Jaguars Chiefs Snapshot
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs have to prepare for different quarterbacks as the Jaguars' David Garrard recovers from a concussion, but the focus of the defense remains corralling RB Maurice Jones-Drew. He averages 5.0 yards per carry on the road as a starter, but he's scored in just one game this season (twice vs. Indianapolis) as defenses stack the box. The Chiefs are developing enviable balance on offense. QB Matt Cassel has six touchdowns in the past three games and has begun producing big plays with RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones putting up a combined 151 rushing yards per game for the NFL's top-ranked rushing offense.
FAST FACTS: Jacksonville is 6-2 all-time against Kansas City. ... Charles is averaging 6.3 yards per carry the past three games.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Ever so slowly, the Chiefs' passing game seems to be gaining traction.
Quarterback Matt Cassel has put together three consecutive good passing performances, and going into the game against Jacksonville, he has thrown 102 consecutive passes without an interception.
Against San Francisco, Indianapolis and Houston, Cassel was 52 of 85 (61.2 percent) for 607 yards (7.1 yards per attempt), six touchdowns and one interception. That's a passer rating of 101.5. Considering he finished last season with a 69.9 passer rating, it's quite an improvement.
And a successful passing game is key to balancing out a Kansas City offense that is leading the league in rushing yards.
"We are making progress," Cassel said of the passing game. "Throughout the course of the year, we have decided to play certain ways, and sometimes it was to take care of the ball and other times the game plan dictated what we were trying to do."
With the Chiefs' offensive plan each week based on what the opposing defense does, sometimes Cassel and the passing game are a major part of the attack. At other times, Kansas City pushes the running game to the forefront. Last Sunday, the Texans had given up the most passing yards in the league, so Cassel and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe found themselves at the center of attention in the Todd Haley-Charlie Weis game plan.
"Any time you are leading the NFL (in rushing), I think it is a compliment to the guys up front, and it starts with the offensive line and their mentality coming out week in and week out being physical," Cassel said. "It starts with the tight ends and the receivers and everyone else doing their job blocking and running backs running. We are doing a great job running the ball, and hopefully that continues."
The Jaguars' quarterback situation remained in a state of flux Thursday for the second consecutive day.
David Garrard stayed home while recovering from a concussion, while Trent Edwards missed practice with a sprained thumb that remained wrapped, although he was able to take the splint off of it.
That left Todd Bouman running the first team offense while Patrick Ramsey handled the scout team in practice.
The Jaguars, though, haven't ruled out Garrard, who is expected to be tested Friday to see if the doctors will clear him for action. The Jaguars are hopeful because the video of the hit showed it wasn't a particular violent one.
If Garrard can play, though, he'll have to take a crash course in the game plan.
The doctors won't let him look at any video or study the game plan because trying to concentrate too early can hinder recovery from a concussion.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was asked if he's ever faced such an unsettled quarterback scenario, and he said, "No. It's a very unique situation. I'm sure it's happened before, but it just hasn't happened to me."
A former head coach at Arizona State, Koetter said he had as many as five quarterbacks on scholarship.
"We have to rally around whatever we have, and we're not even really going to know the whole situation until maybe Friday. But right now I'm real comfortable with Todd, and Patrick's got to prepare like he might have to go in there in an emergency situation," Koetter said.
Coach Jack Del Rio pointed out to the Jaguars that they won games on the road in 2007 at Tampa Bay and Tennessee with Quinn Gray at quarterback when Garrard was injured.
Jacksonville has won its last three games when the backup quarterback first went in. The Jags won in 2006 at Philadelphia and in 2005 at Cleveland when Garrard replaced an ailing Byron Leftwich.
On the flip side, when Tennessee gave Mark Brunell a concussion in 2002, Brunell kept playing, but the Titans lost their next three games and Tom Coughlin was fired at the end of the year.
That is not a good omen for Del Rio because he is on the hot seat in his eighth season.
--DL Shaun Smith successfully appealed his $10,000 fine from the NFL for what his opponents that day said was grabbing in the groin area. Smith was accused in consecutive games of reaching out and grabbing sensitive body parts. But it was after the second incident, which came in a game against San Francisco, that the NFL issued the fine.
--DE Alex Magee was traded for a fifth-round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft, according to published reports out of Florida. The Chiefs received Tampa Bay's choice in the fifth round in exchange for Magee and an '11 sixth-round selection.
--LB Cory Greenwood has the task of being one of the gunners on the Chiefs punt team. Unusual is that the 6-foot-2, 235-pound inside linebacker lines up wide on the punting team, normally a spot reserved for smaller and faster defensive backs and wide receivers. It's seldom a spot where a linebacker is seen, but Greenwood has the speed to make plays down the field. "I was surprised when they moved me out there, but I knew it was just another chance for me to show them what I can do," said Greenwood, a rookie free agent out of Canadian college football. "It's fun when they have only one guy out there blocking me, not so much when there are two. I've had to get creative with some of my moves."
--QB Matt Cassel on the attention given to the helmet-to-helmet hitting controversy: "I am not on that side of the ball, but I can say it would be hard for me as a player to change the way that I have been playing for a long period of time or for coaches to change how they have been coaching for a long period of time. I know it is an issue. I think as players we all realize that we play a violent game and every time you go out on the field there is a chance of injury."
--QB David Garrard missed practice Thursday for the second consecutive day with a concussion. He will be evaluated Friday.
--QB Trent Edwards missed practice Thursday for the second consecutive day with a thumb injury. He will be evaluated Friday.
--QB Todd Bouman continued to work with the first team for the second consecutive day because David Garrard (concussion) and Trent Edwards (thumb) are ailing. Bouman hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season NFL game since 2007.
--WR Mike Sims-Walker participated in a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. He seems likely to play Sunday in Kansas City.
--DT Tyson Alualu participated in a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. He seems likely to play Sunday in Kansas City.
--CB Derek Cox participated in a full practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. He seems likely to play Sunday in Kansas City.
--RB Brock Bolen missed practice for the second consecutive day Thursday, and he probably won't play Sunday in Kansas City.
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