Jaguars' Defense Banged Up

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense may be one of the better units in the league, but they have some adversity to overcome. Injuries to at least three key players spells trouble for this defense. Add to the mix that this warm weather team has to travel to the cold and snowy climate of New England to face the defending Super Bowl champions with a quarterback who's having a career year. Tom Brady is no second-rate QB, and the Jags know they better bring it on defense if they want to win.

The Jaguars may go into the playoffs with a battered defense.

Defensive lineman Paul Spicer sat out the regular-season finale against the Titans with a broken hand, and two other starters were injured in the 40-13 victory.

Middle linebacker Mike Peterson went down with a sprained wrist that may be broken, and cornerback Kenny Wright suffered a sprained knee.

On top of that, defensive end Reggie Hayward missed practice last week with a hamstring injury and didn't play against Tennessee.

The Jaguars, who've already lost strong safety Donovin Darius for the season, can ill afford to have starters injured as they prepare to go against Tom Brady in their first playoff game in New England.

The Jaguars' pass defense has been shaky in recent weeks before it faced a Tennessee team that appeared to mail it in.

In the previous four games, Jacksonville gave up 1,160 yards in passing. Houston's David Carr threw two long touchdown passes and had a shot at three others only to overthrow receivers.

The Jaguars don't figure to score a lot of points. Coach Jack Del Rio has indicated he'll start Byron Leftwich at quarterback even though he's likely to be rusty because he hasn't played since Nov. 27 when he broke his ankle.

That means they'll be more pressure on the defense to stop Brady.

Del Rio didn't meet with the media Monday, so there was no update on the condition of Spicer, Wright and Peterson.

On Tuesday, the coach expected to give the first indication of whether the three players will be able to go against the Patriots.

NOTES

--Quinn Gray finally got a chance to show he can be a quarterback in the NFL.

Gray, who played at Florida A&M, first signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2002.

He was waived his rookie year and brought back in 2003, when made the practice squad and was signed for the last two games, but didn't play. He then went to NFL Europe and led Frankfurt to the title.

He won the Jaguars' third quarterback job in 2004 but didn't play all year. He did the same thing this season before making his debut against the Titans and throwing for 100 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's been a long time coming, and I sometimes wondered if it was going to ever happen. The key for me was just staying patient and waiting my turn, because I knew good things would eventually happen," Gray said.

--The Jaguars lifted the blackout for all eight regular-season games even though the number of tickets distributed dropped from 69,443 in 2004 to 65,690. That's because they covered up almost 10,000 seats this year to make it easier to declare a sellout.

--The Jaguars will play a tough schedule next year that includes the AFC East and NFC East. They also play Pittsburgh and Kansas City.

They'll host Pittsburgh, Dallas, New England, the Giants and Jets along with their three division rivals, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Houston.

They'll travel to Kansas City, Miami, Buffalo, Washington and Philadelphia besides the division foes.

That means they'll face nine winning teams and seven losing teams, counting the division teams twice. This year, they played six winning teams and 10 losing teams.


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