Paul Spicer will undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair the broken right leg he suffered in Sunday's win over the Denver Broncos, and even though indications are Spicer's injury is season-ending, coach Jack Del Rio would make no such pronouncement at Monday's press conference.
"We'll decide a course of action during the week. We're waiting for the surgery tomorrow," Del Rio said when asked if he would re-sign former Jaguars defensive end Tony Brackens.
Spicer told his teammates on Sunday that he "would be back," but Del Rio described his defensive end's leg as "gross and mangled," and starting right defensive end Lionel Barnes said it was "facing the opposite direction."
Del Rio absolved Denver offensive left tackle Matt Lepsis of wrongdoing for the block that fractured Spicer's leg. Lepsis went low on Spicer as Spicer was being blocked high by running back Reuben Droughns.
"It did not appear to be a deliberate attempt to hurt him. It's a violent sport and unfortunately things like that happen. It probably will be fined but I don't think it was a deliberate attempt," Del Rio said.
Spicer's injury leaves the Jaguars in a tough spot at a thin position. Del Rio wouldn't say who will replace Spicer in the starting lineup, but the obvious candidates would be veteran tackle/end Rob Meier, rookie Bobby McCray and second-year man Brandon Green.
Meier made seven starts at right defensive end in 2002. He is an accomplished player against the run but is not regarded as a pass-rush threat. McCray has shown flashes of pass-rush talent but is thought to need time to develop his run-support skills. Green was deactivated for the first two games.
Logic would suggest Meier will play the first two downs and McCray and linebackers Akin Ayodele and Greg Favors will be mixed in on passing downs.
"He's going to be missed because he's been a very productive player for us in the first two games," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said of Spicer. "Guys are going to get hurt and when that happens the other guys have to step up."
Change at the defensive end position has seen the Jaguars cut last year's starters, Brackens and Hugh Douglas, and lose their number one replacement, Spicer. Two games into the season, the Jaguars have reached the point that they can not afford any more injuries at the position and remain the formidable force they are on defense.
"Paul is going to be a loss for us, but we've been pretty much an end by committee anyhow. Whatever I'm asked to do, that's what I'll do," Barnes said.
McCray is the wild card in all of this. A seventh-round pick from Florida, McCray has the frame and athletic ability to be a big-time player, but he failed to achieve that level of play in college. He was accused of playing soft, but with the Jaguars he has been nothing but impressive. He was one of the surprises of training camp.
"I haven't asked any questions," McCray said of the role he might assume in Spicer's absence. "I'm just sitting back waiting to see what they'll do with me. What I'd like? I'm ready to be full-time now. I can hold up as good as I want."
Del Rio said he would provide a medical update on Spicer as soon as one is available.
Meanwhile, Del Rio announced game-ball winners for Sunday's win: Jermaine Lewis on special teams, Rashean Mathis and Marcus Stroud on defense, and Chris Naeole on offense.
The Jaguars offense is last overall in the league's rankings (28th in rushing and 31st in passing), while the defense is 12th overall (10th against the run and 18th against the pass).
Del Rio complimented quarterback Byron Leftwich's performance against the Broncos. "I thought he played very well," Del Rio said.
Leftwich completed eight of just 16 passes for 120 yards, one touchdown and a 95.8 passer rating. Most importantly, Leftwich did not throw an interception or commit a fumble.
"I think we're a football team that's shown the ability to be scrappy," Del Rio said.
Tight end Kyle Brady (finger) will return to practice this week and could play in Sunday's game in Tennessee. His blocking could provide a needed lift to the running game.