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Opportunity at the corner

Posted Dec 3, 2011

Kevin Rutland likely to make first NFL start at corner for Jaguars Monday.

For Kevin Rutland, the opportunity is now.

And although the circumstances under which the Jaguars’ rookie cornerback likely will make his first NFL start Monday came about very suddenly and just as unexpectedly, Rutland and his teammates in the Jaguars’ secondary agree on a couple of important issues.

He has to be ready for the opportunity, and there is every confidence he will be.

 “I’m just as ready as any starter has been in the past,” Rutland said Saturday afternoon as the Jaguars (3-8) prepared to play the San Diego Chargers (4-7) at EverBank Field Monday at 8:30 p.m.

“That’s just because of the way coaches prepare players around here. They don’t prepare you as a backup player. They prepare you as if tomorrow you’ll be in the game. That’s what we’ve done all year long, and I think it’s really helped me in my preparation for this week and for the weeks to come. “

Rutland, one of three undrafted rookie free agents to make the Jaguars’ opening day roster this season, has played in 11 games, playing 17 snaps against Cincinnati and 15 snaps this past week against the Texans.

Will Middleton was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, and Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker said Saturday Rutland is the most likely choice to start in his place Monday.

Middleton is the third Jaguars cornerback in the last month to be placed on injured reserve, with starters Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox already on the season-ending list with knee injuries.

 “It’s not really being thrown into the fire,” six-year veteran cornerback Ashton Youboty said of Rutland. “The guy has been here all season. He knows the scheme and he’s been working hard. It’s an opportunity, really. You have to look at it like that.

“He’s been working toward that since high school football, so there’s nothing to be nervous about.”

Youboty is expected to start opposite Rutland Monday, with Drew Coleman playing the nickel corner. Youboty signed with the Jaguars November 15, and started against Houston.

“It doesn’t affect us,” Jaguars safety Dawan Landry said. “Whoever is out there, we practice like this day in and day out to make sure we know all the calls so when it comes to the game, nothing changes.”

Of Rutland, Landry said, “I’m very confident. Once he gets out there, he’s not going to be big-eyed or anything like that. He’s been in a few of the games.  I expect him to perform well.”

Rutland, who played collegiately with Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert at Missouri, said getting his first start on Monday Night Football in front of a nationally-televised, prime-time audience, “is very cool.

“It’s something I never really imagined happening to me,” he said. “You watch on TV and you’re like, ‘Man, look at that.’ For it to be that way, I’m truly blessed and I’m excited about it. I’m not going to be overwhelmed by that, or try not to. As soon as you’re out there, you’ve got to play the game.”

Also around the Jaguars Saturday:

*Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (ankle) said he plans to play Monday despite being listed as questionable on the injury report. Knighton had expressed concern last week that he might not return this season, but said, “I was a little down on myself. I just wanted to take it a day at a time. Each day I felt better and better. I was surprised how I felt this week with the extensive treatment I’ve been getting.” Knighton practiced limited the past two days.

*Defensive end Matt Roth listed as doubtful after practicing limited the past two days. He missed last week’s game with a concussion sustained November 20 against Cleveland.

*Defensive end Aaron Kampman is listed as doubtful after practicing limited throughout the week with a hamstring injury. He has missed the last three games with the hamstring injury after missing the first five games of the season with a knee injury.

*Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, fullback Greg Jones and running back Maurice Jones-Drew are all listed as probable after being limited at times this week for non-injury reasons.

*Linebacker Kevin Bentley (knee), fullback Brock Bolen (calf), defensive end John Chick (abdomen),  wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) and right tackle Guy Whimper (thigh) are listed as probable after practicing full Friday. All had been limited at least once this week.

*Safety Chris Prosinski (hamstring) and cornerback Ashton Youboty (hip) were listed as probable after working on a limited basis Thursday and Friday.

*Knighton said while some fans have asked him why he would want to work to come back with a team five games under .500 and likely out of playoff contention, “It’s not about the record, anyway. You develop a bond with your group and it’s about being a professional. I signed a contract to be a professional, not to say, ‘We don’t have anything to play for.’ After a while, it’s not about the check. It’s about the guys you play with.”

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