JACKSONVILLE – To Gus Bradley, this was a good day.
And while the Jaguars' head coach began the day talking briefly – very, very briefly – with players about postseason opportunities, that wasn't why he was smiling Wednesday afternoon.
The smile was because of Jaguars practice:
The Jaguars held their first full post-bye practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields Wednesday. With the team nearing full health for the first time in a long time, it was a practice Bradley liked a lot. Productive. Spirited. Competitive. At last.
At long last.
"We needed it; it was a very good, competitive practice," Bradley said as the Jaguars (2-5) prepared to play the New York Jets (4-3) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Bradley said the last time the Jaguars were able to work full one-on-one drills with defensive backs and wide receivers was about five weeks ago.
"It's been quite some time, and I think it's always good to sharpen those skills," Bradley said. "It was early in practice, and I think it helped set the tone."
That was Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, Bradley said he spoke with players about postseason possibilities. Despite their 2-5 record, the Jaguars – who had a bye week last week – enter the final nine games a half-game behind the AFC South-leading Colts (3-5) and Texans (3-5).
The winner of each division advances to the playoffs and is guaranteed a home playoff game whatever the record.
"I didn't get into the standings," Bradley said. "I'm sure they all know that. I did talk about the opportunity that we have. I acknowledged that in front of the team. … It's a great opportunity. We acknowledged and brought it back to, 'All right. Let's respect today.'
The challenge was to acknowledge it, talk about it, then we came back and went back to work. It was pretty good, though. It was pretty cool for the team. You don't want to be naïve. They understand there are things going on."
The Jaguars, after having starters such as left tackle Luke Joeckel, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, tight end Julius Thomas, safety Jonathan Cyprien, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, right guard Brandon Linder and wide receiver Marqise Lee miss at least one game in the first seven weeks, began Jets week with a significantly healthier injury report. Of that group, only Linder is out for the season.
Images from Wednesdays practice as the Jaguars prepare to face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in Week 9.
Lee, who missed five of the first seven games of the season, did not practice Wednesday, and his status remains uncertain. Left guard Zane Beadles missed practice with a foot injury sustained against Buffalo the Sunday before the bye.
Safety Josh Evans also missed practice with a groin injury sustained in practice Monday.
Beadles said before practice he plans to play Sunday, though his status remains uncertain. Bradley said second-year veterans Tyler Shatley and Luke Bowanko split repetitions at left guard in practice Wednesday.
With Evans out, veteran Sergio Brown took repetitions along with rookie James Sample at free safety. Bradley said Evans' history makes him optimistic.
"He has shown great toughness with other injuries that he has had, and this one doesn't appear to be (serious)," Bradley said. "I think it's more for us, to make sure that he is full speed."
Aside from Lee, Beadles and Evans, Wednesday was about players returning to health.
Thomas, who missed the first four games of the season with a thumb injury, worked full on Wednesday after being limited Monday with an abdomen issue that kept him out late against the Bills. Rookie safety James Sample (shoulder) worked limited Wednesday and said earlier in the day he hoped to play Sunday.
Wide receiver Allen Hurns also worked limited with an ankle/thigh issue.
Wide receiver Rashad Greene, a rookie who is currently under the team's injured-reserve-designated-to-return designation, practiced for the first time since September and said he expects to play the first day NFL rules allow: against Tennessee November 19.
Also Wednesday, Bradley said the team has yet to decide a starting cornerback opposite Aaron Colvin. Davon House, Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray rotated at the position Wednesday.
"We're taking a look at that," Bradley said. "I think you put it all together, but we did really want to open it up and really evaluate one on ones, the team segments, the practice, the individual drill work … We'll just keep putting that together.
"I'd like to come up with a decision as soon as possible to let that be known, but I think we want to play it out a little bit as well."