David Garrard's season has ended and Trent Edwards will use Sunday's regular-season finale to audition for his future. The Jaguars still cling to hope, of course, that Edwards will lead them into the playoffs.
"It certainly gives us a great opportunity to evaluate him," coach Jack Del Rio said of Edwards, who was claimed off waivers early in the season and now gets his chance to show what he can do.
Should Edwards lead the Jaguars to a win over the Texans, and should the Titans score an upset over the Colts, Edwards would be the starting quarterback the following weekend at EverBank Field in a first-round playoff game. That's how dramatic the range of possibilities is with one game left in the season.
"I've been preparing all year for the opportunity to play again. Everyone in this organization understands how important this victory is," Edwards said.
Edwards became the Jaguars starting quarterback when it was announced on Wednesday that Garrard will undergo surgery on Thursday on the second finger on his right hand. Garrard isn't sure exactly when or how the injury occurred, but it was in the game in Indianapolis two Sundays ago and it resulted in ligament being torn from the bone.
"I felt it was fine going into the Redskins game, but after the Redskins game it hasn't come back," Garrard said. He was told by the surgeon who will operate on him that "at some point you're going to have to have some work on it if you want it to be a normal finger again," Garrard added.
"I knew it was getting worse. I just powered through it. You saw some of the balls I threw had less spiral to them," he said.
The ligament wouldn't allow his finger to bend normally. A metal pin will be inserted into the finger and rehab will require two months of rest.
Garrard threw this season for 2,734 yards, a 64.5 completion percentage, a team-record 23 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions and a 90.8 passer rating that is currently 12th in the league. He's also the Jaguars' third-leading rusher with 279 yards, a 4.2 yards-per-carry average, and five touchdowns.
Edwards hasn't thrown a pass since replacing Garrard in the Oct. 18 loss to Tennessee. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions in that game. He played much of that game with a thumb injury.
"I really feel like everybody has to step up this week. I'm going to make sure I'm ready to go," Edwards said.
Star running back Maurice Jones-Drew said he will try to play this week after missing the Redskins game due to a knee injury that has dogged him through the final three weeks of the season. Jones-Drew is one of three Jaguars players – tight end Marcedes Lewis and special teams star Montell Owens are the other two – who have been named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad.
"I'm going to try to come back. I want to play one more time," Jones-Drew said of the Houston game. "It's always important to win. You never want to go into the offseason with a loss."
Clearly, Jones-Drew isn't counting on a Tennessee win in Indianapolis. Should that occur, however, the Jaguars would claim their first-ever AFC South title with a win over the Texans.
Veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis led a players-only meeting on Monday. The intent of the meeting was to emphasize the importance of the game in Houston. A victory would give the Jaguars their first winning season since 2007; they desperately want to avoid a three-game losing streak to end the season.
"Just to set the mood of the week; to let the team know it falls on our shoulders," Mathis said of the meeting.
"We're gearing to finish on a high note," Del Rio said. "I think our guys understand we want to finish this season on a high note."