With the Jaguars' defense, the Next Man Up thing now has an urgent feel.
Mel Tucker, the Jaguars' defensive coordinator, said on Thursday the team's third-ranked defense can't worry about a rash of recent injuries, nor can it worry about possibly not having five starters available against one of the NFL's best offenses Sunday.
Rashean Mathis. Clint Session.
Matt Roth. Terrance Knighton. Derek Cox.
The first two are out for the season, and with the latter trio missing practice Thursday, all five defensive starters could be absent against Houston.
It's a worrisome situation, but one Tucker said the Jaguars are equipped to handle.
"Our deal has always been, 'We're going to need everyone at some point in the year,''' Tucker said Thursday as the Jaguars (3-7) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (7-3) at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We told them that from Day One. Our philosophy is 'Next Man Up.' Everyone who is here we feel like can play winning football for us. Guys will know what their defined roles will be. If we have injuries, the next guy steps up."
With Session, a starting linebacker, being placed on injured reserve this week, reserve/special teams player Russell Allen will start at outside linebacker. Mathis, a starting corner, was placed on injured reserve last week.
That makes the knee injury sustained by Cox more problematic.
With Mathis out last week, Cox moved to the left side from the right side, and Will Middleton started on the right side. With Cox out today, Ashton Youboty – a six-year veteran who signed as a free agent last week – could start opposite Middleton.
"It's part of the business," Youboty said. "We play a violent sport. You just have to be ready for any circumstance. You always have to be ready for any opportunity.
"I feel comfortable in the scheme. I know the defense well enough to be out there and compete."
Youboty played about 20 plays in a pass-defense package against Cleveland Sunday.
"He did some good things," Tucker said. "I have confidence in what he can do. He has looked good in practice. He was very solid. Our practices are very competitive. They're a good indication of what a guy can do and I feel good about what we've seen him do so far."
The defensive line hasn't been immune to injuries, either.
With Knighton, a defensive tackle, likely out for a third consecutive game, C.J. Mosley again will start at the position alongside Tyson Alualu.
At end, the Jaguars have been without Aaron Kampman much of the season. He practiced on a limited basis with a hamstring injury Thursday and remains uncertain, and a concussion sustained by Roth against Cleveland this past Sunday could have a further impact on the lineup.
"It's football," Tucker said. "It's a game of attrition. At this point in the year, everyone's banged up. Everyone has issues. We know that. You're lucky if you can go through the season without some nicks and bruises.
Leger Douzable, a third-year veteran who has played in 26 games for the Jaguars over two seasons, on Thursday said he likely will start at end in place of Roth, who is second on the Jaguars with 3.5 sacks this season. Douzable's lone career start came in 2009 with St. Louis.
John Chick and George Selvie also likely will get time at end, as would Kampman if available.
"All of us are going to play a little bit this week," said Douzable, who likely will play inside and outside Sunday. "You have to take this opportunity and play to the best of your ability. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't waiting for this opportunity, I'm sad that Matt got hurt, but I plan on going out there and playing one of the best games I've ever played."
Also for the Jaguars on Thursday:
*Tucker spoke about the return of Texans All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, who will start Sunday against Jacksonville after missing the last six games. "You can't get overwhelmed with someone else's talent," Tucker said. "You have to go out there, apply your technique and fundamentals and play as hard as you can and play as a team."
*Tucker said the absence of Texans right-handed starting quarterback Matt Schaub and the presence of left-handed backup Matt Leinart won't change the Jaguars' approach. "It's not tricky for us," Tucker said. "We're going to do what we do. They'll do what they do. I don't anticipate them doing a whole lot of flipping. You can anticipate some of their boots and nakeds maybe going in a different direction, but we'll see what they do. We're going to do what we do."
*Knighton, Roth and Cox were the lone players not participating, while Alualu, fullback Greg Jones and running back Maurice Jones-Drew returned to full-participation status after working on a limited basis Wednesday for non-injury reasons.
*Kampman remained limited for a second consecutive day, while wide receiver Brian Robiskie (hamstring) and offensive tackle Guy Whimper (thigh) each practiced full after working on a limited basis Wednesday.
*Fullback Brock Bolen (calf), defensive end John Chick (abdomen) and wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) each practiced full for a second consecutive day.