JACKSONVILLE – The cornerback competition is real.
And although Demetrius McCray is now the leader ahead of Dwayne Gratz, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said on Wednesday that may not be a bad thing for all involved.
McCray, a second-year veteran from Appalachian State, worked with the starters Wednesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the Tennessee Titans, Bradley said. McCray started for an injured Gratz in a loss to Pittsburgh Sunday.
McCray retained the starting position Wednesday after Gratz – who missed the Pittsburgh game with a concussion – was cleared to practice.
Bradley said McCray's challenge now is to build on last Sunday.
"Just because you played well doesn't mean anything; you've got to stack them up," Bradley said as the Jaguars (0-5) prepared to play the Titans (1-4) at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday at 1 p.m.
McCray, a seventh-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, made the second start of his career – his first of the season – against Pittsburgh Sunday, faring well against Antonio Brown when the two were matched up.
"I felt real confident out there, real loose, and I felt ahead of the game," McCray said. "I felt ahead of what was coming, so I felt pretty good out there. I didn't overhype it. I didn't overanalyze anything. I was just out there playing football again."
Bradley said while McCray typically practices with all the special teams, as well as working in one-on-one drills and the scout team, coaches limited his reps last week as he prepared to start.
"I felt like he was more explosive because of it," Bradley said. "This week, we're doing the same, kind of limiting him in some areas to keep that explosiveness. Because of that we're seeing really good progress."
Bradley added, "He's pretty mentally mature. I think in that room (the defensive backs meeting room), he's one of the smartest guys as far as understanding what everybody does around him so he has really good maturity that way."
Jaguars cornerback Alan Ball said he calls McCray a "quiet storm."
"He's calm and composed, especially for his first year playing outside and getting a lot of play time," Ball said. "He's a competitor. He's been continuous like that. He's got a good mind in the game. He stays composed. That's big in this game. I think he does a good job doing that, being so young."
Gratz, a third-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, started eight of 10 games played last season and had started four games this season. He was replaced by McCray for a short time during the Jaguars' Week 2 loss to Washington.
"I think he's still learning," Bradley said of Gratz. "He's pretty young. If you look at corners around the league sometimes it takes a little bit of time to figure things out. I think something like this, a challenge like this, is really good for him."
Bradley said a similar situation occurred for Gratz last season when he was beaten in Cleveland for a touchdown by wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gratz raised his level of play after that, Bradley said.
"We'll see how he responds to this," Bradley said. "He's a strong competitor and sometimes competition brings out the best in us."
Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:
*Bradley said the Jaguars are preparing for all three Titans quarterbacks – starter Jake Locker, backup Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Zach Mettenberger. Locker's status is questionable with a thumb injury sustained in a loss to Cleveland last week. "It's challenging not knowing which one, but the plays are a lot of the same similar concepts," Bradley said, adding, "We've got to be prepared for all of them." …
*Running back Toby Gerhart on the Jaguars needing to get their first victory Sunday: "We're trying to win every week. Losing sucks. This is a big week for us. We've continued to build and get better each week and this is one we look forward to hopefully get a win." …
*Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III was the only Jaguars player not practicing in some capacity Wednesday. Shorts, out last week with a hamstring injury, said early in the day he expects to know his status for Sunday later in the week. …
*Wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring), defensive end Ryan Davis (shoulder), linebacker Dekoda Watson (shoulder) and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (knee contusion) worked limited. Lee missed the last three games with the injury and said early Wednesday he planned to take limited reps in team drills Wednesday. …
*Bradley said Lee's week this week will be a work in progress to see how fast he can prepare to play at game speed. "His speed is there, but he's rusty because he missed some weeks there," Bradley said. …
*Gerhart (foot), Gratz (head), tight end Clay Harbor (back), wide receiver Allen Hurns (foot), Johnson (ankle) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (ankle) all were on the injury report after working full. …