After Two Warmups, Garrard Will Be Tested

Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich was battered by the Colts in Week 2 of the 2005 season. Now his backup David Garrard will face the formidable defense of the Indianapolis Colts.

Anyone who is underestimating David Garrard and the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday may be sorely mistaken.

An injured Byron Leftwich does not make Sunday's game an automatic win. Garrard is a dangerous, double-threat quarterback with the talent, opportunity and desire to make a statement in the NFL.

There is no stage more set for him to do that.

"Yes, it probably is," Garrard said, when asked if this was one of the biggest games he's played in. "It definitely is one of the biggest I've played in."

Standing in the shadows of Leftwich for the past three seasons, Garrard has waited for this opportunity to prove his value in the NFL. He's led the Jaguars to two straight victories over Arizona and Cleveland, respectively, showcasing his ability as a multi-faceted quarterback.

In those two games this season, Garrard averaged 115.5 yards passing and 49.5 yards rushing per game. He is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this year. In his only career start against the Colts, back in 2002, he ran for 44 yards on 11 carries in a 20-13 loss.

A quick, out-of-pocket, scrambling quarterback is just what could give the Colts' defense fits. Indianapolis relies on the front line, applying pressure, depriving wide receivers the time to get deep in their routes.

Case and point — Week 11 —  the Cincinnati game. The Colts defensive front only touches Carson Palmer once, and he goes 25-38 for 328 yards passing. Although Garrard is not Carson Palmer, and the Bengals don't have Chad Johnson, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney might have some trouble bothering such a quick quarterback.

If they do, Indianapolis could be in trouble.

""I feel like I bring a quarterback that has the ability to pass as well as run," Garrard said in a recent press conference. "Confidence and determination, I think guys can see the fire in my eyes and can see the way that I play, the game, that every play matters."

There is no doubt, Leftwich is a solid quarterback, who will be missed Sunday. Before he was injured, Leftwich was having his best season, completing 57.9 percent of his passes, connecting on 15 touchdown passes, while throwing only five interceptions.

But there is also no doubt, that the Colts gave him fits in week two, sacking him six times for a loss of 23 yards, prompting the infamous "flipping of the bird" incident.

The Jaguars were much more successful running the ball against the Colts' defense, rushing for 128 yards on 24 carries, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

A more mobile quarterback, with his head on straight, may be the key to Jacksonville success.

"It's definitely a must win," Garrard.  Whenever we're playing, we're playing to win."

Garrard is not unfamiliar with big games. In college, he led No. 27 East Carolina over No. 9 Miami in a 1999, 27-23, thriller. He threw a 27-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes of the game to seal an East Carolina upset over the Hurricanes.

Colts' wide receiver Reggie Wayne remembers this game, as he was lined up at wideout, pulling in seven receptions for 80 yards, including the first touchdown of the game.

"I have been in big games before in my football career," Garrard said. "In college we did face Miami when they were in the Top 10 and we beat them.  I feel like there has been times when I've been in tough games, so I don't feel like this is the only game I've been in that's been a big game.  But this is probably on the biggest stage for myself."

Garrard was just a sophomore in college when he played in the Miami game. He went on to gain 10,238 yards in total offense in four years. He had 666 completions and 60 touchdowns in college, shattering school records in his illustrious, four-year career.

His numbers show he has potential, and there is no doubt he is capable. He's just quite simply never gotten a fair chance. This is definitely his biggest chance to prove his value.




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