David Garrard clings to his belief the Jaguars are headed in a positive direction and he believes that direction will become more evident when the team begins game-planning for regular-season games.
"Right now, we're just pulling plays out of the playbook and just calling them," Garrard told reporters on Monday.
The small crowd expected for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Washington Redskins will see a game for which the Jaguars will do more game-planning than they have in the previous three preseason games. Coach Jack Del Rio said on Sunday he'll play his starters longer on Thursday than would be expected in the final game of the preseason, as the Jaguars hope to score a win that will avert a winless preseason and send the team into the regular season on a high note.
"You'd like to have some wins in the preseason. It's better for morale, but right now it's about proving we're headed in the right direction," Garrard said.
An interception Garrard threw in the team's 33-32 loss in Philadelphia last Thursday is an example of what can happen when a team doesn't game-plan for an opponent. In the second quarter, Garrard threw complete to Torry Holt on a short down-and-out route. On the next play, Holt ran the same route, except a little deeper, and cornerback Asante Samuel jumped the route and intercepted the pass.
"The ball was perfect but you have a cornerback who does a great job of squatting, taking chances. I'm not the first person Asante has picked off. Those are the things you can game-plan for. We're just running our basic stuff," said Garrard, who added that in a game-plan situation you wouldn't plan to throw consecutives out routes at a cornerback known to take chances.
Garrard's receiving corps will be bolstered on Thursday by the returns of Mike Sims-Walker and rookie Mike Thomas. Walker has been out of action since sustaining a sprained ankle in the scrimmage on Aug. 8. Thomas missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury he acquired in the first week of camp.
"Those guys are a big piece of the puzzle. They looked good to me," Garrard said of Sims-Walker's and Thomas' play in practice on Sunday. "(Sims-Walker) makes it really easy to throw to him and that was apparent (on Sunday)."
Another rookie making a late-preseason push for a roster spot is fifth-round pick Jarett Dillard, who caught a touchdown pass in Philadelphia.
"The game slowed down for me. I can see the progression," said Dillard, who experienced a bout of the dropsies in the middle of camp. "I was mentally and physically exhausted. I was so concerned about doing everything right that catching the ball was probably the last thing on my mind," he explained.
Veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis offered an optimistic view of the state of the Jaguars.
"We're not trying to sugar-coat it. We all know what this year is about; winning football games. That's what every year is about but some years more than others," Mathis said, obviously referring to the redemption the Jaguars seek after last year's 5-11 fall.