Jack Del Rio sounded as though he expects Byron Leftwich to be under center when the Jaguars play at the New York Jets this Sunday. There are fears, however, that Donovin Darius may have sustained a season-ending knee injury.
Those were the two major news items from Monday's press conference. A third item – the release of rookie punt-returner Chad Owens – had almost been expected.
"It appears Donovin is the more serious situation," Del Rio said of MRI exams performed on Darius and Leftwich. "Byron is about as tough as they come. We're very confident we'll have him this week."
Leftwich was injured in the Jaguars' next-to-last offensive possession on Sunday, when he was blindsided low by Colts defensive lineman Raheem Brock. Leftwich limped from the field with what was first feared to be a left knee injury, but Del Rio said the injury is to Leftwich's groin. Leftwich returned for the Jaguars' desperation try to send the game into overtime and moved the Jaguars to the Colts 22-yard line, from where Leftwich threw incomplete on the final play of the game.
"The quarterback was getting hit far too often and, as a result, the ball was on the ground," Del Rio said of Leftwich having the ball knocked from his grasp by Dwight Freeney and the Colts pass-rush, which sacked Leftwich six times and harassed him on almost every pass play.
It was because Owens put the ball on the ground twice attempting to field first-half punts that he was released on Monday. "We hope to get him back on the practice squad if he clears waivers," Del Rio said.
Sunday's game left several juicy subjects open to discussion in today's press conference.
• Should the Colts have been called for pass interference on the final play of the game?
• Did Ran Carthon really score on the third-and-goal run that produced the game-winning touchdown?
• What will the NFL do about a confrontation between Leftwich and Colts defensive line coach John Teerlinck, each of whom is alleged to have committed hand gestures the NFL may consider worthy of fines?
"If I was going to have a beef on a play in the game, it was the touchdown attempt to Jimmy," Del Rio said, referring to a third-down play in the third quarter that resulted in Smith being driven out of bounds by Colts rookie defensive back Marlin Jackson as Smith attempted to catch the ball. The Jaguars settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
"It was a clear PI (pass interference)," Del Rio said. "Marlin Jackson never turned (to play the ball) and plowed into (Smith)."
Del Rio did not comment on Carthon's six-yard touchdown run, but video of the game suggests Carthon's knee touched down before the ball crossed the plane of the goal line. The Jaguars did not challenge the call.
Teerlinck, a member of Denny Green's coaching staff when Del Rio played for the Vikings, allegedly performed the infamous slash-the-throat gesture to the RCA Dome crowd following Brock's sack of Leftwich. It's a gesture to which the NFL takes great exception because of the violent act it implies.
"If that indeed happened, it would be in poor taste," Del Rio said. "If that indeed happened, the league will have something to say about it."
Leftwich allegedly flipped-off Teerlinck earlier in the game. The Jaguars quarterback shrugged off questions about that gesture by saying, "He started it," then offered no other information on his exchange with Teerlinck because Leftwich didn't want to be a "snitch."
Del Rio was most concerned on Monday about fixing his team's pass blocking.
"We're not going to be a team that gives up a lot of sacks. We're not looking for this to become a trend," he said.
When asked if rookie tackle Khalif Barnes is far enough along in his development to be put into the lineup, Del Rio said: "We might turn to him at some point."
Del Rio then turned attention to his defense, which turned in one of the most impressive performances in recent NFL history. The Jaguars forced Peyton Manning into the lowest passing-yards total of his career and held him to a 44.0 passer rating. It got to the point that the Colts abandoned their passing game and turned to the run.
In the Colts' game-winning, 17-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, they ran the ball 14 times. It is almost unthinkable that a Manning-led offense would commit that decidedly to the running game, and just as shocking that the Jaguars defense was unable to stop it.
"I'm not going to defend what we did with our defense," Del Rio said of the 3-3-5 alignment the team used in its focus on stopping Manning. "It was a helluva job by (defensive coordinator) Mike Smith and that staff."
Del Rio said he would've liked his offense to have used the run more often.
"Looking back, we'd like to see more running, more balance. Part of that is converting third down. We had one that was just short with Reggie (Williams) and a drop by Jimmy (Smith). I think Fred (Taylor) is ready (for more carries)," Del Rio said.
Considering Leftwich's aching body from the beating he took in Indianapolis, this might be a good week for Taylor to get more rushing attempts.
"This is one of the real tough, smart, talented players who play this position," Del Rio said of Leftwich. "He'll be there for this football, if at all possible."
The Jaguars will release their official injury report on Wednesday.