Second Half More Challenging for Jaguars

Last year the Jaguars practically ran the table in the second half of the season with a 7-1 record. Following a pair of impressive wins, some are starting to wonder if they can do it again...

For the third consecutive year, the Jaguars went 5-3 in the first half of the season in the wake of a 37-7 rout of the Tennessee Titans. Now the question is whether they'll surge to the playoffs the way they did last year when they went 7-1 in the second half of the season or struggle the way they did in 2004 when they went 4-4 in the second half and missed the playoffs by a game with a 9-7 mark.

The problem for the Jaguars is that they played only one winning team (the Indianapolis Colts) in the second half of last season.

They lost to the Colts but won the other seven to finish with a 12-4 regular season record before losing to New England, 28-3, in a first-round playoff game.
This year, they play four winning teams -- the Giants, Colts, Patriots and Chiefs -- in the second half of the season, so they have a much tougher road to the playoffs than they did last year.

They're currently tied with Kansas City for the final wild card spot, with 5-3 records, and they play at Kansas City in the regular-season finale.

The Jaguars also have a confusing situation at quarterback. David Garrard posted his second consecutive victory to stake claim to the starting running quarterback job, but coach Jack Del Rio wouldn't say whether Byron Leftwich will remain the starter when healthy.

Del Rio said, "I'm sure you guys want to talk quarterback and all that type of thing because that seems to be the popular topic and I understand that. However, I'd like to answer questions about today's game. I'm not here to make any proclamations or statements."

When he was asked whether he would classify Garrard as his backup quarterback, he said, "What you're saying is give me a statement even though you're not going to make a statement."

He was then asked if Garrard was making it tough for him to switch back to Leftwich because he's playing well. Del Rio ducked the question.

"David was very efficient today. I was pleased with the way he moved the ball, the way the offense was able to convert some of the turnovers into points," he said.
Of his showing against the Titans, Garrard said, "My whole thing is to get a win. It feels great to be able to hit some big throws. It was definitely a plus for myself to get the passing game going."

Garrard said he might have hit a few more if not for the rainy conditions. "I can definitely play better and not miss so many wide receivers. I don't want to blame it on the rain, but it made it tough," he said. Garrard said he assumes Leftwich is still the starter when healthy because he hasn't been told otherwise.

"Nobody has ever told me they are handing me the reins and go as long as you can. Nobody has ever said that. I'm not going to assume anything. Byron is the starting quarterback until somebody tells me otherwise. I'm not going to assume these games mean I'm going to play the rest of the year," Garrard said.

The injuries also keep piling up for the Jaguars despite the easy victory. They've already lost three starters (Reggie Hayward, Mike Peterson and Greg Jones) for the season, and had starting defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, nickel back Terry Cousin and backup pass rusher Brent Hawkins on the inactive list this week. And three more players, defensive tackle John Henderson, cornerback Rashean Mathis and linebacker Jorge Cordova were sidelined with hamstring injuries, although Henderson and Mathis said they were minor.

The Jaguars took control of the game early when they took over on their 29 after Vince Young threw three consecutive incomplete passes on the Titans' first series. The Jaguars then went 71 yards in 10 plays for the first touchdown of the game. Ernest Wilford caught the first of two touchdown passes when he was wide open in the middle of the end zone and hauled in an 11-yard toss on third-and-3.

After the teams exchanged punts, Mathis, who had two interceptions in the game, picked one off at the Titans' 36. It took the Jaguars only four plays to score on Garrard's 14-yard pass to George Wrighster for a 14-0 lead. Josh Scobee then kicked a 47-yard field goal on the fourth play of the second period for a 20-0 lead and the Jaguars coasted to the victory.


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