CUTTING DOWN THE EXTRA YARDS
The week's hot-button issue stayed hot Thursday.
The Jaguars' tackling – an issue throughout the preseason and again in the regular-season opener – was unsurprisingly a key topic when assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Mel Tucker spoke to the media Thursday.
Tucker called tackling the defense's "most glaring deal," nothing that the Jaguars allowed more than 100 yards after contact and after the catch in a loss to the Vikings Sunday.
"That (tackling better) would do a lot for us," Tucker said.
Tucker said while teams can work in pads only once a week in the regular season, tackling can still be improved by positioning and film work.
"We need to become a better tackling group," Tucker said. "We had some tackling issues in the preseason, but we'll continue to work at it."
Tackling will be critical Sunday against the Texans, who likely will emphasize the run against the Jaguars. Houston finished last season as the league's No. 2 running offense, but averaged just 2.6 yards per rush in a victory over the Dolphins Sunday.
"It's very important to stop the run," Tucker said. "These guys do a great job of running the football. All their play action passes come off the run game. That's very, very important for us."
NEXT CORNER UP
The status of Derek Cox remains uncertain.
And while Rashean Mathis is healthy, he's still gaining strength around the knee that he injured last November to end his season.
But while that means the Jaguars could remain without the full services of their two best cornerbacks against the Texans Sunday, cornerback Aaron Ross said the reality is the secondary still must figure a way to slow one of the NFL's most potent offenses.
"It's something we've been practicing pretty much the whole training camp, playing without those guys," Ross said. "We've practiced it. We're accustomed to it. It's no excuse. We have to do our job out there."
Ross started opposite Will Middleton at corner last week, with Mathis – a starter at corner for the Jaguars from 2004-2011 – playing a little more than 20 snaps in nickel.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder completed 20 of 27 passes for 270 yards, including 192 yards in the second half.
While Middleton started, second-year veteran Kevin Rutland also played at that spot opposite Ross, and Tucker said a rotation remains a possibility.
"We have a rotation that we use, and we had a rotation that we used in that game," Tucker said. "We've done a couple things in the preseason as well so it's really regardless of who's out there we expect guys to get the job done.
"It's the next man up mentality for us. We've been there before and we'll continue to work like that. We just try to do the best we can. We have confidence in the guys that are out there, put them in a position to make plays and continue to improve, and I feel like we'll make plays."
Left guard Eben Britton (ankle) and right tackle Cameron Bradfield (ankle) missed practice for a second consecutive day, as did linebacker Daryl Smith (groin), running back Rashad Jennings (knee) and defensive ends George Selvie (knee) and Austen Lane (foot).
Cox (hamstring) was limited for a second consecutive day, with cornerback Mike Harris (hamstring) and guard Uche Nwaneri (ankle) practicing full.
If Britton and Bradfield can't play, rookie guard Mike Brewster and veteran tackle Guy Whimper likely will start, with Kyle Bosworth expected to make a second consecutive start for Smith.
TERRANCE KNIGHTON SAYS
"I hate every team we play against. They (the Texans) are supposed to be a team to win the Super Bowl and represent the AFC and all of this stuff, so I'm looking forward to seeing it and know where our team stands. I'm ready to play anybody."
"What we do is we focus on who we do have. We try to put together a plan that emphasizes for us what our guys do best. We try to play to the collective strengths of our players and try to put those guys in the best positions possible to make plays in the game and so that's where our focus is and it's always next man up. Here our guys know that and it's no excuses, no explanations. We're going out there to get the job done."
The Jaguars will hold a non-padded practice Friday morning in preparation for the 2012 regular-season home opener against the Houston Texans Sunday at 1 p.m.
Mike Mularkey knew Jerry Sullivan was a key hire in January. Cecil Shorts would certainly agree. Shorts, the Jaguars' second-year wide receiver who caught two passes for 30 yards as a rookie, caught four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown in the regular-season opener. Mularkey on Wednesday said Shorts may get more snaps moving forward, and also mentioned that Shorts had benefitted from the presence of Sullivan, widely considered one of the NFL's best receiving coaches. Shorts on Thursday agreed. "It's a humongous impact," Shorts said, smiling. "He's a technician. He just knows how to coach wide receivers. He's very, very good at it. I'm blessed." Shorts said Sullivan's influence can be seen beyond just his performance. "If you watch all of us, from April until now, we all have improved dramatically – getting out of our breaks, running routes," Shorts said. "It's definitely viewable."
- The Jaguars will recognize Ross's wife, four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Sanya Richards-Ross, during Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Ross, who joined the Jaguars in 2012 as an unrestricted free agent, was given permission by Mularkey to take a leave from training camp in August to watch his wife win the gold medal in the 400-meter dash in London. "I'm excited," Ross said. "This will be the first time I've seen her in a while. First off, as a husband I'm excited to be able to spend time with my wife. Then, to have her there with me for the first home game, that tops the charts."
- Mathis said while he played just a little more than 20 plays against the Vikings, his knee continues to progress. "The knee is good," he said. "It's reacting well and that's what they want to see." Mathis had a pass breakup against the Vikings.