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Jaguars finish on high note


The question didn't have to be asked. The Jaguars provided the answer with their peak performance of the preseason, a 24-3 win over the Washington Redskins in the final tune-up of the summer.

Yes, the Jaguars are ready to start the season, which they will in Tennessee on Sept. 7 in a game of critical early-season importance to both teams.

"We feel the work we needed to put in has been put in and now it's time to get ready for the start of the regular season," coach Jack Del Rio said following a dominant performance at FedEx Field on Thursday night.

The Jaguars will play each of their three AFC South counterparts in the first month of the season, and the Jaguars' hope of winning the division title this year would seem to require a fast start to the season.

How important is the Jaguars-Titans season-opener? Well, it's important enough that Titans coach Jeff Fisher played his starters into the second half on Thursday night. Del Rio, who rested his starters in last year's preseason finale, played them for the better part of the first half against the Redskins.

"I think that's a clear indication that we both understand that we have to start fast. It's important that you come out of the gate ready to roll," Del Rio said.

Before the Jaguars can begin rolling, however, Del Rio has one more bit of business to conduct. Between now and six p.m. on Saturday, Del Rio must cut his roster from 75 to the final 53.

A handful of players made strong final bids. Rookie running back Chauncey Washington rushed for 68 yards, caught four passes for 40 yards and had a long run nullified by a holding penalty. Veteran wide receiver Troy Williamson caught his first pass of the preseason, then added three more catches, one of which went for 51 yards and a touchdown.

"You saw the speed with Troy. He has rare speed. He did some other things well, too. He covered kicks," Del Rio said of Williamson, considered to be on the wide receiver "bubble" heading into Thursday's game. Del Rio's decision on Jerry Porter could impact the decision on Williamson. If Porter is left on the PUP list, he must remain there for at least the first six weeks of the season.

"Chauncey ran hard. No real surprise there," Del Rio said of Washington, who'd like to join running backs Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Greg Jones and Montell Owens on the roster.

Thursday's game was the debut of first-round draft pick Derrick Harvey, who ended his 33-day holdout by signing a five-year contract on Wednesday. Del Rio wasted no time getting Harvey into the mix. Harvey saw limited action in the second half, at left and right defensive end, though he registered no tackles or sacks.

"It was good to get Harvey some work. He really was doing double-day workouts. He was being responsible," Del Rio said of Harvey's personal workout regimen during his holdout.

Del Rio said Harvey will be in the defensive line rotation in the season-opener. "We got Derrick signed so the last piece of the team is in place," Del Rio added.

Harvey told reporters he is not behind in his learning, despite having missed all of training camp and the first three preseason games.

Backup quarterback Cleo Lemon had his own coming-out party against the Redskins. Lemon completed 10 of 13 passes for 97 yards, one touchdown and a 122.9 passer rating.

Starting quarterback David Garrard completed five of eight passes for 58 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 84.4 rating. Todd Bouman mopped up, completing six of 10 for 105 yards, one touchdown and a 129.2 rating.

Guard Maurice Williams left the game with a knee sprain in the first half but Del Rio said, "He's OK. We think he'll be back on Wednesday."

"It's time to play for real," Garrard said. "We'll start against the Titans, a team that beat us in the first game last year, and we'll try to change that.

"This was a great note for the team to end on. My expectation is to build on last year. We want to win a Super Bowl, but the first thing you have to do is get into the playoffs," Garrard added.

In his postgame interview, Garrard wore what he referred to as "casual" preseason attire. During a hot streak late last season, Garrard donned a purple fedora for a postgame interview.

"I'm going to have a few more things to show you guys this year. We will have some headwear this year," Garrard said.

The actual pursuit of what an offseason's worth of hype created in the way of expectations now begins. There's no turning back. Are the Jaguars one of the league's elite teams? Can they, in fact, contend for a Super Bowl title? The answers to those questions could come early in the season.

"There was some anxiety going into this last game, playing the guys. We have a tough opening stretch. I thought we needed it," Del Rio said.

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