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Inside the Jaguars: Guards getting better

Posted Sep 13, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars leave for California with Nwaneri, Rackley closer to playing and cornerback Alan Ball still uncertain.

JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars were headed West Friday.

Before they did, Head Coach Gus Bradley got good news amid a few worries on the injury front, with starting guards Will Rackley and Uche Nwaneri remaining possibilities to play Sunday in the second game of the 2013 regular season.

Cornerback Alan Ball did not practice Friday, leaving open the possibility that the Jaguars will be without their starting corners Sunday against the Raiders.

The situation with Ball has left the team’s punt returner situation uncertain, with Bradley saying this week wide receiver Ace Sanders or cornerback Will Blackmon could fill the role.

“We’ll wait and see once we get there,” Bradley said as the Jaguars (0-1) prepared to play the Oakland Raiders (0-1) at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Sunday at 4:25 p.m.

The Jaguars didn’t use Sanders on punt returns last week because the rookie from South Carolina is playing a starting role with starter Justin Blackmon serving a suspension. Blackmon returned punts last week, but he is expected to move from a backup corner role to a starter’s role because of the injuries at cornerback.

The Jaguars were traveling to California Friday, where they will stay next week before flying to Seattle for a road game there the following weekend.

Also Friday, Bradley said tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) is doubtful for Sunday after not practicing this week. The eight-year veteran also missed the opener against Kansas City.

Wide receiver Mike Brown on Friday missed practice for a second consecutive day with a back injury, and linebacker J.T. Thomas missed a second consecutive practice with a hamstring injury.

Brown, Rackley, Thomas and Ball all will be game-time decisions and are listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.

“We’ll see how they respond – they’re feeling better,” Bradley said of Brown, Rackley, Thomas and Ball.

Bradley said players could be signed from the practice squad because of the injury situation. He mentioned rookie cornerback Marcus Burley as possibility for that on Thursday.

Defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee) returned to practice Friday limited, and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin) practiced limited with running back Jordan Todman (shoulder) practicing full. Miller, Shorts, Nwaneri and Todman were listed as probable and Nwaneri said he will play Sunday.

Of Shorts’ practice Friday, Bradley said, “He did a nice job.”

Ball sustained a groin injury in practice Thursday, and though he attended practice Friday, he did not participate. The other starting cornerback in this past Sunday’s regular-season opener, Dwayne Gratz, is out at least three weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

Blackmon, signed as a free agent before the final 2013 preseason game, is expected to start in place of Gratz, with rookie Demetrius McCray – a seventh-round selection from Appalachian State – a possibility to start if Ball does not play.

Nickelback Mike Harris also is a possibility outside, but Bradley said Friday if Ball can’t play, McCray and Blackmon will be the starting corners.

Rackley, who sustained a lateral knee sprain Sunday, did not practice after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. Nwaneri (knee) worked limited after being limited Wednesday and not practicing on Thursday.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert (hand/thumb) also remained out of practice. Bradley said Monday Chad Henne will start in Gabbert’s place.

Gabbert and Gratz were the only players officially ruled out Friday.

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