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Hard work might be the difference


"He's been decisive," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said when asked what has made the difference in Garrard's dramatic rise to the top of the NFL passer rankings. "Passing the football is about protection, decision-making, route-running, all those things coming together at the end. He's been very good in the five victories."

At his coach's urging – you might even call it prodding – Garrard dedicated himself in the offseason to the most intense work ethic of his career. Is that the difference, Del Rio was asked at Wednesday's press conference?

"It gives you a chance. Everyone's talking about what Michael Vick's doing and the coaches tell you that Michael is working hard. It doesn't guarantee success but it gives you a chance at it. David has done some of that and he's reaping the rewards," Del Rio added.

The statistical difference is dramatic. In 2009, Garrard threw 15 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and was the league's 17th-ranked passer with an 83.5 passer rating. Through nine games this season, Garrard has thrown 15 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and is the league's second-ranked passer with a 104.9 passer rating.

"He's been very good in the five victories," Del Rio said.

Here's another major difference in Garrard: Back in 2007, when he burst onto the scene as a starter, Garrard was largely considered a game manager. He wasn't asked to win the game; he was asked not to lose it. This year, he's the Jaguars' star player. Simply put, they don't win and won't win without him.

"I'm ready to move on from the '07 stuff," Garrard said. "Half the guys in this locker room weren't even here then."

OK, moving forward, Garrard's next challenge is a game on Sunday against visiting Cleveland, which owns two of the most impressive wins in the league this year, over New Orleans and New England.

Why did the Browns win those games, Del Rio was asked?

"They won the turnover battle and ran the football," Del Rio said.

That will likely be the Browns' game plan this week, as they try to play around a rookie quarterback, Colt McCoy, and play to their strength, a 12th-ranked running game, led by big back Peyton Hillis, and an opportunistic defense that relies heavily on creating chaos.

"They like to do a lot of what looks like chaos," Garrard said of the Browns defense which, under the direction of Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, attempts to confuse opposing quarterbacks with stand-around/walk-around tactics. It worked against Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

"The coverages change at the last second. When you have a lot of 50 and 90 numbers standing around, that can do a lot to you. It boils down to me making the right call," Garrard said.

All of that hard work Garrard put into his game this season will be put to the test, again, on Sunday. 

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