IF Bernard Jackman was to take a leaf out of Rafa Benitez’s book and come into a press conference with a sheet of facts about the Dragons’ progress then he would have slim pickings at present, instead most of it is down to a gut feeling.

The signing of Ross Moriarty has provided the Rodney Parade region with a real shot in the arm – he is the biggest recruit for many a year, perhaps even THE biggest.

With Wales scrum-half Rhodri Williams also on board for 2018/19 and a raft of other signings in the pipeline, there is genuine excitement about what is to come.

Yet we can’t wish away the rest of the current campaign and there is still plenty of important building to be done, especially after three months that have been at best underwhelming and at worst unacceptable.

There are some facts that should prevent us from hitting the panic button just yet.

Head coach Jackman is armed with data from training that show the squad are hitting higher standards while a lop-sided fixture list means they have played away from home in 9 of 13 fixtures.

At Rodney Parade they have done pretty well with a good win against Connacht, bonus point success against the Southern Kings and job done against the Scarlets in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

But their failures on the road, with a solitary win against Enisei-STM in the Challenge Cup, have heaped the pressure on to make sure that December is a month to remember in Newport.

It was always going to be a transitional season for the Dragons under a new boss and a new regime but even with that mitigation it has been a poor start to the campaign.

The new conference system has taken away the ability to compare and contrast, but at present it’s probably fair to say that the Dragons have been the second worst team in the Guinness PRO14 behind the Southern Kings. Even with the Ospreys looking like a rabble.

Once again, it’s fair to provide some mitigation and the results haven’t been especially surprising given the Dragons’ historic failings on the road.

However, it’s the performances at tough venues like Ravenhill, Musgrave Park and the Royal Dublin Society that have been the most disappointing – if Kingsley Jones was still at the helm then the calls for him to be handed his P45 would be deafening.

But this is a season in which Jackman pledged to give chances to everybody before a busy summer of transfer dealings. Perhaps it was a case of giving players enough rope to hang themselves.

So far the Dragons have hit some alarming stats in the league with their defensive figures close to the Kings at the basement after nine games.

They’ve conceded 321 points at an average of 36 per game and shipped 44 tries at an average of five. Munster didn’t concede 321 in the entire 2016/17 regular season while the table-toppers, champions Scarlets and the Ospreys conceded fewer than 44 tries.

The team selections for Belfast and Cork left one fearing tonkings but last Friday’s line-up for Leinster should have been much, much more competitive.

The aim was to build momentum for the five home games but instead, despite a marvellous start, they were meek in a 54-10 defeat.

If Jackman gets the Irish Times delivered to his home then it would have made him spit out his Barry’s on Saturday when reading: “The lack of competitiveness is bad for Pro14 business but that’s a Welsh problem that they don’t seem able nor interested in solving”.

While Zebre and Benetton have been scrapping and making life tough, the Dragons have been rolled over with ease.

That must change, starting over the next five weekends in the PRO14 and Europe.

We are prepared to be patient and give time, but we have to see some green shoots and December is a key month to get people on board.

Punters don’t want to just wait until the reinforcements arrive next season after forking out for a season ticket that still has 11 fixtures on it.

Jackman has put a big emphasis on producing the goods at Rodney Parade and the meek displays on Irish soil cannot be repeated in Newport.

It’s hard to explain but there is a different feeling and mood at the Dragons that just hasn’t been reflected by results.

That good faith will only last so long and will disappear with a disastrous December. Conversely, good results and performances will offer reassurance.

It was always going to be a three-year rebuilding process but Year One being a complete write-off certainly wasn’t in the plan.

Games against Ulster, Enisei-STM, Newcastle, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys present the chance for tangible signs of progress.

South Wales Argus:

WHEN walking around the beautiful city of Pau in the December sun two years ago, one man’s face was everywhere.

Conrad Smith was set for his first appearance for the club against the Dragons in the European Challenge Cup fresh from winning the World Cup.

The All Black was on eye-watering money and the Top 14 side were damn sure going to get bang for their buck; the T-shirts on sale in the merchandise tent were unlucky to make too much of a dent on the pay packet but every little helps.

The same will be the case for the Dragons with Ross Moriarty next season.

For the first time since Taulupe Faletau headed for Bath the region has a proper big-hitter in every sense of the word on their books.

Hallam Amos is establishing himself on the Test scene and is the same age group as Moriarty, who was an opponent of his when England Under-20s lifted the Junior World Championship trophy in 2013, but doesn’t yet have the notoriety of the Lions tourist.

The same goes for captain Cory Hill and burgeoning front rowers Elliot Dee and Leon Brown who are currently with Wales.

When the Dragons are in town the face that opposition marketing teams currently use is still the chiselled one of Gavin Henson.

That will change in 2018 with the arrival of Moriarty, and perhaps even George North.

The back rower has put pen to paper and he will be a leading figure for Bernard Jackman on the field and will have a heavy workload off it.

With the contract purely the responsibility of the Dragons, they get to profit from all his commercial responsibilities rather than the Welsh Rugby Union getting their pound of flesh as he would on an NDC.

Moriarty will be the man that sponsors want to pose with, he will be the man being photographed when a new kit is launched, he will be the man on the front of the season ticket marketing leaflets.

When next summer’s pre-season supplements are published it’s almost certain that ‘key man’ will be followed by Moriarty’s name, even if his signing prompts others to follow through the door.

That the Dragons can secure the services of a player on big bucks is an encouraging development, now it’s down to the men in suits to help make money from it.