Jaguars 31, Dolphins 26
MIAMI (AP)—Daunte Culpepper’s teammates slapped him on the back as he came out of the game—the only blows the Dolphins’ new quarterback would absorb in his brief Miami debut.
Culpepper settled for one 2-yard completion, while the Jacksonville Jaguars completed four touchdown passes of 50 yards or more to beat Miami 31-26 in the exhibition opener for both teams Saturday night.
Backup David Garrard connected on scores of 62 and 55 yards for the Jaguars, whose three quarterbacks netted 321 yards passing.
Culpepper tested his surgically repaired knee by playing one series, throwing two passes and directing his new team to a field goal.
“It felt great,” he said. “You get those first little jitters out after the first play, and you’re back into the game situation and game mold. It felt good to get my feet wet a little bit.”
Miami’s other new quarterback, Joey Harrington, completed his first pass to Randy McMichael for an 18-yard touchdown. Harrington later fumbled twice, bobbling a snap that the Jaguars’ Tony Williams recovered to set up a field goal.
“We did some good things, and we did some first-game things,” Harrington said.
Jacksonville’s first-team offense sputtered until Miami began substituting on defense. The Jaguars’ Byron Leftwich, playing for the first time since a broken ankle sidelined him for the final five games last season, threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Matt Jones.
“We didn’t start very well,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “We settled down a little bit at the end of the half and got some things going and looked a little bit better.”
Chad Owens, battling for a roster spot with the Jaguars, beat the Dolphins deep to catch a 62-yard touchdown pass. Second-round draft pick Maurice Jones-Drew caught a short pass from Garrard and wove through the secondary to complete a 55-yard TD.
Miami’s first-round pick, safety Jason Allen, was on the field for Jacksonville’s first three touchdown completions. He played only four days after ending a 10-day holdout.
The Dolphins mounted a strong pass rush against Leftwich and knocked him down several times, but Culpepper never came close to absorbing a hit. While he has yet to miss a practice in training camp, the game was his first exposure to contact since a knee injury ended his 2005 season with the Minnesota Vikings last October.
“I had a vision of seeing myself being ready for this first preseason game from the time I got hurt,” Culpepper said. “It was very important to me to go out and show I’m ready to play.”
Culpepper took six snaps, four of which were running plays. He missed Chris Chambers open over the middle on a short pattern and hit McMichael for 2 yards on third-and-7. Olindo Mare then kicked a 52-yard field goal.
Harrington played the rest of the first half and finished 10-for-19 for 99 yards.
Leftwich, who threw only five interceptions last season, was picked off on the Jaguars’ second series by Eddie Jackson. Two plays later, Harrington threw to McMichael in the end zone for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Leftwich played most of the first half and finished 6-for-12 for 100 yards. He connected on a long pass to Jones, who beat Dolphins newcomer Will Allen for a score in the second quarter.
“We have a lot of work to do on offense, but it was great to get that much work,” Leftwich said.
He was replaced by Garrard, who went 6-for-11 for 172 yards.
With Josh Scobee sidelined by a leg strain, Seth Marler did all the place-kicking for the Jaguars and made a 21-yard field goal. Jacksonville re-signed him this week.
Undrafted rookie Marcus Vick, a former Virginia Tech quarterback trying to make the transition to receiver, caught two passes from Lemon for 12 yards.
Dolphins DE Jason Taylor, limited in practice this week because of a sore back, was among those not dressing. … Jaguars rookie third-string DB Jamaal Fudge had a sack and 11 tackles, eight of them unassisted.