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Rookie QB Ragone struggles in debut

12/7/2003

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Playing with a rookie quarterback and
running back, the Houston Texans failed to put together drives and
were shut out 27-0 by Jacksonville on Sunday.

Question on the Texans: What offensive options does a team have when it's without its top two QBs and top RB?
The Texans have to start focusing on special teams and its defense. The play of the special teams is vital to the success of the offense because it gives the team a chance to play with a short field. Also the defense has to start playing tough and asserting its influence on games. Both units need to score points to make up for Houston's lack of offense.

Question on the Jags: All things considered, what's been your assessment of Del Rio this season?
Early in the season the Jaguars struggled mightily, but the past few weeks they have played very competitively. They're getting good runs from RB Fred Taylor and consistent play from QB Byron Leftwich. Also WR Jimmy Smith has done a great job giving Leftwich a great target as he learns the game. All in all, Del Rio has done a good job and has followed the lead of most of the new coaching hires with success in their initial seasons.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"David Ragone gave us everything he had," Texans coach Dom
Capers said of the rookie who filled in for injured Texans
quarterbacks David Carr and Tony Banks.

"We weren't able to get any drives going, but I am not going to
put it on Dave Ragone," Capers said. "There are 11 guys out there
and it was a combination of the Jaguars defense and our lack of
execution in a lot of areas."

"We wanted to be aggressive early and shut it down and make
life miserable for him," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said of
Ragone, who had his first NFL start Sunday. "Nothing is easy in
this league."

Tony Brackens had two sacks to help Jacksonville stifle
Houston's undermanned offense. The Jaguars (4-9) handed the
second-year Texans (5-8) their first shutout and pulled within one
game of Houston in the "race" for third place in the AFC South.

Brackens got his fifth and sixth sacks of the season. Fred
Taylor broke a late 62-yard run to finish with a season-high 163.
Jimmy Smith caught a 32-yard touchdown and Byron Leftwich threw for
194 yards to lift Jacksonville to its second straight victory.

The Texans, meanwhile, lost a good chance to put together the
first winning streak in the franchise's short history. It has taken
the Texans longer than any other NFL expansion team to put together
back-to-back wins. Thus far, the team's wins are typically followed
by big losses.

Coming off a win over Atlanta last week, Houston's hopes were
dashed when starting quarterback David Carr (shoulder) and running
back Domanick Davis (thigh) were scratched.

"I would like to sit here and say that David Carr and Domanick
Davis would have saved the day for us," Texans tight end Billy
Miller said. "But it would be tough rolling off my tongue. Those
two guys would have helped us, but don't get me wrong, they kicked
our butts."

Tony Hollings ran for 19 yards on 18 carries in Davis' place.
Ragone had a terrible first outing, going 11-for-23 for 71 yards
and an interception.

He failed to lead the Texans to a score, but did get one thing
some quarterbacks wait years for -- his first career reception. He
caught his own pass, which had been deflected by Marcus Stroud at
the line.

An on-the-ball scoreboard operator reacted by quickly flashing
Ragone's receiving stats on the big board. It was a welcome moment
of comic relief on a flat-feeling day at Alltel Stadium, where the
Jaguars had their worst home attendance in the team's nine-year
history.

Despite the lack of fan support, the Jaguars are shooting up the
NFL rankings. They came into the game ranked sixth in overall
defense, second in rushing, and both numbers are sure to improve
after the Jaguars allowed only 124 yards, 70 rushing.

The 124 yards were the second-fewest allowed in franchise
history. The record (53 yards) came in a 48-0 win over Cleveland on
Dec. 3, 2000. That was the game that essentially sealed the firing
of Chris Palmer, then coach of the Browns. Palmer also had a hand
in this one as offensive coordinator of the Texans.

Smith caught a long touchdown pass for the second straight week
to put the Jaguars ahead 7-0.

Taylor surpassed 100 yards for the fourth time in five games.
His 62-yard run in the fourth quarter set up LaBrandon Toefield's
first touchdown run for the 24-0 lead.

Leftwich completed 18 of 29 passes, a decent outing, but nothing
spectacular.

It was better than Ragone, though, who had more yards rushing
than passing (42-41) after the third quarter. In fact, with 51
yards rushing, Ragone outgained Hollings, who didn't break anything
longer than 5 yards on his 19 attempts.

"Maybe next time, I'll respond a little differently," Ragone
said. "It's kind of like growing pains."