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Leftwich quiets debate


Jack Del Rio wasn't ready to make an official announcement, but it really wasn't necessary, either.

Del Rio wants to wait until his team is back together this Wednesday for the start of preparation for this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, before he makes the rubber-stamp announcement that Byron Leftwich will make his third consecutive start at quarterback. And that raised little suspicion in a media that has no doubt Leftwich's performance against the Chargers yesterday is good enough to keep the starting job.

The Jaguars rookie head coach explained that his decision last week to make Leftwich the starter over Brunell was based in part on the lingering effects of Brunell's elbow injury.

"He proclaimed himself healthy. I didn't see it that way. He still had five stitches in his arm and swelling. That was a pretty easy decision," Del Rio told reporters today.

Brunell was to have the stitches removed as early as today, and the condition of Brunell's elbow is expected to be much improved, but that'll probably have no bearing on the decision at quarterback this week. Leftwich's 336 yards passing, two touchdowns and 132.4 passer rating in leading the Jaguars to their first win of the season will undoubtedly quiet all debate.

Brunell was the Jaguars' "third quarterback" yesterday for the second consecutive week, and that has to be considered a difficult demotion for a player who had been the Jaguars' starting quarterback since the team's inaugural season.

"I don't think it's easy for anybody. How do I think he'll handle it? Everything I've seen from Mark has been classy, competitive, tough," Del Rio said.

Then, of Leftwich, Del Rio added: "Every game he plays, you're going to see him mature as a quarterback. … I don't get too caught up in rookie quarterback, rookie coach or rookie kicker. We expect anybody we put on the field to play well."

Along those lines, a lot of Jaguars played well in the 27-21 win over San Diego.

• Jimmy Smith returned to the lineup following a four-game drug suspension to catch eight passes for 137 yards.

• Fred Taylor gained 164 total yards from scrimmage and scored the game-clinching touchdown on a 60-yard screen pass.

• The rush-defense limited LaDainian Tomlinson to 38 yards in 10 carries.

• Rookie kicker Seth Marler booted field goals of 53 and 27 yards.

• And strong safety Donovin Darius got special praise from Del Rio for a hit on Tomlinson that may have broken the star running back's spirit.

"Donovin set the tone with a huge hit early in the game. I thought that was awesome. He played pretty well yesterday," Del Rio said.

Meanwhile, starting middle linebacker Mike Peterson suffered bruised ribs and will probably be listed as "questionable" on the Jaguars' Wednesday injury report. And linebacker Eric Westmoreland is not recovering from his month-old knee injury and Del Rio said "surgery may be an option."

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