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Still the starter

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What was true of the Jaguars' quarterback situation late Sunday remained true Monday.

Blaine Gabbert is the starter. Luke McCown is the backup.

And although Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said Gabbert must continue to improve, he said the rookie will start when the Jaguars play host to the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football next Monday.

 "Right now, Blaine's the quarterback," Del Rio said.

Del Rio spoke Monday at his next-day press conference a day after pulling Gabbert with 7:03 remaining in a 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans at EverBank Field.

Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, completed 13 of 29 passes for 136 yards and no touchdowns with an interception for a 44.6 passer rating against Houston.

With the Jaguars trailing 20-10, Del Rio opted to play backup Luke McCown, for whom Gabbert had taken over as the starter following a four-interception game by McCown in a 32-3 Week 2 loss to the New York Jets. McCown completed 7 of 11 passes for 62 yards on Sunday.

Del Rio said after Sunday's loss that while McCown provided a spark, leading the Jaguars to a field goal before a late drive ended on downs, Gabbert would remain the starter.

He reiterated that view Monday.

"Luke was called on to give us a spark yesterday," Del Rio said. "I thought he did that. . . . We'll continue to stay the course in terms of preparing and getting ourselves ready."

With the Jaguars' offense ranked 32nd in the NFL, and 32nd in the NFL in passing, Del Rio was asked about the possibility of a more long-term move to McCown.

"The backup quarterback is always the most popular guy in town when you're not doing well offensively," he said. "These are decisions I've got to make. I'll make them and we'll go forward."

Del Rio said the practices leading to the Texans' game, as was the case before the previous two games, had been positive for Gabbert. He also was asked about the possibility of playing McCown to give Gabbert a "step back."

"We did that to a certain extent yesterday," Del Rio said. "That was a step back. We'll see. How he responds will be important for him and for us. It's my call and I understand questions are going to come. I knew that the minute I went there. I'll answer them the best I can to give you a little insight into what I'm thinking and why, but that's what I'm thinking right now, that we go back to Blaine and that Luke  continue to be the guy that he is, who prepares his butt off and who is ready for the opportunity to step in when called on.

"There's more involved at that position than there would be at say, defensive tackle, or linebacker, or offensive guard. That's the reality of it. He has to answer questions like I do. Yesterday, I felt like we needed a spark and felt Luke would give us an opportunity.

"He (McCown) performed and gave us a little but of a lift, but that was yesterday."

The Jaguars on Sunday scored six offensive points, with kicker Josh Scobee converting two of three field goals. One potential touchdown became a field goal when tight end Marcedes Lewis dropped a pass when he was wide open in the end zone, and Del Rio also said Gabbert was far from the only reason for the offensive struggles.

"He's doing some things that are pretty good at times, and he's doing some things he'll need to do better moving forward," Del Rio said. "He's not the only one on the field. There are other people who need to do things, whether it be blocking or catching the ball, that will help him have better days and help us have better days. Clearly, the head coach and the quarterback are the two people who are directly tied to winning and losing."

Also on Monday:

*Del Rio was asked about the perception that Gabbert is not as "courageous" in the pocket as is necessary for an NFL quarterback. "I think it's fair to say he's going to have to operate with pressure in his face at a higher level than what we've seen thus far," Del Rio said. "Part of that is the responsibility of us affording him the kind of protection a quarterback should have. Part of that is him being able to stand in the face of it and make decisions. That's part of playing that position."

*Del Rio said although he understands frustration with a 3-8 record, "We continue to fight. We will continue to fight and compete and look forward to playing good football going forward. That's what we're after and that's what we continue to work for and that won't change. . . .  All I can say is the coaches and players are working hard to put out a good product. It doesn't always turn out the way you want it, but we're giving everything we have right now. . . . There's not a lack of effort. There's not lack of heart, there's not a lack of determination. We're just not making enough plays to win right now."

*Del Rio said the responsibility for seven sacks allowed was on both the quarterbacks and the offensive line. Texans linebacker Conner Barwin set a franchise record with four sacks, with Gabbert being sacked six times and McCown being sacked once. "It was a combination," Del Rio said. "I thought that when I saw it live, and when I saw the tape, it verified it. There were a couple of examples of us needing to get rid of the ball and a couple of examples of the protection breaking down."

*Del Rio said reserve running back Deji Karim "has not been as effective for us this year as really we need him to be." Karim has rushed for 124 yards on 61 carries and has averaged 23.9 yards per kickoff return. "I can't put my finger on it, but we have not been able to get him going at all offensively, and really special teams-wise as well."

*Del Rio addressed Lewis, who has struggled at times with drops this season. Lewis, a Pro Bowl selection last season, dropped a second-quarter pass while wide open in the left corner of the end zone. "I'd like to think that we would work through that by now and we had that figured out," Del Rio said. "We've had some moments where the ball was there with an opportunity to get a touchdown. Yesterday may have been the most obvious of all of them. It's tough."

*Del Rio lauded the defense, currently ranked fourth in the NFL. Playing without five defensive starters – linebacker Clint Session, defensive end Matt Roth, cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox and defensive end Terrance Knighton – the Jaguars held the Texans to 88 yards rushing, 70 below their season average. Houston did not score in the second half. Del Rio said defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, defensive end Leger Douzable, linebacker Russell Allen and cornerbacks Ashton Youboty and Will Middleton played well in starting roles. "I thought we played well defensively Sunday short-handed," Del Rio said. "These guys stepped up and became starters and played big. They did a nice job."

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