It's a tale of two quarterbacks. One represents the Jaguars' past, the other is the team's present. Past and present clash on Sunday at FedEx Field, when the 2-1 Jaguars face the 1-2 Washington Redskins.
Byron Leftwich and Mark Brunell are the main characters in this matchup. Leftwich will be playing his first football game in his hometown since playing for the high school championship as a senior gridiron star. Brunell, of course, will be trying to beat the team he put on the map with a magical run in the 1996 playoffs.
"I have never said there was any bitterness. It was no secret I wanted to finish my career there, but I understand the business," Brunell said of leaving Jacksonville following the 2003 season.
Leftwich was the first draft choice of the Jaguars' new era, with Jack Del Rio as head coach and James Harris as the team's personnel director. Brunell was traded to the Redskins in the winter of 2004 for a third-round draft choice.
"I understood when we drafted Byron that he would eventually be the starter. I have never one time said I was bitter about the situation. It didn't work out like I had hoped, but I understand," Brunell said.
Leftwich and Brunell each took their teams to the playoffs last season, now they'll face each other in a game that's important in each team's quest to return to the playoffs. That's where another important figure enters the picture.
Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee faces a comeback game of sorts. Scobee missed on two field goal attempts in the Jaguars' 21-14 loss to the Colts last Sunday. One of those misses came from 24 yards; hit the left upright.
"Coming off that is tough, but it's not the first time it's happened to me. It is the first time I missed a chip shot. Jack (Del Rio) preaches that it's not what happened to you, it's how you react to it," Scobee said. "He told me he didn't care for my body language. Actually, I was more angry than down. If another miss happens, I'll be prepared to handle it."
Scobee has one of the NFL's best kickoff legs. He already has three touchbacks this season. In his first two seasons in the league, Scobee ranked only behind Arizona's Neil Rackers in touchbacks. Scobee has 31 career touchbacks.
Field goal accuracy, however, has been a different matter. He's been inconsistent from placement and, coming off the worst game of his pro career, it's important for Scobee to bounce back this week.
"My description of myself is I have a great kickoff leg and a great field goal leg, but I have to hone that. I don't have to hit the ball 100 percent. I've worked this week on getting myself to hit the ball 70-80 percent. I'm going to hit the ball solid with a 75 percent swing," Scobee said. "What I'm looking to do … is make every kick. I have to do my job."
The Jaguars defense's number one challenge is stopping Clinton Portis and the Redskins' fourth-ranked rushing attack. Portis is just returning to full health.
"He played well last week and we think he's healthy," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said of Portis. "His production has been terrific. We love him. He's one of our leaders. We consider him one of the top players in the league."
The Jaguars running game was dominant against the Colts, gaining 191 yards. The Redskins, of course, will focus on stopping the Jaguars running game and forcing Leftwich to pass.
"They can catch you by surprise … being a team we're not familiar with," running back Fred Taylor said of the Redskins' many defensive schemes. "Only a few teams can play (two deep safeties) like our defense does and stop the run. Whatever they give us, we'll try to take advantage of it."
Leftwich and the passing game will no doubt shoulder a greater burden this week. The Jaguars passing game struggled against the Colts and Redskins Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams is likely to challenge Leftwich with a lot of blitzes and pass-coverage schemes.
"He does a nice job of mixing up 3-4, 4-3 … he gives you everything; always aggressive, always good on defense," Del Rio said of Williams and the Redskins defense.
The Jaguars, who have the number three-ranked defense in the league, will no doubt have some surprises for Brunell.