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Gray grows into role


Quinn Gray has been the Jaguars' scout-team quarterback through the first half of this season, but that ended this week. As of Wednesday's practice, Gray began taking snaps with the first and second-team offensive units and, depending on the medical evaluation of Byron Leftwich's left knee next Monday, Gray could move firmly into the backup quarterback's job and that would mean he would all of a sudden be one play away from you know what.

"I'll always be ready," Gray said. "All it takes is two plays and now it's down to one. It's a rush. I'm going to prepare myself as if I'm going to play."

A year ago, he was three plays away. Leftwich, Mark Brunell and David Garrard were ahead of him, as Gray spent most of the season on the practice squad. He wasn't even the Jaguars' scout-team quarterback; he was one of its receivers.

But that wasn't indicative of the Jaguars' opinion of Gray. Coach Jack Del Rio and personnel boss James Harris like Gray's talent. Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave loves Gray's study habits.

"Last week he may have had his best week of practice. Emulating David Carr, he made a lot of tight throws into tight 'windows.' He has a knack for fitting balls into very narrow 'windows,'" Musgrave said of Gray.

In other words, Gray is an accurate passer, which means he's an accurate passer with a very strong arm.

This is an intriguing guy; always has been. We're talking about a 6-3, 246-pound hunk of quarterback who comes out of a great football background; his father is an esteemed high school coach in south Florida.

It's not a distortion of the truth to say the Jaguars have plans for Gray. Garrard has one year remaining on his contract beyond this season, and it's possible the Jaguars will try to cash in Garrard's value in a pre-draft trade next spring. That would mean Gray is being groomed for the eventual backup job.

"He's very smart. He takes great notes in meetings. I feel like Quinn is always ready," said Musgrave, who believes Gray is a definite candidate to move up the ranks. "We talk about it a lot. 'All three of you guys have a chance to play in this league a long time,'" Musgrave said of what he has told his three quarterbacks.

Gray's career has always been about the future. All of a sudden, however, it pertains directly to the present.

The knee injury Leftwich sustained in Houston this past Sunday could result in the Jaguars' starting quarterback missing some playing time. Garrard, of course, would move into the starting job. Gray would become the backup.

"He's going to be missed, but guys get hurt in this game and when they do you gotta be ready," Gray said.

Musgrave has no doubt about Gray's readiness or his ability to play the position.

"He has good vision. He has a good feel for where the defenders are and how to fit passes around them," Musgrave said.

In other news, Del Rio said linebacker Daryl Smith has undergone an MRI test on his injured left knee and did not practice on Thursday. The diagnosis was a partially torn MCL, and a more complete report is expected later. "I'll put off those questions until next week," Del Rio said.

"We had two good days of practice. We'll be back Monday to get ready for Detroit," the coach added.

Players are off until Monday.

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