It's been kind of a tumultuous off-season for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. Last season ended on a four game losing streak after sitting poised for a playoff position at 7-5, he's come under a lot of fire during the off-season. From the owner of the football team Wayne Weaver publicly stating that Garrard needs to do more in the off-season, similar to what Peyton Manning does, to his head coach Jack Del Rio stating he was a second tier quarterback in an interview on the Jim Rome Show.
David Garrard knows what kind of pressure he's under and it comes with the position. Quarterback generally gets more credit and more blame than it deserves. Garrard was asked Sunday after the morning session of mini-camp if he was doing the "little" things owner Wayne Weaver was referring to earlier in the year. "Absolutely. He wants the best out of everybody.", Garrard told reporters, "He wants me to raise my game to a higher level, but then me raising my game and raising everybody else’s game to a higher level".
Raising his game is something David Garrard needs to do this upcoming off-season, and not just for himself. It's a pivotal year for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a whole. David Garrard told reporters that he took Del Rio's criticism of him as not being an elite quarterback as a bit of a challenge, "I think any time any man is challenged it’s going to bring something out of you. It should. If another man is going to challenge you and you are really a man then you’re going to rise to the occasion. For them to say what they said I take nothing more than just a challenge to myself. I want to be better. I want to be greater."
With the challenge presented to David Garrard by both the owner and head coach, it seems he's taken it in stride. By all accounts he's moved forward in the off-season working on things. Earlier in the off-season he admitted he hadn't been watching as much film as he should be. "Not as much as I will be moving forward," Garrard said when asked about how much film work he will be doing this season compared to season's past. Garrard told reporters after practice that he's been taking home film more often than in past, and working with his receivers on and on off the field, even when coaches aren't present.
David Garrard had a bit of an inconsistent mini-camp over the weekend, but that really shouldn't be much of a cause for concern. It was clear to me during his question and answer session at the podium after practice that he's ready to take the challenge presented by Wayne Weaver and Jack Del Rio head on. He was peppered with questions by reporters, no doubt looking for a response, but David kept his composure and made it a point to let everyone know he's taking the necessary steps. "He was putting a challenge out there and that’s okay. I’m a man. You challenge me and I’m going to step up and do what I can to meet that challenge," David Garrard told reporters as he was asked about Del Rio's comments and if they took him off guard.
The front office showed a lot of confidence in the offensive side of the football this off-season, by only drafting a single offensive skill position in runningback Deji Karim. It especially showed confidence in David Garrard by passing on Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen who fell right into the Jaguars proverbial lap at pick 10 overall. They're clearly giving him one last chance to prove himself and to everyone that it wasn't a mistake to give him a $60 million contract after the 2007 season. It looks like the Jaguars are playing with some interior offensive line positions to attempt to shore up a line that has given up 42 sacks the last two seasons. Keeping David Garrard upright can go a long way in improving his game and to output of the offense, "I’m expecting a lot out of my offensive line and I know they are expecting a lot of me. One of our things this year is keeping our sack total down and our goal is to stay in single digits.", said David Garrard on Sunday.
It seems Garrard has made the necessary changes this off-season that he was challenged to make, the only question now is if it will translate on to the field. Mini-camp this weekend was a chance to get back into the flow of football and shake the rust off. What happens the remainder of OTA's and training camp remains to be seen, but if Garrard continues to apply what he's been doing in the off-season so far, it should work out for the better.