The quarterback gets the credit or the blame and no quarterback in the NFL faced more criticism at the end of last season than the Jaguars' David Garrard.
It's been a rough stretch of life for Garrard since the Jaguars finished last season with four consecutive losses. His coach was uncomplimentary of him in the coach's season-ending review and Garrard was challenged by his team's owner to work harder in the offseason.
Garrard says that's exactly what he's doing.
"We're doing more to be better. The Jaguars are being relentless in that area. We're taking it the extra mile. If you want to win a championship, you have to do those things," Garrard told reporters following the Jaguars' Sunday morning mini-camp practice.
"He wants me to raise my game and everybody else's game to a higher level," Garrard said of owner Wayne Weaver's challenge to his quarterback. "We all want to be great and we have to do more to be great. You can't just do what the coaches ask of you."
Garrard started working with his receivers on a voluntary basis over a month ago. He spoke of tennis-ball drills meant to improve his receivers' pass-catching skills.
"This is a pivotal year for everybody, not just for myself. It's a pivotal year for all of us and none more than it is for me," he said.
Coach Jack Del Rio referred to Garrard as "not an elite quarterback" in postseason comments that were clearly pointed.
"I knew what he was doing. It didn't make me hate him or dislike him. I did understand what he was saying. He was putting a challenge out there and that's okay, I'm a man. You challenge me and I'm going to step up and do what I can to meet that challenge. That is how you have to be. If you get bent out of shape over it or huffing and puffing, are you trying to say you can't step up to a challenge? That's what I took it as, a challenge. I plan on doing the most with the challenge that has been presented to me," Garrard said on Sunday.
With the Jaguars likely to tap what is expected to be a deep crop of quarterbacks in the 2011 draft, this season is likely to determine when that drafted quarterback's future begins.
The Jaguars did not, however, use this year's draft to improve the offense. Sixth-round running back Deji Karim is the only offensive player selected by the Jaguars in this year's draft. The emphasis was on improving the defense. What improvement there is on offense this year will have to come from the same cast of players that came up short in big games against Miami and New England last December.
"I'm expecting a lot out of my offensive line and they're expecting a lot out of me," Garrard said.
It would certainly help, however, if one other player was to emerge as a weapon. Maybe it'll be second-year wide receiver Mike Thomas, or maybe it'll be Karim, who star running back Maurice Jones-Drew described as "explosive."
"Somebody else to step up and emerge as a playmaker would definitely help this ballclub," Garrard said.
"We really didn't focus at the end of the year and that's what we're working on now," Jones-Drew said. "Everyone tries to put pressure on David. A quarterback is only as good as the people around him."
Tight end Marcedes Lewis emerged as a playmaker in the passing game last season.
"It's a different feeling in the locker room, a different feeling on the field. It's a new start. We're going to change the whole face of this team. Last year was about getting everyone on the same page. This year is about going out there and doing it," Lewis said.