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Harris' confidence rising


So far, Mike Harris likes what he has seen.

Not that he's satisfied. The Jaguars' rookie cornerback isn't close to satisfied, but progress? Steps in the right direction? Signs that he is where he belongs?

Yes, Harris said recently, he has seen those things this season.

And that's better than the alternative.

"I've definitely seen that I can come out and be successful at this level of football," Harris said as the Jaguars (2-11) prepared to play the Miami Dolphins (5-8) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Sunday at 1 p.m.

"I've seen I have to continue to learn. There are a lot of nuances I have to learn. I have to try to learn something each day and pick the brains of these vets."

The Jaguars have seen much of the same this season.

Harris, a sixth-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft from Florida State, has played every game since the regular-season opener, and after playing mostly as a nickel corner early, he has started each of the last two games – one in place of Derek Cox and another opposite Cox.

He has done more than play. He has shown a knack for making plays on the ball, registering 37 tackles and a sack, as well as an interception and two passes defensed.

"He's got pretty good awareness," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "The game is not too big for him, he is never too high or too low. He has pretty good arm span so he's able to get his hands on some balls, and he can cover guys up pretty good."

Tucker called Harris "one of our better tacklers in our secondary."

"I think we've seen that this season," Tucker said. "He's a young guy that he keeps his mouth shut. He works extremely hard, and he is a guy that we've come to trust out there. I think he's playing pretty solid, and I expect him to get better."

Harris began the season as the fifth corner behind Cox, Rashean Mathis, Aaron Ross and Will Middleton, but said coaches advised him early in the season that a secondary rarely makes it through the entire season healthy and to be ready to play more than just passing situations.

He missed the regular-season opener, but has been active since, and his role gradually increased before he moved into the starting lineup two weeks ago.

"It's enabled me to come in and get some playing time," Harris said. "I'm trying to take full advantage of my opportunities and get better every day."

While Harris was widely considered a nickel corner when he was drafted, and while he spent much of the off-season and training camp in that spot, he said he stayed prepared to play each.

"First and foremost, I'm a corner," he said.

Is he a permanent starting option moving forward? Harris said that's the goal, and Tucker said it's a possibility, but Harris said this season has shown him he can play in the NFL at an effective level whatever the role.

"It's a different kind of confidence," Harris said. "You sort of think you can play, then you go out there and make a few plays and do it a little more consistently, then you feel like you sort of belong here and you expect to make more plays. Then, your confidence just continues to rise.

"I prepared like a starter like I always have, so I just continue to do that and play to the best of my abilities and the rest will take care of itself."

Also around the Jaguars Thursday:

  • Head Coach Mike Mularkey said this week that rookie/practice squad member Austin Pasztor is working at left guard along with center/guard Steve Vallos. The Jaguars began working those two there after veteran Eben Britton struggled against the Jets last week, and Pasztor said while he doesn't yet know if he will be active Sunday he is ready if needed. "Being a practice squad player, you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get," Pasztor said. Pasztor, who spent training camp with the Minnesota Vikings and signed with the Jaguars September 17, played collegiately at Virginia and is staying with Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, a first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft who also played at Virginia. "We were in college together and I played with him for a year and know him pretty well," Monroe said. Monroe has been working alongside Pasztor in practice this week. "I started out the year with (Will) Rackley (at left guard), then it was Eben, then it was Herb Taylor, then it was (Mike) Brewster, so this is the fifth guard," Monroe said with a laugh. "I'm trying to get the knack of working with a different dude every week." Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said of Pasztor, "His game has improved a lot. He takes coaching well, and that's a good thing. As we go through, if need be, he'll be available if something happens."
  • Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) missed a second consecutive day of practice Thursday, as did running back Rashad Jennings (concussion), Ross (calf), running back Jordan Todman (calf). Defensive end George Selvie missed with a concussion after working limited while wide receiver Cecil Shorts (concussion) worked limited for a second consecutive day. Fullback Greg Jones (thigh) and safety Dwight Lowery (ankle) practiced full after working limited Wednesday and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (calf), Cox (hamstring) and Mathis worked full for a second consecutive day. Brad Meester (foot) worked full after missing practice Wednesday.
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