Jack Del Rio has always wanted an explosive offense. He found one in the Jaguars' 31-26 win over the Dolphins on Saturday night. Now, he'd like his offense to start a little faster.
"Some good, some bad," Del Rio said in describing his team's performance in its preseason opener.
Del Rio could've turned his attention immediately to four offensive plays of 50 yards or greater. He could've very easily celebrated the performance. Instead, he talked of his first team offense's slow start.
"Early in the game, offensively, we got ourselves in trouble by dropping the ball and (committing) penalties. We backed our defense up and we didn't do a good job in an adverse situation. I don't think we tackled the way I'd like us to tackle," Del Rio said.
The Jaguars fell behind quickly, 10-0, when a Byron Leftwich pass glanced off Matt Jones' right hand and was intercepted by the Dolphins at the Jaguars 22-yard line. Two plays later, Joey Harrington completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Randy McMichael.
It wasn't until their fourth offensive possession that the Jaguars moved the chains, and for most of the first half the first team offense appeared headed for a shutout. Then Leftwich found Jones for a 50-yard touchdown pass that saved the night.
"He was actually my third read," Leftwich said of Jones. "He ran a great route on that play. We have to allow him to keep making plays downfield."
Leftwich finished six of 12 for 100 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 71.5 passer rating. It could've been better, but it sure could've been a lot worse.
"It was OK. Slow start but a good night; a lot of explosive play. I think that's a sign of things to come," Leftwich said of the overall performance.
Del Rio had said he would play his first team offense into the second quarter, and it wasn't until 1:49 remained in the first half that David Garrard and the second team offense entered the game. The first team defense only played two series.
"If people leave him alone out there, he's going to have some plays like that," Del Rio said of Jones' long touchdown reception, which was against single coverage by cornerback Will Allen.
Garrard and the second team offense put the Jaguars into the lead in the third quarter when Garrard connected with Chad Owens for a 62-yard touchdown pass. Owens had made a 24-yard grab the previous play on a third-and-15.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," Owens said of his performance, which will help him overcome the memory of last year's nightmare in Indianapolis, when Owens struggled to field punts, was replaced by Alvin Pearman and cut two days later.
"As a receiver, I got an opportunity. It means a lot. I wanted to make some plays," Owens said.
The third big play of the night was made by second-round draft choice Maurice Jones-Drew, who caught a short pass from Garrard and turned it into a 55-yard, catch-and-run touchdown. Garrard did well to avoid the rush and throw on the run. Jones-Drew did the rest, making five Dolphins defenders miss along the way.
"That part was very exciting. That's the type of explosiveness we'd like to have," Del Rio said of his team's big plays.
"I think you got a glimpse of what we think he can do," Del Rio added of Jones-Drew. "If he gets the ball in the open field, look out. He has a knack for finding open grass."
"I'm here to make plays for this team. It's all about the team. We're trying to do big things here. I'm trying to stay in this business for a long time," Jones-Drew said.
The Jaguars' fourth and final big play of the game was made by third quarterback Quinn Gray and tight end George Wrighster, who caught a short pass from Gray and raced untouched for a 51-yard score with 3:47 to play in the game.
Garrard completed six of 11 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and a 139.2 passer rating. Del Rio said he had challenged Garrard to play this summer as though he is competing for the starting quarterback job, but to do so knowing he is the backup. Garrard would seem to be complying with his coach's request.
"David continues to play well. I don't think you want to get too excited about statistical battles," said Del Rio, cautioning against a quarterback controversy.
First-round draft pick Marcedes Lewis sustained an ankle sprain Del Rio said may be of the high-ankle variety and could cause Lewis to miss Saturday's game against Carolina. Del Rio said rookie linebacker Clint Ingram suffered a "pretty big contusion on his calf," and veteran safety Nick Sorensen "rolled his ankle."
The Jaguars didn't focus much on their running game. Jones-Drew led the Jaguars with 16 yards rushing in four tries, and Greg Jones had a couple of sharp-looking runs, finishing with 15 yards in five carries. Fred Taylor was the starting running back and gained 11 yards on three carries. Taylor also ran 22 yards with a screen pass.
"Greg continues to impress me. We'll find more ways to get him the ball. We felt pretty good coming out of the first two weeks of camp running the ball," said Del Rio, who elected to focus efforts on his team's passing game, which had struggled.
Undrafted rookie safety Jamaal Fudge was a surprise star on defense. He led the Jaguars with eight tackles and a sack and put himself squarely into the competition to make the final roster.
"He did come out of nowhere. He made some nice hits. He's coming on fast. He's come a long way in a short time," Del Rio said of Fudge, a Jacksonville native who signed a contract after working out for the Jaguars in a local tryout camp.