Kyle Bosworth has approached his job the same way for a while now, to be ready if needed.
Come Sunday, it appears there will be a need.
The Jaguars on Friday ruled out veteran outside linebacker Daryl Smith for Sunday, meaning Bosworth – a three-year veteran – likely will get his first NFL start when the Jaguars visit the Minnesota Vikings in the 2012 regular-season opener.
"It's Next Man Up, absolutely," Bosworth said Friday.
Smith, who missed the preseason with a groin injury, practiced full Wednesday, but had a setback in practice that day and did not practice Thursday or Friday.
"We're not going to push him (Smith) any further than we need to right now," Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said.
Bosworth started all four preseason games for Smith, registering 14 tackles and two passes defensed.
"As an overall, I think I did pretty well," Bosworth said. "I've gotten a lot of reps in practice and the games. I've been in and out with different rotations. It was the same way last year. I think they do that a lot in preseason so if something happens where the next guy has to step up there's no drop-off."
Mularkey said Bosworth getting extensive repetitions in preseason will be a benefit.
"We feel confident about him going in there," Mularkey said. "Obviously, we'll have a scheme against these guys. We'll handle that situation."
Bosworth, who made the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent from UCLA in 2010, played nine games as a reserve last season, and finished sixth on the team with seven special teams tackles.
"It's a huge moment," Bosworth said. "It would be the first NFL start in my career. That's been something I've been wanting to cross off my bucket list, if you will. If they tell me I'm the guy going in for the first snap Sunday, I'll be extremely excited. There will be no drop-off. I'll be ready to play."
Mularkey said Smith's absence doesn't necessarily mean playing more nickel than originally planned. Smith in the past often has covered the opponent's top pass receiving tight end.
"Obviously, nickel is a part of our package," Mularkey said.
The Jaguars also on Friday announced that defensive ends Austen Lane (foot) and George Selvie (knee) will miss Sunday's game, and listed cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) as doubtful. Mularkey said earlier this week that the Jaguars will rotate defensive tackles out to end to backup Jeremy Mincey, Andre Branch and Aaron Morgan.
Mularkey also said early this week Will Middleton likely will start at cornerback opposite Aaron Ross with Rashean Mathis playing the nickel role.
Cornerback Mike Harris (hamstring) was listed as questionable, and the Jaguars listed four players as probable – guard Uche Nwaneri (ankle), wide receiver Justin Blackmon (ankle), center Brad Meester and Morgan.
Meester and Morgan missed practice Wednesday for non-injury reasons, and their status for the game was never in question this week. Blackmon practiced full Thursday and Friday, as did Nwaneri.
While Mularkey on Wednesday discussed several "Plan B" options on the offensive line if Nwaneri couldn't play, he said Friday he wasn't worried about Nwaneri's status.
"I thought he (Nwaneri) got stronger every day," Mularkey said Friday. "He just looked better every day. To be honest with you, I didn't even watch closer today, because I felt good about how he ended (Thursday) and he got a full practice in today."
Mularkey, as he had early in the week, said running back Maurice Jones-Drew will play Sunday after ending his 38-day holdout this past Sunday. He said Jones-Drew will start the game in a third-down back role, with situations determining the three-time Pro Bowl selection's role thereafter.
"We'll see the tempo of the game, where we're going, what kind of drives we're getting," Mularkey said. "That will be a game-time decision, but to start the game – that's how we'll start it."
Mularkey also said while Mike Thomas could be the kickoff and punt returner Sunday, that could change depending on who is active and inactive.