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It's no big secret around the NFL, if you want to stop Drew Bledsoe the best way to do it is to pressure him, especially up the middle. The Jacksonville defense has Bledsoe on the brain.

"We know basically how Drew is," Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer said. "When he was with Buffalo during Jack's [Del Rio] first year [2003], he came in here and picked us apart. We know he can play."

The Jaguars also are aware of Bledsoe's other side - his penchant for bad decision-making under pressure. In seven losses last season, Bledsoe threw for a little more than a touchdown (1.14) and nearly two interceptions (1.71) per game, and he was sacked more than three times (3.57) per outing.

Bledsoe also fumbled at least once in six of the seven losses and twice in three of them. Dallas' offensive line gave up 50 sacks in 2005, a 14-sack increase from the previous season.


Those stats pretty much say it all. But, there is hope from the preseason that Dallas has made some corrections to protect Bledsoe. The Jags agree.
"They've got a solid o-line, so we haven't seen anything on film that will make us think, 'Hey, this is going to be an easy day at the office,'" Jaguars defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said. "We know if we allow Drew to sit in the pocket, he's going to pick us apart."

The flip side of that coin is that the Jags aren't exactly the best at protecting their QB, Byron Leftwich, either.

The Jaguars tried to beef up their offensive line during the off-season by signing former first-round draft picks Mike Williams and Stockar McDougle. But Williams reinjured his back early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve. McDougle provided little competition and was relegated to a backup role.

Leftwich's protection may have other problems, too. Not only did five-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith retire, leaving Leftwich with an inexperienced group of receivers, but starting fullback Greg Jones tore a knee ligament in the pre-season and is out for the year.

And Kyle Brady, once considered to be the best run-blocking tight end in the league, is nearly 35 years old and could lose playing time to George Wrighster and first-round draft pick Marcedes Lewis.


The Jags front four have been lauded many times as among the best in football, but don't forget that the Dallas defense is also pretty darn good. And our o-line did pretty well in the preseason at protecting Bledsoe, the Jags o-line didn't fare as well.
Jacksonville's line didn't fare much better this pre-season, allowing Leftwich to be sacked seven times in three games.

Todd Archer echoes the theme of protecting Bledsoe up the middle as a key to our success.

When the Cowboys signed Drew Bledsoe last year, they made a point of mentioning they had to be stout on the interior of the offensive line. Jacksonville brings Marcus Stroud and John Henderson to the table, perhaps the best defensive tackle pairing in the league. Not only are they factors in the run, but they can cause problems in the passing game. Center Andre Gurode will be tested.