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Next cornerback up . . . again

Posted Dec 26, 2011

Secondary will regroup again with Youboty on injured reserve.

With or without him, Ashton Youboty said the approach remains the same.

Youboty, who started the last five games at cornerback for the Jaguars after being acquired in November, won’t play in the regular-season finale. On Monday, the sixth-year veteran became the 10th member of the Jaguars’ secondary currently on the season-ending injured reserve list.

It has, Youbouty said, been a whirlwind few weeks for the secondary.

But through that whirlwind, the players available have taken pride in being ready when needed, and Youboty said that won’t change in his absence.

“These guys have one more game to go prove what they can do,” Youboty said Monday afternoon as the Jaguars (4-11) prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts (2-13) at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

“They have the opportunity now.”

Youboty’s hamstring injury wasn’t the only injury issue in the secondary at Tennessee Saturday. The starter across from him, Kevin Rutland, was stepped on during pre-game warm-ups. With Rutland out, David Jones and Morgan Trent finished the game at cornerback.

Jones was re-signed December 3 and Trent joined the team November 30.

“We don’t see it as a drop-off when somebody new is in the game,” Rutland said. “It’s just the way it is. We keep rolling.”

Rutland and Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker each said Monday they expected Rutland to practice and be available Sunday.

“We have guys here who are available to step up and play for us,” Tucker said.

With defensive end Matt Roth (concussion) being placed on injured reserve, the Jaguars now have 25 players on the list, and no area has been hit harder than the secondary.

Cornerback has been hit particularly hard.

Not only did the Jaguars lose starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox in November, they lost third corner Will Middleton soon thereafter. Cornerbacks Rod Issac, T.J. Heath and Youboty also are on injured reserve, as are safeties Courtney Greene, Chris Prosinksi, Terrell Whitehead and Darcel McBath.

Jones, who spent last season with the Jaguars, was placed on injured reserve in early September, and released the following week. He has played in four games since being re-signed.

“Everybody has predictions, but you never plan to get hurt,” Jones said. “At the same time, you have injuries in any sport. It’s one of those things that happens. There have been a lot of guys in and out, and the defense has still played at a high level. It’s a credit to the coaches here, and a credit to the guys who have come here from various places.

“Things happen Sunday in and Sunday out. You can be the fourth guy on the depth chart or the first, and you see it happen – guys on every team step in and do the job.”

Also on Monday:

*With one regular-season game remaining, Tucker said he remains impressed with the improvement of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert completed 21 of 42 passes for 198 yards with no touchdowns and an interception Saturday. “Looking back at his development, I think the arrow is up,” Tucker said. “He’s improving and he’s an ascending player.” Tucker said Gabbert’s improvement has come in terms of rhythm in the pocket, command of the offense and knowledge of what he is seeing on the field. Tucker said Gabbert also is gaining confidence and playing faster. “I see his body language improving,” Tucker said. “I see him improving physically and also mentally.”

*Rutland, a rookie free agent, said he wasn’t sure who stepped on him in pre-game warm-ups, but said he believed it was either Youboty or Trent. “I tried to play it off and said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine,’’’ Rutland said. “I didn’t want to say anything at first, but it got to the point where I had to say something. From that point, it was a decision not to go.” Rutland said he couldn’t plant on the foot enough. “I didn’t want to go out for one series and have something bad happen,” Rutland said. “We decided to play it safe.”

*Tucker said he remains pleased with the effort of Jaguars players. “I can only tell by what I see on the field during practice and the games, but I see guys are playing hard,” he said. “The effort is there. The intensity and focus is there. To get better, we obviously need to improve our execution. The want-to is there, but we all know that can only go so far. The execution is what gets you over the top and that’s where we need to improve the most.”

*Tucker said motivating players has not been hard during four games as interim coach. “That’s the easiest part of my job, is to keep these guys upbeat,” Tucker said. “They play hard. They love to play football. They have a tremendous amount of pride. You can put the ball down in a parking lot and these guys will play. That’s not an issue.”

*Tucker said while much media focus this week will be on the Colts being able to clinch the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 Draft with a loss, that won’t be a concern for the Jaguars. “The focus here is going to be on our team and our preparation and our execution,” Tucker said. “That’s not going to be part of our thinking. We’re not going to talk about that.”

*Defensive end Aaron Kampman underwent surgery to “get some things cleaned up” in his knee, Tucker said. Kampman missed the first five games with the aftereffects of a 2010 knee injury, then played the next three games. He then sustained a hamstring injury and did not play again after that.

*Tucker said right tackle Guy Whimper (knee) will be questionable this week, though he said he expects Whimper will be able to participate in practice on some level this week. Whimper missed Saturday’s loss in Tennessee, with rookie Cameron Bradfield starting in his place. Tucker also said more will be known about the status of safety Dwight Lowery Wednesday. Lowery missed Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury.

*Tucker called finishing on a high note in the final game for Wayne and Delores Weaver as Jaguars owners “very, very important.” Weaver is expected to close on the sale of the team to Shahid Khan next Wednesday. “Every team is different,” Tucker said. “Every situation is different, but you always want to finish on a high note. You’re looking to gain momentum and gain confidence in what you’re doing, whether it’s early in the year or late in the year. You definitely want to finish on a high note.”

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