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Leftwich likely to play


Byron Leftwich is likely to be back in the starting lineup this Sunday, and so is wide receiver Reggie Williams.

Coach Jack Del Rio told reporters on Monday afternoon that Leftwich "appears to be on track to be able to play this week … I don't believe he'll need to fly anywhere to get past this last hurdle."

Leftwich has missed the last two games with a knee injury. David Garrard led the Jaguars to an overtime win over Detroit on Nov. 14, but Garrard wasn't able to generate any offense late in Sunday's 18-15 loss to Tennessee. The 6-4 Jaguars will travel this weekend to Minnesota for a game critical to each team's playoff hopes.

Del Rio's mood was clearly one of dejection on Monday. The loss to Tennessee dealt a harsh blow to the Jaguars' AFC South title hopes, and that fact was etched on Del Rio's face.

"I'm disappointed. Everybody's disappointed. What can you do to make it better? If you get knocked down, dust yourself off and get back up and go to work. It's not time for a pity party," Del Rio said.

He talked about the Jaguars' inability to make plays down the stretch in Sunday's game, but Del Rio didn't point fingers. When it was brought to his attention that Williams, the ninth pick of this year's draft, has made a modest contribution and that Williams fell to the ground on a deep pass late in Sunday's game, Del Rio rushed to his rookie's defense.

"It's to be expected that people want to talk about Reggie because he was such a high draft choice. I believe in his abilities and I believe at some time you'll see him show up in a bigger way," Del Rio said.

When asked if Williams will remain in the starting lineup for this week's game against the Vikings, Del Rio said, "Yes. Our coaching staff determines who's the best fit for us. I have confidence in our ability to evaluate talent."

Leftwich will be counted on to provide the offense that was lacking in the fourth quarter against the Titans. The offense produced no points in the fourth quarter, gained only two first downs and expired only 3:25 off the clock in two possessions after taking a 15-10 lead with 9:12 to play.

"We had a lot of opportunities to come away with a win and feel a lot better today. It really comes down to making plays. We didn't make plays. Any time you have that many series (five in the fourth quarter), you need to be able to close out the game," Del Rio said.

The Jaguars running game was very productive, as Fred Taylor rushed for 103 yards and the Jaguars out-rushed the Titans 151-103. In the fourth quarter, however, the running game failed the Jaguars. LaBrandon Toefield and Greg Jones each failed to gain a yard on second-and-two and third-and-two plays with the Jaguars at the Titans 43-yard line and protecting a 13-10 lead.

"There's a point where we absolutely have to be able to run the ball effectively. To not be able to move the ball on two downs consecutively was disheartening," Del Rio said.

The passing game produced far too many drops and only 123 net yards. The Titans invited the Jaguars to pass the ball, leaving the Jaguars' receivers in single coverage and bulking up at the line of scrimmage against the run.

Tennessee's defensive strategy, coupled with the Jaguars' inability to convert with the run on second-and-two and third-and-two, probably persuaded offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to pass three times in a four-down series that led to a missed field goal attempt from 44 yards by Josh Scobee.

"We do what we think we have to do to win the game," Del Rio said in defense of the play-calling. "It's about team and when you don't have success, that means the coaches need to coach better and the players need to play better," the coach added.

At the 10-game mark in the schedule, the Jaguars are a game behind the Colts in the AFC South title race. More importantly, the Jaguars trail four 7-3 teams (Denver, San Diego, Baltimore and the Jets) in the wild-card race.

"Our goal has been from day one to make the playoffs. For us, the focus has to be on the next opponent. There's a lot of football left. You could get into 'if the playoffs started today,' but they don't start today," Del Rio said.

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