MIAMI—Jack Del Rio was reluctant to give it his seal of approval, but the physical element of the Jaguars' performance allowed their coach to come away from his team's preseason opener with a degree of satisfaction.
"We saw two physical fronts go at it tonight. Neither defense was going to give up much in the run game," Del Rio said following a 12-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins in what was the preseason opener for each team.
Del Rio's focus was on his team's offensive and defensive lines. In this game a year ago, the Dolphins dominated the Jaguars at the line of scrimmage. It was a physical defeat that symbolized what was ahead.
"We wanted to let the line work. That was the plan coming in," Del Rio said.
His defensive line limited the Dolphins to 50 yards rushing in the first half, before giving way to the deep reserves in the second half. The Jaguars offensive line didn't fare as well, rushing for a mere 19 yards in the first half and clearly struggling in pass-protection.
"I like some of what I saw up front, but there's definitely room for improvement," Del Rio said. "We got David (Garrard) hit too much. There wasn't anything too difficult to pick up."
Garrard played the first quarter and completed four of seven passes for 22 yards. The bulk of the pressure he faced came from the middle of the line.
"There were some really good things out there that were hard for the fans to see. We had some protection issues, but there were some guys coming open I could see. The offense will be fine. Like I told them, if you keep me upright, there are some things we can do," Garrard told reporters after the game.
Wide receivers Troy Williamson and Nate Hughes were the stars on offense. They have been the Jaguars' top-performing receivers in training camp and they each took a big step toward cementing roster spots with their performances on Monday night.
Williamson caught four passes for 74 yards and Hughes grabbed three for 21 yards.
"One of the positives is the way Troy Williamson and Nate Hughes caught the ball. It would be great if those guys continue to come on the way they have," Del Rio said.
First-round draft pick Eugene Monroe replaced Tra Thomas at left tackle in the second quarter and Monroe played without incident until being replaced in the third quarter.
"He looked very natural, very comfortable," Del Rio said of Monroe, who didn't come to contract terms until last Friday.
Linebacker Justin Durant (hip flexor) and running back Rashad Jennings (groin) sustained what are believed to be minor strains. Third-round pick Derek Cox was held out of action due to a groin strain.
"We'd like to get it behind us," Del Rio said of the Cox injury, which dogged the rookie cornerback and caused him to be limited in practice last week.
Defensively, the Jaguars showed a lot of 3-4 looks early in the game with their number one defense. End Derrick Harvey was the featured player, lining up with his hand down, standing up and dropping into coverage and even once moving outside head up on the slot receiver.
"We're just going to work on our defense and not worry about how it's discussed," Del Rio said when asked if he may have given away too much information to future opponents. "We're going to have to build on that. We'll pick our spots. I don't think there are any secrets. You guys have been talking about it. We just took the training camp experiment into the preseason."
Backup quarterback Todd Bouman got mixed reviews. He was hot early, but faded late.
"Some good and some bad," Del Rio said of Bouman, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 130 yards, no touchdowns and one interception Del Rio said Bouman should've thrown away.
"He showed you some of that veteran presence, and then there were some other things," Del Rio added.
The Jaguars host the Tampa Bay Bucs this Saturday night.