Mark Brunell has only a faint headache remaining from the concussion he suffered this past Sunday, and all indications are Brunell will be fully recovered in time to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in Baltimore Sunday.
"I won't say all of the symptoms are gone, but he's well on his way," coach Tom Coughlin told reporters today. "This morning he had a very, very faint headache. His snaps will be upgraded (in practice) today; maybe 75 percent today."
With Brunell out of the lineup in the first quarter last Sunday, the Jaguars turned in their worst performance of the season. They threw fewer passes than in any previous game in their history, ran only 42 plays total, and would've been just as bad statistically in rushing had it not been for rookie quarterback David Garrard's 71 yards scrambling.
It's hoped Brunell's return will fix most of those problems, but responsibility for the running game falls to Fred Taylor and his offensive line. Coughlin knows a big day from Taylor and company would certainly help protect Brunell from further harm.
"The best thing that could happen there is we would have some success running the ball," Coughlin said.
Baltimore is eighth in the league against the run, but star middle linebacker Ray Lewis remains "doubtful" due to a shoulder separation. Lewis missed last Sunday's loss in Indianapolis. His availability is the issue of the week in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, Brunell's "headache" and the loss of Maurice Williams and Tony Brackens did much to hide the Jaguars' sagging run-defense ranking (26th) this week. Staring directly at a 30-carries afternoon by the Ravens' Jamal Lewis this Sunday, the run-defense may be the Jaguars' number one issue.
Coughlin told reporters today he will start Rob Meier at Brackens' right defensive end position. It was expected Paul Spicer would be the starter, but Coughlin said Spicer has not played well in recent weeks.
"Somehow, some way kind of guy," Coughlin said of Spicer. "That's his kind of game and he's got to get back to it."
Coughlin said Meier earned the start because "when he's played, he's played well and he's been productive."
"I've got goals as any other player. I felt I wasn't playing up to those goals. I feel I ain't getting the job done, so I have to find a way to change that," Spicer said.
And the defense in general, especially the defensive line, has to find a way to get the job done against the run.
"We gotta tackle better than we did last week. If we clean up some stuff, we should be able to contain (Lewis)," defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said.
Coughlin said Stroud and rookie defensive tackle John Henderson "have to rise up" this week. Those two players are being counted on most heavily to be the major run-stuffers. Stroud accepts that responsibility.
"We didn't play very well (in Tennessee). We didn't start out as intense. I don't think we started playing until the second quarter and it's too late then," Stroud said of the 113 yards rushing the Jaguars allowed Eddie George in their 23-14 loss to the Titans.
"Attack the man in front of you and make plays," Stroud said of the Jaguars' fundamental philosophy of defense. "It's a total team effort. They tell us, 'you make the play; don't wait for somebody else to make the play.'"
Who will make the plays in Baltimore? It appears Brunell will be under center, but he sure could use some help.