Costly Win for the Jaguars

The Jaguars defeated the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-19, on a balmy 86 degree evening Saturday night, before a raucous crowd of 66,944 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

Although the numbers that appeared on the scoreboard sent many Jaguars fans home happy, the real news is that the home team couldn't avoid injuries on this evening. Early in the first half, starting guard Chris Naeole went down with a sprained knee, and rookie starting free safety Reggie Nelson went down just one possession later with a sprained ankle, which forced him to be helped off the field. In the second half, Jaguars second-year defensive tackle Tony McDaniel went down with a sprained knee, which forced the 6'7", 295 lb. tackle to be helped off the field as well.

The injury to Naeole doesn't appear to be serious, as head coach Jack Del Rio said that "if it were a regular season game, he (Naeole) would have been back for the second half." Regarding the injuries to Nelson and McDaniel, Del Rio noted that Nelson "had a pretty good ankle sprain. We just have to evaluate later." It is unknown at this point the severity of Nelson and McDaniel's injuries, but Del Rio said after the game "that these guys will likely miss some time, but we think Chris (Naeole) is going to be okay." Reggie Nelson left the locker room on crutches, with his leg in a boot after the game.

Aside from the injuries for the Jaguars there were some definite positives. The first team offensive line played much better than a week ago, and paved the way for the Jaguars first team offense to put up 17 points in just under one half of play. Individually, the play of first-year wide receiver Charles Sharon stood out for the Jaguars, as he caught three passes for 54 yards, including a fantastic leaping catch over a defender to put the Jaguars in position to take over the game. Sharon is one of the many players fighting for a roster spot at wide receiver, and when asked about his opportunity, Sharon said "I'm just blessed to have this opportunity, I need to keep going out and having great practices and being consistent in the games."

Defensively, the Jaguars first team defense allowed not only it's initial first down of the preseason, but also surrendered their first points, coming off a short field drive capped by a 19 yard touchdown pass from Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia to veteran receiver David Boston. After that drive, the Jaguars starting defense stiffened, as they allowed the visiting Bucs no more points, and no more first downs.

One of the players who stood out on defense for the Jaguars was starting linebacker Mike Peterson, who is coming off a torn pectoral injury which cut his ‘06 season short in week five. Peterson's stat-line only read four tackles, but he was all over the field making plays and taking on blocks. Probably the defensive star of the game for the Jaguars was local Jacksonville native Jamaal Fudge. Fudge finished with four tackles, and two fumble recoveries, including a 72 yard return to the Tampa five-yard line, where he was caught from behind by Bucs quarterback Luke McNown. With starting safety Reggie Nelson likely due to miss some time, Fudge may be not only fighting for a roster spot, but also a starting job.

Some other players that helped themselves in Saturday night's game for the Jaguars include rookie wide receiver John Broussard, who showed he isn't afraid to go over the middle, as he finished with two receptions for 29 yards. Also veteran running back Greg Jones had a nice night, running for 25 yards on five carries, including a 17 yard run. Reserve running back D.D. Terry mopped up in the fourth quarter with 10 carries for 49 yards, to help melt the clock away on the Buccaneers. Rookie safety Chad Nkang had two special teams tackles, as well as second year player Montell Owens. Rookie punter Adam Podlesh had a solid night, averaging 44.3 yards per punt with a net average of 42.8.

Overall, both teams looked a little sloppy early on before the Jaguars took control of the game. Jaguars starting quarterback Byron Leftwich was a little erratic, as he finished just 6/12 passing, for 81 yards, and a 71.9 quarterback rating. Backup quarterback David Garrard's numbers looked good, as he ended the night 11/14 for 129 yards, one rushing touchdown, and a quarterback rating of 103.0, but he got away from a few mistakes on some bad passes that should've been intercepted, but dropped.

The worst thing to come out of this game for the Jaguars was obviously the injuries to Nelson and McDaniel. The Jaguars appear to be pretty thin at safety, and if Nelson misses any significant amount of time, the Jaguars will likely have to go with an inexperienced guy like Jamaal Fudge, or recently signed veteran Sammy Knight. It's a short week for the Jaguars as they travel up to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers Thursday night at 8:00 p.m.

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