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Garrard in final push; Gray can only watch

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He has held the job through mini-camp, pre-camp and one entire training camp. Despite the constant threat of the Jaguars' interest in Tony Banks, rookie David Garrard has maintained his composure and his hold on the Jaguars backup quarterback job.

Now, it comes down to this: Garrard has two more chances to prove he's the man; to prove to coach Tom Coughlin that he need not continue his search for a veteran backup quarterback.

The first of Garrard's final two opportunities will come this Friday in Champaign, Ill., where Garrard is expected to see action in the second half of game three of the preseason, against the Chicago Bears. So, what does Garrard have to do to prove he can handle the backup job?

"Teams are going to blitz him. He'll have to have some success along those lines. It certainly helps your confidence if he makes a play or two into (the blitzes)," Coughlin said during his press conference today.

In the Jaguars' 20-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs last Friday, Garrard was rattled by the Bucs' blitz tactics. It caused Garrard to throw an interception, miss open receivers and flush from the pocket five times. Though he completed 11 of 17 passes, they were good for just 76 yards and his passer rating was a lowly 50.1.

Clearly, Garrard needs to improve on that performance. Another similar outing would probably cause Coughlin to examine the list of available quarterbacks more closely.

That list was shortened by one name yesterday when the Houston Texans signed Banks. "We had been in contact with him every week. They decided to beat us to the punch and they got it done," Coughlin said.

"I'm happier now that they did sign him," rookie quarterback Quinn Gray said with a smile.

Gray is an undrafted rookie free agent from Florida A&M who was given no chance of making the Jaguars final roster, but now Gray has legitimate hope. In a mop-up role late in last Friday's game, Gray completed four of six passes for 52 yards.

"For as much as has been thrown at him, he's done well. Quinn has impressed me with his poise. I'm impressed by him," Coughlin said.

Interestingly, Garrard and Gray are similar physically; big, thick passers with strong arms and legs. Talent is not at issue; refinement is.

"I'm trying to make a squad that has high standards. I think I'm prepared to carry on that tradition here in Jacksonville," Gray said.

So, you might say Gray has two more opportunities to prove he's worthy of the number three quarterback job, but that's probably not true because Gray can't be sure he'll get any more playing time. Garrard may get it all after Brunell retires to the bench, and that might even work to Gray's advantage, provided Garrard uses that time to prove he can handle the number two job.

To a large degree, Gray's future is tied to Garrard's. If Garrard wins the number two job, Gray may just slide in at number three. If Garrard fails in his quest and falls to the number three job, the practice squad would be the best for which Gray could hope.

"He's been getting a whole lot more reps because he was a draft choice. I'm just happy about the appearance time I did get," Gray said.

The rest would seem to be up to Garrard.

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