JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Byron Leftwich spent more than three quarters on the sideline Friday night, wearing his helmet, pacing back and forth and trying to stay loose by occasionally stretching, throwing and jumping up and down.
The nervousness ended as soon as he entered the game.
|Byron Leftwich overcomes a case of nerves to look sharp in leading the Jags to a victory in his NFL debut.(AP)|
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Leftwich showed a strong arm, good decision-making ability and lots of mobility -- everything the Jaguars (2-0) knew he had when they made him their quarterback of the future with the seventh overall pick in the draft.
Leftwich ended a 19-day holdout this week, practiced just two days and then played the final nine minutes of the second preseason game.
"Just because I wasn't here doesn't mean I wasn't studying," said Leftwich, who spent the holdout going between his new home in Jacksonville and a workout facility in Bradenton. "I did everything I had to do to prepare myself for this situation.
"I'm just happy the coaches had confidence in me to call those plays, knowing I would do the right thing with the football."
He was 7-of-10 passing for 84 yards and looked comfortable in the offense - even though he played with several players not expected to make the final roster.
He drove the Jaguars 70 yards on 10 plays in 3:11 for the game-winning score, a perfectly thrown corner pass to Donald Hayes. He tossed it over the cornerback, in front of the safety and into Hayes' outstretched arms.
Officials reviewed the play to make sure Hayes was in-bounds, but replays clearly showed it was a good catch.
"I'm not surprised he laid it in there," Hayes said. "He's shown that accuracy in the minicamps, and I knew he had been working out a lot."
Leftwich's final pass was his best and it was one of a handful of passes that showed why the Jags drafted him to eventually replace Mark Brunell, who didn't dress because coach Jack Del Rio wanted to give backup David Garrard a start to see how he would do against first-string competition.
Leftwich entered the game to loud applause with 9:31 to play. He called an audible and completed his second pass, scrambled for a long gain that was called back by a penalty and connected on a couple of long out patterns.
"Who needs training camp, right?" Del Rio said, joking. "That was pretty special. He didn't disappoint, that's for sure."
Leftwich's play made up for a rather lackluster game by the Jags' starters. The first-team offense did little against the vaunted defense of the Dolphins (0-2), managing just one first down in three series. And the first-team defense allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for the second consecutive week.
But once Miami's defensive starters sat down, Garrard stepped up. With Brunell watching and Leftwich waiting, Garrard had a strong showing.
He completed 10 of 12 passes for 115 yards in the second quarter and finished 12-of-17 for 135 yards.
A fourth-round pick in 2002, Garrard was once considered the team's quarterback of the future. But with Leftwich's arrival, his future has been cast in doubt.
Nonetheless, he showed he can play. He led the team on an 80-yard scoring drive -- capped by LaBrandon Toefield's 2-yard run with three seconds to play -- that cut Miami's lead to 13-10 at halftime.
Miami's Jay Fiedler, who sat out the preseason opener against Tampa Bay because of back spasms, looked sharp in his debut.
He finished 7-of-11 for 53 yards with a touchdown on three possessions. On Miami's second series, Fiedler capped a 47-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Williams. Fiedler was 6-of-6 for 42 yards on the nine-play drive.
"I felt physically great," Fiedler said. "Overall, I thought I played pretty well. I was comfortable out there and we put some points on the board."
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved