JagNation Training Camp Preview: QB

As most everyone knows, quarterback is one of the only positions on the football field in which substitution is not a good thing. JagNation outlines the quarterback candidates going into training camp.

In 2006, the Jaguars had the unfortunate pleasure of playing three quarterbacks during meaningful games, which led to a quarterback controversy amongst many fans, and therefore a media circus. Jack Del Rio and the rest of the coaching staff saw this issue manifesting into 2007, so they acted decisively, and named Byron Leftwich as the starting quarterback for the 2007 season without an open competition. This decision was questioned by many fans and media outlets, but Del Rio did the right thing for his football team to minimize the distractions. Leftwich has beaten out Garrard and Gray for the last four seasons in training camp, it is more than likely that a healthy Leftwich would beat them out again. Garrard had his opportunity to put a stranglehold on the job last season, he played his way into a permanent backup role.

Byron Leftwich
Byron Leftwich is entering his fifth season in the NFL, all with the Jaguars after being selected seventh overall in the 2003 draft. When Leftwich is healthy and playing, he has one of the strongest arms in the entire NFL. Leftwich has the ability to scan the entire football field and can make any throw. Leftwich's arm strength and accuracy can help make up for some deficiencies at the wide receiver position, which the Jaguars will hopefully not have to contend with as much in '07. Leftwich will hang in the pocket to the very last second, trying to let plays develop, and is fearless in terms of taking hits. 2007 is a make or break year for Leftwich as he heads into the final year of his contract. He must stay on the field and perform well if he's going to earn another contract in Jacksonville, or in some other NFL city.

Strengths:
Toughness, intelligence, strong arm, ability to scan the field.

Weaknesses:
Health (missed 16 of the last 22 regular season games), mobility.

Best case/ Worst case scenarios:
Leftwich has the physical ability to lead the Jaguars deep into the playoffs, assuming he can stay upright. Worst case scenario would be that Leftwich gets injured again and his career in Jacksonville would likely be over.



David Garrard
David Garrard has been with the Jaguars since 2002 when they made him a fourth-round pick. Garrard is currently the second-string quarterback, but he has received extended playing time over the last two seasons, due to Leftwich's ankle injury which caused him to have surgery. Garrard has great mobility, a strong arm, and an ability to extend plays when the pocket breaks down. If teams don't have a chance to game plan for Garrard, he can change a game in a positive way, and sometimes plays like a poor man's Donovan McNabb. Garrard had a chance to lock up the starting job that he so coveted last season, but he played horribly down the stretch, and cemented his status as a backup quarterback.

Strengths:
Mobility, athleticism, good arm strength.

Weaknesses:
Can't go through progressions, turnover prone, constantly makes poor decisions/can't be trusted.

Best case/ Worst case scenarios:
Garrard finally learns how to read defenses and gets past his first progression. Worst case scenario is that the last three games of '06 is typical of his talent level and he gets demoted to either third string or released.



Quinn Gray
Quinn Gray has been on the Jaguars for the last three seasons, after spending a season on the practice squad. Gray played for less than one half in '06, in the season finale against Kansas City due to Garrard being benched for ineffectiveness. In his limited playing time, Gray showed an ability to move around in and out of the pocket, went through progressions, and showed pretty good arm strength.

Strengths:
Hard worker, good pocket presence, solid arm, mobility

Weaknesses:
Forces the football, takes chances

Best case/ Worst case scenarios:
Gray limits his mistakes in practice and in the preseason, and takes control of the backup quarterback position. Worst case scenario is that Gray continues to make mistakes and the Jaguars don't retain him as he's a free agent after '07.



Lester Ricard
Lester Ricard is an undrafted free agent that the Jaguars signed from Tulane University. Ricard has good size and athleticism, but he will have his work cut out for him if he's going to make the Jaguars roster, especially as a rookie.

Strengths:
Solid arm, mobility.

Weaknesses:
Accuracy and consistency, hasn't played much football.

Best case/ Worst case scenarios:
Ricard impresses the coaches in camp and preseason and finds a spot on the practice squad. Worst case scenario is that Ricard is a camp cut.



If the Jaguars are going to keep their streak of three consecutive non-losing seasons, coupled with their second playoff appearance in three years alive, they are going to have to receive a better effort from the quarterback position in '07 than they did in '06. Byron Leftwich was playing the best football of his career right before he went down with the broken ankle in week eleven of the '05 season. Since then, Leftwich hasn't been nearly as effective, mostly due to the bad ankle. Leftwich had surgery on the foot last season, and has said to be 100% entering this season, and he needs to be, as he is playing out the final year of his contract. If the Jaguars are going to advance in the playoffs, which this team is capable of, it will be on the right arm of Byron Leftwich.



Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to various national news outlets. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

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