 1999 defense, led by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, was the top-ranked unit in the league. Can you name a player on it? Anybody? Just one?
"We just don't get as much exposure as some of the other teams," Jones-Drew said.
So what will people who tune in to watch the Colts' chase for perfection see when they see the Jaguars?
"You'll see a young group of guys who love to play the game," Jones-Drew said. "I like this team. It's got a lot of young players who are getting better every week. And we all work hard. We can't worry about what people know about us. If you win that stuff will come."
This was a team that came into the season in rebuilding mode. The roster was turned over by first-year general manager Gene Smith, who was promoted after the 2008 season when James Harris was fired.
Smith, who came to the team as a scout, is what you would call a "grinder" in the scouting profession, a hard worker who doesn't seek the spotlight. When former coach Tom Coughlin was fired, he recommended to Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver that he keep Smith. That's how much he thought of him.
Now Smith is the man making the football moves. Based on his first draft, he's making the right ones.
Four players from his draft class have been starters for most of the season for the Jaguars. They are left tackle Eugene Monroe (first round), right tackle Eben Britton (second round), corner Derek Cox (third round) and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (third round). In addition, fourth-round pick Mike Thomas is the team's slot receiver, sixth-rounder Zach Miller sees time as a second tight end and seventh-round pick Rashard Jennings is the backup runner to Jones-Drew.
|Jack Del Rio should get a chance to further mold a talented young roster. (Getty Images)|
"The one thing about these rookies is they all come in here and do what we ask," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "They're good players, but they also make for a good locker room."
That hasn't always been the case in the Del Rio tenure, which is in its seventh season. That's why some players were purged. Others were let go for money reasons. Starting corner Brian Williams was asked to take a pay cut before this season. He refused and was cut. Same for veteran tackle Tony Pashos.
Of the 53 players on the roster, 29 are new to the team this season. Only nine of the 22 players who started on opening day in 2008 are on the roster. There are 14 rookies on the roster. The only players who are expected to start against the Colts who have at least five years of experience are Garrard (eight), Holt (11), center Brad Meester (10), defensive tackle John Henderson (eight), linebacker Daryl Smith (six) and corner Rashean Mathis (six). Henderson and Mathis are both dinged and might be game-time decisions. Neither played last week.
"At this point in the season, we have several guys that have been playing the whole time -- Cox and Knighton, both our rookie tackles," Del Rio said. "These guys are playing a lot of football. So they ought to be able to draw on all that experience."
More changes should come after the season. Although there is a push by some fans to get Del Rio fired, that isn't likely with this young group of overachievers. The Jaguars are two years removed from their last playoff appearance, which has the fans uneasy but Del Rio should make it through. There might be a new quarterback.
Garrard has not played well, and the feeling inside the building now is that he probably isn't what they thought when they inked him to a $60 million extension in 2008. He is due to make close to $10 million next season, which he will certainly be asked to reduce, which he will have to do or risk being let go.
The Jaguars will have to take a close look at taking a quarterback in the first round of next spring's draft. They don't have a second-round pick, which they gave up to get the pick to take Cox last spring, so they can't sit and wait if they decide it's time for a franchise passer. The last time they picked a quarterback in the first round was in 2003 when Byron Leftwich was the seventh overall pick.
You can forget about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, too. According to Jaguars sources, they are not high on him at all as a quarterback, even if he might sell some tickets.
The foundation is there for this team. One more solid draft for Smith, which has to include the quarterback, and the Jaguars could be a real contender in 2011.
That might actually lead to tickets being sold, which could stop the move-to-L.A.-or-London talk and could lead to people actually getting to know some of the players on this little-known team other than the guy with the initials MJD.