The Buffalo Bills have the league's hot-new passing combination waiting for the Jaguars. Say hello to J.P. Losman and Lee Evans, who combined for 11 pass completions for 265 yards and two 83-yard touchdowns in last Sunday's win over the Houston Texans.
It wasn't a breakout game for Evans. The 13th pick of the 2004 draft established himself in his rookie season as one of the league's most explosive wide receivers, but Losman, the Bills' second pick in the first round of the '04 draft, had spent his first two-and-a-half seasons as a disappointment. Last week, he shed that tag.
"He's a young quarterback and you know we're going to suffer some tough times with him. There are going to be some ups and downs but he generally doesn't repeat a mistake in terms of not knowing what he's doing," Bills coach Dick Jauron said of Losman.
"Clearly, every quarterback is going to throw an interception some time, so I'm not talking about those issues. Those things will come back and if you're afraid to throw the ball, that's not a good thing either. But just in terms of understanding what's happening, what the defense is trying to do, what they do on a given play, he's really progressed a long ways and he's still getting better and he works awfully hard at it," Jauron added.
Losman has a respectable 85.1 passer rating and he's coming off the best game of his career, having thrown for 340 yards and a 111.7 passer rating against the Texans. He also led his first-ever game-winning touchdown drive.
Evans made it happen for Losman. Evans' 55 receptions are tied for 10th-best in the league and his 822 yards receiving are seventh-best.
"You have to have the ability to stretch a defense, otherwise, they'll sit on everything you do. Lee certainly gives you that. He has terrific speed down the field. He's critically important to our football team," Jauron said.
In Buffalo on Sunday, the 6-4 Jaguars will be facing a 4-6 Bills team that is playing its best football of the season. The Bills have won two of their last three games and their loss was by a point at Indianapolis.
Statistically, the Bills are not impressive – 30th on offense and 23rd on defense – but most of the damage occurred early in the season, when the Bills staggered to a 2-5 start. The Bills would appear to be headed toward a seventh consecutive non-playoff season, but a win on Sunday would keep their slim wild-card hopes alive.
"We are going to constantly grow and get better. There is no time to be complacent or show signs of regress. All positive, moving forward is what we want," Losman said.
The Jaguars are likewise playing their best football of the season. The Jaguars are 3-1 since David Garrard became the team's starting quarterback and Garrard led the Jaguars to a surprisingly easy 26-10 win over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud returned to action after missing five consecutive games with an ankle injury, but the Jaguars lost safety Donovin Darius for the season when Darius suffered a broken leg (just above the ankle) in the win over the Giants. Wide receiver Ernest Wilford sustained an ankle injury in that game and was listed as questionable on the Jaguars' injury report on Friday, though Wilford returned to practice on Thursday.