A year ago, David Garrard and Derek Anderson were the two hot, new quarterbacks in the league. They each had breakout seasons and they each got new, long-term contracts in the offseason.
Garrard and Anderson will face-off this Sunday at "The Jack," when Anderson and the Cleveland Browns come calling in a game with major postseason implications. This will not, however, be the glitzy quarterback confrontation that it would've been last season.
Anderson is off his game; that's putting it mildly. After a season in which he threw 29 touchdown passes, completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 3,787 yards and an 82.5 passer rating, Anderson has slumped badly in the first six games of this season. Currently, he's completed just 49.2 percent of his throws for 989 yards, six touchdowns, six interceptions and a 62.9 passer rating.
The impact of the decline in Anderson's numbers are relative to the decline in the Browns' record. A year ago, Anderson led the Browns to a 10-6 record. This weekend, the Browns will bring a 2-4 record to Jacksonville. In other words, as the quarterback goes, so goes the team.
"You look at the quarterback position, ours in particular, and there has been some inconsistency and, as I look at it, he's had some help being inconsistent," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "So I think that's the main thing with this team. We need to be more consistent … and not a team that can beat the Giants and then the next week you only gain 59 yards at halftime."
Garrard got off to a slow start this season, but he's rebounded nicely over the last three games. After throwing just one touchdown pass and four interceptions in the first three games, Garrard is back to his 2007 ways in the last three games, throwing three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
"I saw a lot of good things, actually," Garrard said of reviewing himself and the Jaguars offense during the team's bye week. "I just know when I get out of the pocket and I am getting toward the sideline, I feel that I can get the ball out of my hand a little faster. I take some shots where guys are kind of pounding me when I get rid of the ball three or four yards from the sideline."
Garrard said he wants to step up in the pocket more often and not try to escape toward the outside.
"Usually, if I am not heading up field, then the likelihood of the play being completed goes down quite a bit. When I step up in the pocket, if I scramble toward the line of scrimmage, then usually good things happen with either me throwing the ball or running the ball," Garrard said.
The hope is that Garrard is back on his '07 track and will lead the Jaguars back into the playoffs over the next 10 weeks of the season.
"We feel good about ourselves. We have to make sure we are ready week in and week out. It was good to have this bye week so we could kind of recharge our batteries a little bit and get ready for this stretch," Garrard added.
The Jaguars began the season as a Super Bowl favorite. At 3-3, they'll need to get on a roll over the next 10 games to have any chance of reaching the championship round.
"We have to see ourselves as a contender to get back into the tournament. Once you get there, you can do a lot of things. We set our agenda and we know a lot of people have written us as favorites for the Super Bowl and all of that. We will still feel like we have a great team here and we still feel like we can beat anybody on any given Sunday," Garrard said.
It all starts, of course, with the quarterback.
Meanwhile, Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones spoke with reporters following practice on Thursday. Jones addressed questions for the first time about speculation that he will be suspended three games as a result of recent adjudication of a July drug arrest.
"I can't say anything about it until it happens. I haven't gotten anything official that this is it," Jones said when asked if the league has informed him of its decision on a possible suspension.