Looming Large: Jeff Garcia

The Jaguars-Bucs game this weekend at Raymond James Stadium was supposed to feature the two NFL starting quarterbacks who had yet to throw interceptions this season. As we all know, David Garrard won't be fulfilling his end of the bargain, having suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Monday night loss to the Colts that will keep him out of action for up to four weeks.

However, Jeff Garcia continues his career rebirth this season for Tampa Bay. After five stellar seasons in San Francisco including two years with more than 30 touchdown passes, Garcia was run out of town by Terrell Owens and spent two years in exile (also known as Cleveland and Detroit) before signing to be the backup in Philadelphia in 2006.

Following Donovan McNabb's season-ending ACL injury in week 11 against Tennessee, Garcia came in and led the Eagles to the playoffs with a 5-game winning streak to finish the regular season. He threw 10 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in his 7 starts, going 5-2.

The Eagles chose not to offer a contract to Garcia after the season, so he went where all 37-year old quarterbacks seem to go. He signed to play for Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay and was immediately named the starter.

It has turned out to be a great move for the Bucs as Garcia has stabilized the position and is playing like his glory days in San Francisco. So far this season he has completed 70.4% of his passes for 1,504 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions in 189 pass attempts for a QB rating of 106.2 (3rd among NFL starters). His worst game this season still saw him complete 60% of his passes as he has led Tampa Bay to a 4-3 record, equaling their win total for all of 2006.

For the Jaguars to be successful this Sunday, they need to get early pressure on Garcia and force him out of his comfort zone. He thrives on completing short passes from three and five step drops and getting into a rhythm in the passing game.

One advantage the Jags have is that Garcia is only 6'1" and should have difficulty seeing the passing lanes if Stroud and Henderson are able to get good push in the middle and disrupt his line of sight. The defense should be fired up to rebound from a poor MNF performance that saw them drop back in coverage and allowed Peyton Manning sit in the pocket and continuously find the open receiver.

Expect defensive coordinator Mike Smith to get back to his normally aggressive game plan and bring a multitude of blitzes at Garcia to force him into mistakes.

Hopefully after Sunday David Garrard will be the only NFL starting quarterback without an interception this season, and the Jags will leave Tampa with a much needed win.


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