When David Garrard got a big, new contract this past offseason, he got something more than money. He also got heightened expectations and the criticism that usually accompany them.
Relative to last year's stats, Garrard is off to a slow start in 2008. Through three games last season, Garrard had completed 48 of 75 passes for 630 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Through three games this year, Garrard has completed 56 of 85 passes for 547 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
As a result of the big contract and the statistical discrepancy, Garrard's '07 supporters have turned into '08 critics. The fairy tale is over. This is the reality of being an NFL quarterback.
"Whenever you get paid, it's going to happen. I'm not stupid. As long as I'm doing the best I can, that's all I worry about," Garrard said on Wednesday.
Garrard will lead the Jaguars this Sunday into the first of two home games that could put the Jaguars over .500 and erase the effects of the team's 0-2 start. Against visiting Houston on Sunday, Garrard plans to be more like the efficient quarterback he was last season and less like the quarterback who has a 68.1 passer rating this season.
"I can be more efficient," he said. "I'm definitely not playing at the same high level I did a year ago. You just have to work at it. There's no magic dust. You just have to keep believing in yourself."
One of the popular beliefs is that the Jaguars need to start making big plays in their passing game or the kind of run-the-ball success they enjoyed against the Colts last Sunday will disappear. No one will deny that the Colts offered a rare opportunity to focus on the run and little else.
"We had a set scheme for the Colts. You really can't pound at teams. We have to throw the ball more and we will. We have to be more balanced," Garrard said.
In the come-from-behind win over the Colts, Garrard's longest completion to a wide receiver went for 11 yards. He was at his best on third down, repeatedly converting third-and-seven and third-and-eight passes to wide receiver Matt Jones.
The Jaguars' success on third down allowed the team to dominate time of possession with its running game, which racked up 236 yards. Yeah, the Texans are 27th in the league against the run, but that's largely the result of having played Pittsburgh and Tennessee, two teams that usually rank toward the top of the league in rush-offense.
"When you get the running game going, you put (the defense) on their heels and they don't know what to expect," Garrard said.
In the Jaguars' case, however, that may not be true. When the Jaguars run the ball, the defense knows to expect more of the same, and defenses will continue to game-plan that way until Garrard shows he and his receivers can strike downfield.
"When you have new offensive linemen coming in, it makes it tougher for the coach to call deep passes because they take longer. For right now, we have to play Jaguars football and keep running the ball," Garrard said.
When will Garrard have wide receiver Jerry Porter to use as a deep target? That's become a weekly question and coach Jack Del Rio provided an answer similar to past weeks'.
"On the Jerry Porter front, he'll be back at practice today and we hope to have a good week. When he's ready, he'll play. Until then, we have to be patient. When we see enough and he feels good enough, we'll play him," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars will release their initial injury/practice report of the week at four p.m. It may be accessed on jaguars.com by going to "news" and then "injury report."