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Mr. Laz
10-13-2004, 10:32 AM
Posted on Wed, Oct. 13, 2004

Chiefs lock on Leftwich

Team focused on silencing Jaguars' young-gun QB

By IVAN CARTER The Kansas City Star


They are the NFL's young guns, the new wave or whatever other label you want to put on them.

Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich, whose strong arm, large frame and quick release have drawn comparisons to Dan Marino, and Atlanta's Michael Vick, whose left-handed throwing motion and quick feet have drawn comparisons to Steve Young, are on deck for the Kansas City Chiefs.

To climb out of their 1-3 hole and be in position to really make some noise on Oct. 31 when the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning come to town, the Chiefs must limit the highlights and add to the growing pains being experienced by Leftwich and Vick.

First up is the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Leftwich, who was selected seventh overall last season by the Jaguars and almost immediately dubbed the team's quarterback of the present and future by head coach Jack Del Rio.

Leftwich, who ranks just ahead of the Chiefs' Trent Green among AFC quarterbacks with a rating of 81.1, will make his 19th start on Sunday when the Chiefs and Jaguars meet at Alltel Stadium.

Leftwich has shown enough in his first 18 starts to gain the attention of Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil.

“Strong-armed guy,” Vermeil said. “I mean he can throw it, like they say, he can throw it through a car wash without getting it wet. When he bears down to throw that thing, it whistles. You can see it on the videotape. There is velocity there and sometimes the balls are dropped because they're traveling so fast and so hard.”

The Chiefs had success stopping one young quarterback in Baltimore's Kyle Boller a week ago Monday night but were burned by another in Houston's David Carr during a week three loss to the Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

Like Carr, who was taken with first overall pick in 2002, Leftwich came out of college with major expectations strapped to his strong right arm.

After following the Jets' Chad Pennington by tearing it up in Marshall's spread offense, Leftwich was tabbed by Jacksonville to replace the most popular player in Jaguar history, Mark Brunell.

So far, Leftwich has tasted success and failure. Leftwich owns an 8-10 record as a starter overall and helped Jacksonville get off to a good start this season by leading a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive at Buffalo.

Leftwich has completed an impressive 63 percent of his passes but has matched his five touchdown passes with four interceptions. Jacksonville's 34-21 loss at San Diego last week illustrated life with Leftwich.

After falling behind early, the Jaguars were forced to ditch Fred Taylor and the running game. As a result, Leftwich attempted 54 passes while working primarily out of the shotgun. He completed 36 passes for a career-high 357 yards and a score but was intercepted twice and sacked three times.

In the last two games, both losses, Leftwich has thrown for 675 yards.

“I would rather go five for eight for 40 yards and a win than do what I did (against San Diego),” Leftwich said. “The key to all this is winning on Sundays. The only number I care about is the scoreboard.”

The key for the Chiefs will be stopping Taylor and the Jacksonville ground attack before cutting loose and getting after Leftwich.

Not only is Leftwich still learning the game, but his favorite target, five-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith, is offset by a pair of rookie wide receivers in Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford. The offensive line has also experienced protection issues, allowing Leftwich to be sacked 10 times.

When forced into a pass-only mode, Leftwich has been victimized by poor route running, dropped passes and protection breakdowns, issues reflected by Jacksonville's 33.3 percent third down conversion percentage.

Del Rio's goal on Sunday will be to balance the ground game with the passing attack so Leftwich won't be put in a position where he has to win the game all by himself.

“Whatever it takes to win the game but I think it's proven that, when you throw the ball 55-60 times a game, the winning percentage goes way down,” Del Rio said.

Ultimately, winning will be the only thing that endears Leftwich to a Jaguars' fan base which was teased by a run of success during the late 1990s, including a pair of trips to the AFC Championship game, but never tasted a Super Bowl.

The Jaguars play in one of the NFL's smallest markets and despite this season's 3-0 start, Sunday's game against the Chiefs hasn't sold out. If the football fans of Jacksonville are waiting to buy into something, Vermeil believes they have that something in Leftwich.

“I think he's got a chance to be something special,” Vermeil said. “We're going to have to play a very good game against him to prevent that from happening.”

Ebolapox
10-13-2004, 10:35 AM
wait, I thought this was a draft article a few years ago when many thought they'd trade up to draft leftwich

:sulk:

-EB-