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Del Rio raps run-defense


TAMPA, Fla. Fan attention was reserved for the drama at quarterback and the void at wide receiver, but coach Jack Del Rio led reporters to his run-defense.

"I'm more concerned with our run-defense than I am with Jimmy (Smith)," Del Rio said, referring to the absence of the Jaguars' star wide receiver. "You can't win in the NFL if you can't stop the run."

And the Jaguars didn't win in Tampa, where the Bucs scored a 10-6 victory that dropped the Jaguars' preseason record to 2-1. The Super Bowl-champion Bucs rushed for 125 yards and led Del Rio to focus almost all of his postgame attention on a recurring problem.

The Jaguars were 25th in the league against the run last season and have traditionally had difficulty against strong rushing teams.

"That's probably why you've seen losing records. Until we get that fixed, it won't change," Del Rio said.

Yeah, he promised to play attack-style defense, but before the Jaguars can entertain thoughts of attacking opposing quarterbacks, they'll have to attack running backs. Against the Bucs, they were very soft, allowing Thomas Jones an 8.1 yards-per-carry average and Aaron Stecker a 5.3 average.

"We'll address it. We'll make the correction," Del Rio said. "When you don't stop the run, teams are able to keep your offense on the sideline, and that's what happened."

The Bucs had 10 minutes more time of possession than the Jaguars, who ran only 55 offensive plays to the Bucs' 65. It also didn't help the Jaguars that their running game was totally ineffective.

In his first action of the preseason, Fred Taylor gained 11 yards in four rushing attempts. Even worse, that tied Taylor with rookie Joe Smith for the Jaguars' rushing lead.

"We didn't see the progress I know we need to see with our running game. That was disappointing," Del Rio said.

And it contributed to a rough evening for Mark Brunell, who faced a relentless pass-rush that caused Brunell to throw early and errantly. Had it not been for a 37-yard heave to wide receiver Matt Hatchette, Brunell's final stats would've been meager. As it was, he completed only seven of 18 passes for 75 yards and a 51.9 passer rating in a half of action.

But David Garrard was only slightly better against the Bucs' reserves in the second half, and not even rookie Byron Leftwich could rally the Jags to a touchdown, after having done that to beat Miami the previous week.

"We never really got any momentum going. We should've been better tonight. Overall, it was a disappointing night," Brunell said.

Brunell was in his second starting assignment of the preseason, after having sat out the game against Miami. Leftwich's heroics in that game put Brunell in a pressure situation, as media speculation had Brunell in danger of being released.

"Just don't read and watch TV," Brunell said of his formula for dealing with such speculation.

Garrard didn't apply any pressure with his performance; six of 11 for 68 yards and a 73.3 passer rating. Garrard threw an apparent 15-yard touchdown pass to Joe Smith in the fourth quarter, but it was nullified by a holding penalty against rookie tight end George Wrighster. The drive ended when Garrard fumbled the ball away on third-and-17.

"I had some throws I wish I had connected on. I think I stayed in the pocket pretty good, took some hits, got rid of the ball," Garrard said.

Leftwich entered the game with 3:24 to play and immediately connected with rookie wide receiver Cortez Hankton for a 22-yard completion. But the drive stalled.

"I feel like I get better and better each day," said Leftwich, who had just completed his first full week of practice. "I'm just ready to go out and play as much as I can and have as much fun as I can."

The Jaguars didn't have much fun on either side of the ball, though rookie placekicker Seth Marler struck a blow for special teams and for his own roster cause. Marler booted a 55-yard field goal that may have cemented his claim to the Jags' placekicking job.

But the defense wasn't as impressive. It managed to keep the Bucs out of the end zone for most of the evening, but the Bucs gained 322 yards of total offense and 15 first downs.

"We got some turnovers. That's about it," cornerback Fernando Bryant said. "We have to get off the field on third down or we're going to have some problems."

The Jaguars took a 3-0 lead shortly after cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas intercepted a Brad Johnson pass and returned it 19 yards to the Tampa 21-yard line. Marler converted a 35-yard field goal attempt.

Then Donovin Darius killed a drive when he intercepted Johnson in the end zone.

Tampa's game-winning touchdown was scored by Thomas Jones on a four-yard run in the third quarter, following a short punt and Wrighster facemask penalty that left the Bucs with a short field.

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