Josh Scobee has new life, thanks to three field goals that lifted the Jaguars to a 9-7 win over the Green Bay Packers in front of 50,846 fans at Alltel Stadium Friday night.
"The big story of the night is the way Scobee responded," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said following his team's second win of the preseason.
Now, Del Rio must decide which is the real Scobee: the one who converted all three of his field goal attempts against the Packers, or the one who was a dismal one-of-four in the first two preseason games. Del Rio will have one more preseason game to make his decision on the kicking position, which figures to be especially critical for a Jaguars team that is clearly built on defense and field position.
"It's a little better than having him not kick well," Del Rio added when asked if the three-for-three performance might be nothing more than a tease. "It does not completely answer the question. That's the talent we saw when we selected him and decided to groom him."
Scobee's 43-yarder midway through the fourth quarter was the game-winner and he celebrated that kick by booting the ensuing kickoff into and out of the end zone.
"This has done wonders for my confidence," said Scobee, a rookie fifth-round draft choice from Louisiana Tech. Scobee's troubles in the first two preseason games prompted the Jaguars to sign veteran kicker Steve Christie on Thursday, but Christie didn't kick against the Packers.
Scobee booted field goals of 23 and 32 yards in the first half, sandwiching the game's only touchdown, a 52-yard pass from Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre to wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Ferguson had beaten rookie cornerback Chris Thompson on the play.
"We wanted to play our young corners and we did. That was his play to make. He got some experience," said Del Rio, who intentionally put Thompson in single coverage, inviting the pass from Favre. Del Rio's strategy, of course, was born of his need to evaluate personnel for the roster cuts that must be made over the next two weeks.
If Scobee was the game's big story, then veteran tight end Kyle Brady was one of the game's sidebars. Brady responded to his coach's motivational tactics by making two impressive pass receptions in a scoreless first quarter.
Brady turned a short pass into a 15-yard gain on the first play of the game, as the tight end ran through two defenders on the play. On the Jaguars' next offensive series, Brady caught an 18-yard pass in the deep seam and was blasted by Packers strong safety Mark Roman. Brady suffered an injury to his middle finger on the play and left the game.
Del Rio had made it known he wanted a ramped-up performance by Brady, who made a habit of dropping passes in training camp. The fact that the ball went to Brady on two of the Jaguars' first three passing plays may have been another example of Del Rio challenging Brady.
"I thought it was excellent," Del Rio said of Brady's brief-but-effective performance. "That's what he's capable of being. That's what I'm looking for. He needs to keep doing that."
Brady will see a hand specialist for what is believed to be ligament damage, but Del Rio said the injury shouldn't affect his play. Also on the injury report, defensive end Paul Spicer and defensive tackle John Henderson sustained leg contusions, and quarterback Byron Leftwich bruised his passing hand. Del Rio also pronounced those injuries as being minor.
Though the Jaguars held the Packers to one score, Del Rio was not entirely pleased by the play of his defense. He said it lacked crispness. Rookie linebacker Daryl Smith, however, was certainly sharp.
Smith, a second-round pick who was in his first starting assignment, made three first-quarter plays of note, the most impressive of which was having sniffed out a swing pass from Brett Favre to fullback William Henderson and stopping it for a three-yard loss.
Offensively, Del Rio was angered by a glut of costly penalties. A 38-yard strike from Leftwich to Jimmy Smith in the second quarter was nullified by a chop-block penalty against rookie running back Greg Jones.
"We will work diligently to get this corrected now," Del Rio said of his team's rash of penalties.
"Byron threw the ball well tonight. You could see some of the explosiveness we're going to have in our offense," Del Rio added.
Favre completed nine of 14 passes for 127 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 77.7 passer rating. He was replaced for the start of the second half by Doug Pederson.
Leftwich played into the second half before being replaced by David Garrard. Leftwich finished the evening having completed 13 of 21 passes for 117 yards and a 76.9 passer rating. Garrard was four of six for 36 yards.
The Packers out-gained the Jaguars, 291 yards to 232, and Green Bay was surprisingly effective rushing the football in the first half against the Jaguars' first defense.
Greg Jones, who was replacing the injured Fred Taylor at running back, led all rushers with 79 yards in 18 rushing attempts. Thirty-eight of those yards were in the Jaguars' final offensive possession.
Jimmy Smith caught three passes for 50 yards and had a perfect pass from Leftwich on a fade route in the end zone bounce out of his hands. First-round pick Reggie Williams, who was in his first starting assignment, caught one pass for four yards and had another completion nullified by penalty.
Donovin Darius, Rashean Mathis and Blue Adams made interceptions, and Deke Cooper had an interception nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty.