By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Quarterback Mark Brunell admittedly does not show much of a sentimental side in public, and is playing down the significance of facing his former franchise when Jacksonville comes to FedEx Field on Sunday. But the afternoon will no doubt be special to him, as he reconnects with people he once shared a daily bond with in helping take the Jaguars to the cusp of the Super Bowl.
This game comes amid what has already been a topsy-turvy season for Brunell. He is learning a new offense and struggled the first two weeks, then set an NFL record with 22 straight completions in Sunday's victory at Houston. That performance brought a reprieve from some of the criticism he had been hearing, and now he is preparing to face a dominant defense in another important game -- against an organization that was once the fulcrum of his life.
"There's quite a few guys I know there, and a lot of staff," Brunell said. "I look forward to seeing some old friends, some old teammates, but this is a big game for me, personally, simply because we want to be 2-2; 2-2 is very different from 1-3, and hopefully we get this win. It will be difficult, and we've got some tough work ahead."
Brunell spent the bulk of his career with Jacksonville, establishing himself as a starter there, going to the Pro Bowl and leading the franchise to the AFC championship game. This will be his first time facing the Jaguars, his team from 1995 to 2003. He said he is still friendly with tight end Kyle Brady and tailback Fred Taylor as well as the equipment and training staffs. Brunell also served as a veteran presence around young quarterback Byron Leftwich during his last season in Jacksonville.
Should the Redskins falter offensively again this weekend, Brunell figures to hear plenty of detractors. But, in his 14th season, he has learned to cope with that.
"That's part of the business, whether it's here or Jacksonville, or wherever you're at," Brunell said. "I understood that last week a lot of things were said, and last week I tried to stay away from it and focus on the Texans. It's part of the deal, but it's not a lot of fun because it doesn't just affect me, it affects my family and it affects this team."Frost's Stock Rising
Punter Derrick Frost is coming off two of the best games of his career and has put up some of the best numbers in the league. Frost, who is no longer handling kickoff duties after struggling in Week 1, ranks second in the league with a 49.3 average per punt, and his net average of 40.1 yards is eighth in the NFL. Frost's job was in jeopardy late in training camp, when his erratic performances in preseason games led the Redskins to try out outside punters. But Coach Joe Gibbs has long supported the third-year pro, and has raved about him after the last two games.
"Derrick was outstanding," Gibbs said.Jacksonville Wins the Stats Battle
Jacksonville may have lost its first game Sunday to undefeated Indianapolis, but the Jaguars played well enough to win. They held the ball for 40 minutes, kept Peyton Manning from completing even 50 percent of his passes, outrushed the Colts, 191-63, and ran 17 more plays than their opponent. The Colts scored on a punt return, however, and won, 21-14. Jacksonville is allowing a paltry 3.2 yards per carry, holding opposing quarterbacks (Drew Bledsoe, Ben Roethlisberger and Manning) to a 54.4 passer rating with just two touchdowns and five interceptions. . . . Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs said he looks forward to catching up with Jacksonville wide receiver Reggie Williams before the game. Williams attended the University of Washington when Springs was playing for Seattle, and Williams used to hang out at Springs's house. There will not be much trash talking now, however, with Springs not expected to play while recovering from groin and abdominal injuries.