4:05 PM ET, October 28, 2007
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Thanks to an injury-prone incumbent, David Garrard got plenty of opportunities to lead the Jacksonville Jaguars when he was a backup quarterback. Now Garrard's the starter, and his misfortune has given Quinn Gray a chance.
With Garrard sidelined, the Jaguars will give Gray his first NFL start when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday that Garrard has a high ankle sprain, and could be sidelined up to a month. Garrard, who took over as the starter this season after Jacksonville (4-2) released Bryon Leftwich, was hurt in the second quarter of a 29-7 loss to Indianapolis on Monday night.
Garrard made 17 starts the previous three seasons for Leftwich, who was released in August after four injury-filled seasons with Jacksonville. Del Rio, who relied so heavily on Garrard when Leftwich went down, will now turn to Gray.
"We've got to rally around Quinn," Del Rio said.
Gray, in his third NFL season, struggled Monday in his second extensive playing stint over the last two years. He completed 9 of 24 passes for 56 yards, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once.
"He's intelligent, has a quick release and a strong arm," Del Rio told the Jaguars' official Web site. "He hasn't been in this situation before. We're dealing with some unknowns. We don't want him to carry the team. We want him to be a good distributor and play his role."
Jacksonville has the NFL's third-ranked rushing offense, averaging 148.5 yards per game, and would like to rely on Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor even more with Garrard out. The Jaguars abandoned their smash-mouth philosophy early Monday, getting most of their 117 rushing yards in the second half.
Jones-Drew, though, was limited in practice Friday and is listed as questionable for this game with a sprained left knee suffered with about a minute to play against Indianapolis.
Tampa Bay (4-3), meanwhile, desperately needs a boost for its running game. The Buccaneers are averaging just 57.0 yards on the ground in three games since Carnell "Cadillac" Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Last Sunday, Tampa Bay had its highest rushing total since losing Williams, gaining 124 yards in a 23-16 loss to Detroit.
Michael Bennett, a former 1,000-yard runner with Minnesota, had 22 yards on three carries against the Lions and his role is expected to expand as he becomes more familiar with the offense. Bennett was acquired in a trade with Kansas City last week.
Tampa Bay also may be in the market for receivers with Michael Clayton nursing a right ankle injury, and primary kick and punt returner Mark Jones out for the season with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. Clayton, the team's No. 3 receiver, is uncertain for Sunday's game.
"It's frustrating," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "It's not major league baseball. You can't make a trade, put a guy in your lineup and say go play right field and hit fourth. No disrespect to baseball, but you've got to know the formations, you've got to know snap count, you've got to know the audible system, the 2-minute package. All the things you learn in training camp, (offseason workouts) and things of that nature."
The Bucs' offense has pressed on, amassing a season-high 422 yards against the Lions. Much of their success is due to Jeff Garcia's play.
Garcia completed 18 straight passes in the first half against Detroit, setting a franchise record for consecutive completions in a game. He has thrown 270 passes without an interception for the longest active streak in the NFL.
"It's hard to imagine him playing much better," Gruden said. "Hopefully we can get the full supporting cast healthy and ready to go here for the second half of the season to help him."
Garcia has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,504 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception for a 106.2 quarterback rating. This will be his first start against Jacksonville.
The Bucs and Jaguars haven't played since Nov. 30, 2003, when Jacksonville won 17-10 at home. The Jaguars are 2-1 all-time against the Bucs.
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The Jaguars are coming off a short week after losing to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night and can't afford another loss that would drop them even further behind in the AFC South. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are a half-game behind the Carolina Panthers in the loss column and want to follow a loss at Detroit with a win this week. Both teams depend on their defenses to dominate the opponents but from different perspectives. Jacksonville is a huge, physical team while Tampa Bay is quick and athletic. Each team is also getting good play from its quarterback -- neither Jacksonville's David Garrard or Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia has thrown an interception this season -- though there is some question about the status of Garrard after he sprained his ankle against the Colts.
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|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||JAX|
|Rush Yds Allowed||JAX|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Jacksonville leads 2-0|
|Nov 30, 2003||JAX 17, TB 10|