Marcedes Lewis is beginning to play as the Jaguars envisioned when they selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft, and that can only help quarterback David Garrard in his quest to take his hot start into the middle of the season.
"That's what I did in college," Lewis said of a play in Sunday's 23-14 win in Denver, in which Lewis broke a tackle and turned a short pass into an 18-yard, drive-sustaining gain.
It's what Lewis didn't do in his rookie season, which was compromised by a severe high-ankle sprain in the preseason that set him back early and kept him from ever getting as involved in the offense as planned.
"The injury I had last year hindered me a lot. This year, I'm not behind the eight-ball. This year is just a better year," Lewis said.
Through three games, Lewis is the Jaguars' second-leading receiver with nine receptions for 118 yards. His blocking, not considered to be a strength coming out of UCLA, has been strong.
"It's definitely getting better. I want to be known as an all-around tight end," Lewis said.
"The sky is the limit," he added of the team's offense. "This offense is designed for everyone to make plays after they make the catch. Anybody can get the ball at any time. There aren't any decoys."
Garrard is the main beneficiary of Dirk Koetter's offensive design. Garrard is eighth in the league with a 103.8 passer rating and leads all quarterbacks with a 133.9 third-down passer rating. Garrard would become the first quarterback in Jaguars history to have a passer rating at 100 or above in three consecutive games, should he hit the 100 mark in the Jaguars' next game, at Kansas City on Oct. 7.
"I love him," Lewis said. "He's a great leader in the huddle. He's able to make plays with his feet. You can never give up on the play."
Garrard is also the league's leading rusher among quarterback with 99 yards, three yards ahead of Tennessee's Vince Young. Amazingly, though, Garrard is showing no wear and tear. The last time he received treatment in the training room is following the New England game last season, after Garrard had tweaked a hamstring.
"I thank the Lord for the durable body," he said.
The Jaguars have Garrard to thank for the team's abrupt turnaround following a season-opening loss to Tennessee. Garrard has been the catalyst to victory in the last two games and his teammates are clearly taking their lead from him.
"I always told Dave to be patient. Now he has an opportunity to show you all. He's taking advantage of every opportunity in front of him. He extends plays, which tires defenses out," running back Fred Taylor said.
Taylor came to life against Denver, which offers hope that Taylor might reach the 10,000-yard career rushing mark before the Jaguars head into a three-game road stretch of schedule.
"It's not a goal," Taylor said of doing it in front of the home crowd. "My job is to run. That 10,000 is going to happen. Whether it's home or away, it's definitely going to happen."
Nothing else about the Jaguars' season would seem to be as certain. The recent play on both sides of the ball has fans thinking the team can be a playoff contender, but there's no denying the challenge the schedule presents. Four of the next six games are on the road and the Jaguars will play in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in December.
"I think we're heading in the right direction," Garrard said. "The challenges we're facing are ourselves. If we can listen to our coaches and do what they tell us, we can accomplish great things here. It's all about the here and now.
"It's just a start," Garrard said of his performance. "I have to maintain the start."