Leftwich: Don't panic about Jaguars new offense

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback Byron Leftwich has a message for anyone watching Jacksonville's offense in the preseason: Don't panic.

Leftwich, who has thrown for 226 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games, is confident things will get better and points will come more often when the regular season begins.

"I understand everybody's concerns, but don't panic," Leftwich said Sunday. "This is not the time to panic -- in the preseason. It's too early to panic. Let us get out there a few games -- Week 3, Week 4 -- then judge us on what you really see. Once it all gets started, that's what we are.

"By the third or fourth game, that's going to be what we are. Everybody relax and let us get this thing rolling in Week 1 and we'll see what happens."

Leftwich missed 10 games last season because of an ankle injury and nearly lost his starting job. But coach Jack Del Rio stuck with the former first-round draft pick and gave him a new offensive coordinator and several new receivers.

The results were expected to be noticeable, especially since the Jaguars dedicated most of training camp and the preseason to fine-tuning the passing game.

But the new offense has looked a lot like the old one, which ranked 24th in the NFL in passing last season.

Leftwich has led the first-team unit to two touchdowns and a field goal in 14 preseason drives. Against first-team defenses, the Jaguars have scored just one touchdown -- on a drive kept alive by a roughing-the-passer penalty -- punted seven times and failed twice to convert on fourth downs.

"Everything's going to be OK," said Leftwich, who is entering the final year of his contract. "It doesn't matter if we win and play great in all four of these preseason games. It doesn't matter until Week 1.

"We wanted to play better than we played last week, but we didn't. We understand that when you don't play good in the preseason, you kind of get a mulligan. And we only have one more mulligan before we get ready to play in Week 1."

Leftwich was 6-of-16 for 67 yards against Green Bay on Thursday night. He overthrew speedy newcomer Dennis Northcutt on two deep routes and misfired several times while throwing off his back foot.

Backup David Garrard moved the second-team offense much better, finishing 6-of-7 for 97 yards. Both of his possessions ended in touchdowns.

Garrard is 29-of-37 for 379 yards in the preseason -- playing solely against backups. He has been sacked twice. Leftwich is 19-of-38 for 226 yards and has been sacked three times.

But Del Rio remains committed to Leftwich.

"Preseason is certainly not the time to try and draw conclusions," Del Rio said. "I caution people to not put too much stock in what's transpired in the preseason."

No one else in Jacksonville's locker room seemed concerned as the Jaguars (2-1) prepared to host Washington (2-1) in their preseason finale Thursday night.

"We are still working on things," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "These are new plays ... so obviously we are going to have kinks in the armor. Everything is going to be all right. It takes time."

Jones-Drew compared it to preparing to drive a new car across the country.

"You are not just going to go 80 mph when you first get it," he said. "It's going to fall apart. You want to warm it up and just keep testing it."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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