David Garrard returns to the place where his career as a starting quarterback began, and this time he'll be bringing with him a deep-threat wide receiver Garrard believes will help open the field for the Jaguars' passing game.
Garrard has been the Jaguars' starting quarterback since replacing Byron Leftwich for a game in Philadelphia in 2006. Thursday, Garrard will be at the helm in Philadelphia as the Jaguars attempt to claim their first win of the preseason.
"I get to go back up there. I'll have a lot of fans in the stands," said Garrard, who's from northern New Jersey.
In '06, Garrard quarterbacked the Jaguars to a 13-6 upset victory on a windy day when the Jaguars did little more than run the ball and play defense. Thursday, Garrard expects to take some shots downfield with the Jaguars' hot, new deep threat, veteran wide receiver Troy Williamson.
"Every offense wants to be explosive like that," Garrard said, referring to the 74-yard touchdown play on which he and Williamson combined on the first play of last Saturday's preseason game against Tampa. "I have to take more chances, take more shots. That's something we have to use more this year."
The field tightened on the Jaguars last season, following a breakout season in '07 when Garrard threw only three interceptions in a ball-control offense that relied on the short-passing game.
"It would be great for our offense. The secondary would have to respect everything deep. You really have to do it. It gets the defensive backs off your receivers and helps you throw underneath," Garrard said.
Just when it appeared Williamson had run out of chances to claim the success projected for him when he was the seventh pick of the 2005 draft, he has surged to the top of the Jaguars receiving corps. He leads the Jaguars with seven catches for 221 yards and one touchdown through two preseason games.
"I'm starting to get comfortable in what I'm doing," Williamson said in attempting to explain his new-found success. "I was too much into the newspaper and the TV. Now I don't read the paper. I just do what I have to do. The more plays I make, the more comfortable I get and the more plays I can make in this offense."
Williamson is a big, fast receiver who was drafted by the Vikings to be Randy Moss' replacement. It never happened for Williamson in Minnesota, however, and he was traded to Jacksonville last year. In round two with the Jaguars, he's flashing the 4.3 speed he says makes him the fastest player on the Jaguars roster.
"There's no need to be timed. Everybody pretty much knows I can run," Williamson said.
What they're finding out now is that he can also catch.
Coach Jack Del Rio announced on Tuesday the addition of Ernest Wilford to the Jaguars' receiving corps. Wilford, formerly a wide receiver with the Jaguars, will be used as a tight end this time around.
"We'll give him an opportunity to compete for a roster spot," Del Rio said.
Del Rio would not discuss his team's injury report as it heads into the game in Philadelphia, other than to say he'll play "the guys who can go. I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing who and why," he said of those nursing injuries.
"It'll be a good game to evaluate our guys," he said, then adding that he would spread playing time around because his team was playing its third game in 11 days. Normally, the third preseason game is used as a measuring stick of a team's preparedness, but "I don't think it's the same that it has been, particularly for us, because of our schedule. I don't know that you'll get the same this-is-an-indicator moment that you have in other camps," Del Rio said.
The offensive line competition is one of the hot spots for the Jaguars. Vince Manuwai, Uche Nwaneri and Mo Williams are competing for the two starting guard spots and first-round pick Eugene Monroe is attempting to unseat Tra Thomas at left tackle.
"There's some possibility he could take some reps (at right tackle) if Eugene is the guy (at left tackle)," Del Rio said of Thomas. "We have an eye on that but we're going to settle our starting five first."
Del Rio has already said he hopes to have an opening-day starting lineup in place for the final preseason game, against visiting Washington on Thursday, Sept. 3.