NWANERI, OWENS EXPECTED TO RETURN WEDNESDAY
It appears likely the Jaguars will have their starting offensive line Sunday.
As for their starting cornerbacks, that's less likely.
Uche Nwaneri, who missed practice Monday with an ankle injury sustained Thursday in the preseason finale against Atlanta, likely will practice Wednesday and be ready for the regular-season opener at Minnesota Sunday, Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said Monday.
"We gave him this day to rest," Mularkey said. "We're hoping to get him back Wednesday."
Mularkey said if Nwaneri, the team's starting right guard, can't play, rookie center Mike Brewster will move to the spot.
"We're planning on Uche being back," Mularkey said.
Mularkey said the team took a similar approach of rest Monday with fullback Montell Owens, who missed Thursday's game with soreness in the knee. He said Owens is expected to play Sunday after not practicing Monday.
Mularkey said it's less likely that cornerback Derek Cox will play Sunday. Cox, who has been out with a hamstring injury since early in the preseason opener, practiced on a limited basis Monday and worked in individual work, but Mularkey called his participation "baby steps."
Mularkey said with Cox unlikely to play Sunday, it's likely Will Middleton will start at corner, with Aaron Ross starting at the other corner and Rashean Mathis playing in nickel situations.
Also on Monday, newly signed tight end Brett Brackett sustained what appeared to be a knee injury early in practice. Mularkey said it appeared serious.
"It did not look like something simple," Mularkey said. "It did not look good standing behind him."
ON THE MOVE
Jaguars rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon reached a comfort level pretty quickly in the preseason.
Mularkey said now that that's happened he won't necessarily stay in one spot.
Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, caught 10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the preseason, and Mularkey said Blackmon's improvement once he felt comfortable was remarkable.
Blackmon worked mostly from the outside during preseason, but Mularkey said the team will work him some from the slot to get him an advantage against defenses.
"He doesn't even blink," Mularkey said. "His approach has been outstanding today. Some of the things we corrected him on, he's trying to gather as much information as he can so the next time it happens he's ready to adjust no matter what the situation is."
"It (the regular-season opener) is a road game (at the Metrodome in Minneapolis). We got a chance to practice a couple of them (road games) in the preseason games. I know it's a loud place. Obviously I played there for six years and I've been there a number of times. It's a loud stadium you've got to get used to and we started working on that today. It will be a good test for us in the dome."
MAURICE JONES-DREW SAYS**
"I just want to be as familiar as I can with the offense. Today, I felt like I took tremendous strides from yesterday. I just want to keep going. That's pretty much it. You get more familiar with the offense so it's not a lot of thinking. It's mostly just, 'Go out there and react.' I think I did more of that toward the end."
The Jaguars will be off Tuesday, then have a full, padded practice Wednesday as they begin full preparations for Sunday's regular-season opener at Minnesota.
Once he returns to football shape, it sounds as if there will be no shortage of carries for Maurice Jones-Drew. Mularkey on Monday spoke in detail of his approach with the running back position, and said that in this offense, the starting running back will generally play the lead role, with the backup playing a play or two on longer drives, then a series or two at some point later in the game if necessary. Mularkey said ideally the second back is a change of pace. "Whoever starts, the other one handles the third downs, then handles a series so the other comes back fresh," Mularkey said. Jennings will start and likely play the featured role Sunday, but it's likely Jones-Drew – the NFL's leading rusher – will take on that role soon. Jones-Drew has averaged more than 300 carries the last three seasons and had 343 last season. "One thing I really have never done is sit there and count exact numbers," Mularkey said. "They're going to get the number of carries that it's going to take us to win football games. If we get into a four-minute and have to win, we're going to run our best ballcarriers." It's likely Jennings will play a significant role, but considering the running-back-friendly nature of the offense – and Mularkey's history with running backs such as Michael Turner and Jerome Bettis extensively – it seems likely Jones-Drew will get more than his share of opportunities.
*The Jaguars voted on captains Monday, with quarterback Blaine Gabbert and center Brad Meester named on offense, linebackers Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith named on defense and Owens named on special teams.
*Veteran wide receiver Mike Thomas will start the regular season handling punt and kickoff returns, Mularkey said Monday. Thomas returned six kickoffs for a 24.7-yard average and a long of 55 yards in the preseason and he returned two punts for a 5.5-yard average. "He's had some good returns," Mularkey said.
*Mularkey said while Jones-Drew returned Monday that doesn't rule out Owens having a role as a running back. "He does give you another weapon," Mularkey said. "There are things we can do with two tailbacks at any time, and I would not mind him being one of them."
*While the team has the right to fine Jones-Drew for holding out for 38 days, Mularkey said the team will not discuss the fines. "That's an internal matter that we're going to not discuss publicly," Mularkey said. "Anytime we talk about fines, it will never be discussed publicly."
*Vikings running back Adrian Peterson practiced in the preseason, but did not play. Still, Mularkey said the Jaguars are preparing as if Peterson will play extensively. "We're going to prepare for Adrian Peterson," Mularkey said. "I've been around Adrian at the Pro Bowl. He's a physical specimen. If somebody's going to come back from a devastating injury and come back at full strength, he's one of them." An All-Pro selection from 2007-2010, Peterson sustained torn medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments last season and doctors have yet to clear him to play.
*While linebacker Smith will be eased into practice this week after missing the preseason with a groin injury, Mularkey said Smith is expected to start Sunday against Minnesota. Smith worked extensively Monday, Mularkey said.