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Playing to McCown's strengths

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As Dirk Koetter sees it, the process shouldn't be overwhelming.

Koetter, the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, said while there will be subtle changes to the offense with the release this week of four-year starting quarterback David Garrard, installing those alterations shouldn't be overly difficult.

Koetter said new starter Luke McCown, Garrard's backup during all or parts of the last two seasons, is more than familiar enough with the system – and vice-versa – to ease the transition.

Even with just a few days to do the transitioning.

 "It's not like Luke is a stranger," Koetter said Thursday as the Jaguars prepared to play the Tennessee Titans in the 2011 regular-season opener at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

"Luke has been around here. He's ingrained in what we're trying to do. He knows our system. We won't make a ton of changes, but there are some changes."

Koetter, who spoke extensively Thursday of his respect for Garrard, was asked McCown's strengths.

"Luke's a guy who typically get the ball out quick," Koetter said. "He makes good decisions. He has plenty of arm strength. He's more mobile than he's given credit for. He's not the power runner that Dave is. . . . Luke has plenty of qualities that can make him a successful quarterback in the NFL. We'll play to that and we'll go."

Koetter added, "There are things both ways. You're always going to tailor your game plan to any of your key players' strengths and weaknesses. Dave brought certain things to the table. . . . There's always subtle changes in that. We'll try to always play to the guy's strengths."

Garrard's release was the latest uncertainty offensively entering the regular season. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed three preseason games after off-season knee surgery, the wide receivers were inconsistent at times and the offensive line was sub-par on several occasions.

"Every team has questions," Koetter said. "Coming off a lockout year, every team has conditioning questions. Every team has injury questions. I personally think injuries will be a major story in the NFL this year across the league. Go to any of the 31 other cities, there's questions about all those teams. So what? That's why you play the games."

Koetter said while the first-team offense scored one touchdown in four preseason games, "I'm confident we can be a successful offense."

"You're telling me what our issues are," he said. "Let me just spin that around on you. We have a Pro Bowl tight end (Marcedes Lewis). We have a Pro Bowl running back (Jones-Drew). We have a veteran at center (Brad Meester) who does a lot of things. We have one of the best blocking fullbacks (Greg Jones) in the league. We have an emerging wide receiver in Mike Thomas. We have a first-round pick in Eugene Monroe at left tackle.

"Every team has pluses and minuses. My job is to coach the Jacksonville offense and I think we're going to have a good offensive team. We have every chance to be successful. We have to go out there and back it up on the field."

Koetter said he was "kept in the loop" regarding the decision to release Garrard.

"I work for the Jaguars and it's a Jaguars decision," Koetter said. "I'm a Dave supporter, but I work for the Jaguars and this is a team game. No matter what decision is made, we have to go forward with it. There's not much to talk about at this point. It's done. . . .

"The decision was made. That's now in the rearview mirror. We have to move forward. I have the utmost respect for Dave as a player, for his toughness, what he brought to the Jaguars. Dave is a guy who cares about his work. I'm personally close to Dave. I love coaching him, but that's in the past.

"Now, we're coaching Luke. We're coaching Blaine. Let's go."

Koetter on Thursday also addressed:

*The play of the offensive line Thursday against St. Louis in the preseason finale. "We have to protect better than we did in those first two series," Koetter said. "Those first two series that Dave was in against the Rams, it didn't matter who was at quarterback, they didn't have a chance. By the third series, we got that protection straightened around a little bit and we moved the ball a little bit better starting in the third series. If we protect like we did those first two series we'll have some serious issues in every game."

*The backup running back situation, where Deji Karim has replaced Rashad Jennings, who is out for the season with a knee injury. "I have a lot of confidence in Deji," Koetter said. "Let's not forget: Rashad was a young player, too. They're different types of players. Rashad has a bigger physical presence than Deji, but Deji has unusual quickness. We've seen that in the return game. Deji can come in and spell Maurice just fine." Koetter said Jones-Drew, Karim and fullbacks Montell Owens, Brock Bolen and Greg Jones all can be productive runners. "They've all demonstrated at different times in their careers they can get the job done," he said.

*The criticism in recent days of the Jaguars' handing of the quarterback situation. "It amazes me how many people have inside opinions who 24 hours before that didn't know anything about it," Koetter said. "For certain people to come out and say they were studying this film, studying that film . . . come on, give me a break. The NFL is the most popular game in the world and you've got no shortage of talking heads out there, but it's hard enough to be an expert on one team, let alone people who claim to be experts on 32 teams. As Coach Del Rio tells the team all the time, 'We can't let people on the outside put limitations on what we are on the inside.' I'm a huge believer in that. All those people who say those kinds of things, deep down they know they don't really know everything either, but they get paid to talk about it, so they have to. I don't begrudge them that, but that's the truth."

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