Jags wins backup battle

Published: Friday, September 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 11:37 p.m.
ATLANTA - Charles Sharon caught a pair of touchdown passes and the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Atlanta Falcons 20-17 Thursday night in a game that meant little beyond settling a few fringe spots on each roster.
Neither team used any starters beyond its kickers, turning this game over to the guys on the bubble.
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio was clearly spooked by last week's preseason game against Tampa Bay. Fullback Greg Jones tore up a knee and was lost for the season, while leading tackler Mike Peterson hobbled off with a knee injury that might keep him out of the Sept. 10 season opener against Dallas.
Del Rio said all week that his starters would get little if any playing time. "It ended up being not at all," the coach said at halftime.
Falcons coach Jim Mora planned to use most of his starters in the first half, but abruptly changed his mind during warmups. He insisted it had nothing to do with Jacksonville's lineup.
"It was just a gut decision," Mora said. "We've got many young players on our roster that we need to see more of and this is our final preseason game."
So, while high-profile players such as Michael Vick and Byron Leftwich watched from the safety of the sidelines, the game was turned over to a bunch of no-names who will either make it as second- and third-stringers or get their pink slips this weekend.
"We are ready to get to the regular season with our starters," Del Rio said. "We have some decisions to make on the back end of the roster."
The Falcons (2-2) took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field for their only touchdown. Vick's backup, Matt Schaub, looked especially sharp with four straight completions for 52 yards, the last a 15-yard touchdown to fullback Fred McCrary.
Schaub also broke off a 7-yard run, giving him a hand in all but 21 yards on the nine-play, 80-yard drive. Those went to rookie Jerious Norwood, who ran the ball four times.
A starter finally got on the field after McCrary's touchdown. Michael Koenen, who has won the kicking job, put through the extra point.
Jacksonville (3-1) also used its regular kicker. Josh Scobee booted a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 43-yarder in the third. In between, backup quarterback David Garrard tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Sharon, an undrafted rookie from Bowling Green.
Koenen made it 8-for-8 in the preseason when he connected from 44 yards, pulling the Falcons to 13-10 with just under 13 minutes remaining.
But the Jaguars, guided by third-string quarterback Quinn Gray, finished off the Falcons with a nine-play, 69-yard possession. Sharon caught an 8-yarder and slipped into the end zone with 6:52 left.
By that time, most of the fans at the Georgia Dome had headed for home, disappointed they wouldn't get to see Vick or hardly any other recognizable names.
Those who left missed local favorite D.J. Shockley, the Falcons' third-string QB, taking advantage of perhaps his last playing time this season by throwing a 13-yard TD to Kevin Youngblood.

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