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Jags hope to buy time


Jack Del Rio is pinning his hopes, for now, on improved special teams and a takeaway-conscious defense that left the Jaguars plus-nine in preseason turnover differential.

"Those are two areas we have to be better in and we're making steps forward. We will have an explosive offense at some point, but the key is winning football games," Del Rio said following the Jaguars' 31-0 win over the New England Patriots on Thursday night.

Last season, poor special teams play and a minus-four in turnover differential were two of the main reasons the Jaguars were 5-11. The Jaguars will open this year's regular season in Buffalo a week from Sunday with the hope a strong defense and kicking game might overcome a struggling offense.

It will be the Jaguars' early-season formula: Get teams into low-scoring games and win the battle of field position and turnovers.

Del Rio needs to buy time for quarterback Byron Leftwich and the offense, which didn't cross midfield in three first-quarter possessions against the Patriots, who played none of their starters. Ouch!

"I know it wasn't against their first guys, but we can't control that," Del Rio said. "We're not overly excited about the fact that we won. We're not getting too carried away. I'd like to see us having some productivity from our first group. We're going to need points to win. Getting Fred (Taylor) back will help."

The Jaguars offense was ineffective from the start of training camp. It showed some signs of life against Tampa and Green Bay, but the first-team offense bottomed out against the Patriots and finished the preseason without having scored a touchdown.

If that fact is of major concern to Del Rio, he didn't confess to it in his postgame press conference at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. In fact, he went out of his way to praise Leftwich.

"I feel very good about his development. I think we're going to see a big year from him. We're pleased with the development of that position," Del Rio said of Leftwich in particular and of his three quarterbacks in general.

David Garrard rallied late in his two-and-a-half quarters of play, leaving the field with a 10-0 lead in the fourth quarter following a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Troy Edwards.

It was number three quarterback Quinn Gray, however, who stole the show. Gray threw three touchdown passes in less than a quarter of action.

Garrard and Gray give Del Rio security at the position, but the Jaguars' hopes rest with Leftwich, and it's of the utmost importance that the second-year passer come to life soon.

"The preseason is over and we're looking forward to getting into the regular season, when the games count," Del Rio said.

Preparation for the opener in Buffalo will begin on Monday. Over the weekend, Del Rio and his staff will spend their time making final cuts. One player who may have secured a roster spot in the win over the Patriots is rookie kicker Josh Scobee, who booted a 31-yard field goal and followed that with a kickoff for a touchback. Scobee also had an apparent 51-yard field goal nullified by a holding penalty.

"I'm encouraged. He kicked well. He appears to have made it difficult for us to think he can't do it," Del Rio said.

Scobee was the top story of the final two weeks of the preseason. He sprang to life by kicking four field goals in four tries, after a one-for-four start in the first two preseason games, which had Jaguars fans calling for the kid's head.

Del Rio's patience with Scobee appears to have been rewarded, and what Del Rio needs most now is for the same to occur with Leftwich.

A strong defense and kicking game will go a long way, but it's tough to win if you can't score a touchdown.

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