Game Snapshot: Chargers - Jaguars

<b>San Diego Chargers</b> (0-4) at <b> Jacksonville Jaguars</b> (0-4)<br> <b>GAME SNAPSHOT</b><br><b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 4:05 ET<br> <b>GAMEDATE: </b> 10/05/03<br><b>SURFACE:</b> Grass<br> <b>TV: </b> CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots<br> <b>SERIES: </b> 1st Meeting. The Chargers are the only team the Jaguars haven't faced in their nine-year history.

2003 RANKINGS: Chargers: offense 10th (8th rush, 19th pass); defense 27th (29th rush, 17th pass). Jaguars: offense 18th (18th rush, 17th pass); defense 16th (7th rush, 20th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers are hoping the return of WR Fred Taylor.

FAST FACTS: Chargers: They haven't won a game that didn't go to overtime since Oct. 20 of last season. ... QB Drew Brees has completed at least 50 percent of his passes in 19 of 20 career starts. Jaguars: Their four losses have been to teams with a combined 10-4 record. ... The Chargers are the only team Jacksonville has never played. ... Defense is allowing an AFC-low 2.8 yards per carry.

PREDICTED SCORE: Chargers 20, Jaguars 17

PERSONNEL NEWS
Chargers:


WR Tim Dwight (knee) worked again Thursday and seems fit for Sunday.

WR Eric Parker (virus) has some kind of ear infection which is hampering his equilibrium.

WR Reche Caldwell (knee) is out.

TE Josh Norman (hamstring) is out.

TE Antonio Gates.

CB Sammy Davis (back) is fine.


Jaguars:
QB Mark Brunell was benched Thursday and will be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Byron Leftwich. Brunell, who missed last week's game in Houston with an elbow injury, was listed as questionable, but said he was ready to play. But coach Jack Del Rio decided to look to the future with Leftwich with the team at 0-4.

QB Byron Leftwich was named the starter for Sunday's game against San Diego and will probably remain the starter as long as he's healthy.

CB Kiwaukee Thomas was declared out of the San Diego game with a groin injury.

LB Eric Westmoreland was declared out of the San Diego game with a knee injury.

WR Micah Ross hasn't played since the opening kickoff in the opener in Carolina when he suffered a high ankle sprain. He's listed as questionable and will be a game time decision.

LB Keith Mitchell was listed as probable and saw time in practice Thursday, but probably won't play against San Diego because coach Jack Del Rio said he hasn't gotten emotionally over the neck injury he suffered in Carolina and isn't ready to take a big hit.

SS Donovin Darius is listed as probable with a neck injury, but he practiced Thursday and is expected to play Sunday against San Diego.

LB Shannon Taylor was listed as probable with a calf injury. He practiced but it's uncertain if he'll be active for the game.

INSIDE THE CAMPS
Chargers:

If the Chargers are to get their first win Sunday in Jacksonville, they'll have to do it behind the right side of an offensive line consisting of backups.

Phil Bogle would again get the call.

And at right guard, Kelvin Garmon.

The Chargers aren't picking a good defense to trot out their second team against. The Jaguars are ranked No. 7 in the NFL against the run, and are allowing but 2.8 yards per carry best in the AFC.

At least Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson will have his Pro Bowl fullback, Lorenzo Neal, leading the way. Neal had been bothered by a strained calf, but he completed his work in Thursday's practice.

Jaguars:
Mark Brunell may not throw any more passes for the Jaguars, but he'll collect a lot of big checks.

Even though his $6.75 million base salary was guaranteed once he was on the opening day roster, coach Jack Del Rio benched him Thursday and named rookie Byron Leftwich the starter even though Brunell said he's healthy.

With the team at 0-4, Del Rio is abandoning the plan to try to win this year and looking to the future starting with Sunday's game against San Diego.

It's the first time since Brunell became the starter during the team's first season in 1995 that he hasn't started a game when he's healthy and probably means that, barring an injury to Leftwich, he may have thrown his last pass for the Jaguars.

Del Rio tried to put the best face on the move by saying, "It's my responsibility to this organization and this football team to put the best guys out there to give us the best chance to win on Sunday."

But this will be Leftwich's second start compared to 117 for Brunell so it's difficult to argue Leftwich gives them a better chance to win this game. What he gives them is a better chance to win for the future because the team had already said this would be Brunell's last year. He'll be released at the end of the year and will go in the free agent market. His salary is too big to trade him.

Leftwich who threw three interceptions - one on a Hail Mary pass - and fumbled once in a 24-20 loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday in his debut.

Del Rio said when he made the decision to keep Brunell this year, he didn't anticipate he would only start three games. Brunell was forced out of the starting lineup last Sunday because of an elbow injury he suffered the previous week in Indianapolis.

"You don't get to go back and have hindsight. You make decisions and go forward. That's what we're doing," Del Rio said.

Of the decision to keep Brunell and then bench him after four games, Del Rio said, "It's open to critique. That's what makes football fun. Everybody has an opinion about it and everybody has a passion about it. That's all good."

He also said that owner Wayne Weaver and his top aide, Paul Vance, didn't influence the move.

"None (input) at all from the front office. It's my decision," he said.

Del Rio said he talked to Brunell yesterday and said, "I understand his frustration. I'm pleased with the way he's battled and the way he's battling right now, trying to come back from the injury. He's been great and working at it and trying to get back. In my estimation, Byron gives us the best chance to win and that's the way we're going to go."

Del Rio telegraphed the decision when he didn't give Brunell any snaps with the first string offense Thursday for the second straight day.

"None whatsoever," Brunell said after practice of his snaps with the first team.

Leftwich has been taking most of the practice snaps since Brunell got hurt with David Garrard getting a few of them.

The locker room was open to reporters before Del Rio made his announcement and Brunell said, "It's Jack's decision. You'll have to ask Jack."

Brunell talked Wednesday about how difficult it would be for him to not get the starting nod.

"Feeling physically ready to roll, that'd be a hard one (not to play)," he said.

Brunell was so eager to stay in Jacksonville in 2001 that he spurned an offer from Detroit for more money to sign a four-year deal with an $8 million signing bonus to remain a Jaguar.

Although Brunell said he's ready, Del Rio said, "It's a combination of things. The injury plays into it a little bit."

Del Rio said he didn't tell Leftwich he was making the announcement, but it was obvious he was getting the call once Brunell didn't take first team snaps in practice for the second consecutive day.

"I didn't need to have a big sitdown with him to let him know he's starting. He's preparing to be the starter and I expect him to go out and play well," Del Rio said.

Del Rio continued to be lavish in his praise of the rookie, who is the future of the franchise.

Of Leftwich's quick decisions in the pocket, Del Rio said, "That's his natural talent. He's a quick decision maker. Obviously, coaches like to think they have an impact on guys and you do. You coach them up on how you want things done. He gets to his back step (quickly) and he's very decisive. We need that to continue."

Leftwich said of his chance to get more action, "It's always great. The more reps you get, the better you're going to be. I don't care how long you've been doing it. Any time you get more reps, it always helps."


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