Inside the Jaguars, 9/5

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NWANERI RETURNS

Uche Nwaneri apparently still has a good chance to play Sunday.

That doesn't appear to be the case for cornerback Derek Cox, and as the Jaguars prepare for the regular-season opener at Minnesota their situation at corner remains uncertain.

Cox, who has been out since early in the preseason opener with a hamstring injury, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said again it's unlikely he will play Sunday.

Kevin Rutland and Aaron Ross worked with the first team at corner Sunday, with Rutland working at the position where Cox would normally start. Will Middleton has worked in place of Cox in recent weeks, and Mularkey said Wednesday he expects Middleton to start Sunday.

Nwaneri, the Jaguars' starting right guard, returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. Recently acquired guard Josh Beekman worked in his place at times during the portion of practice open to the media, but Mularkey mentioned several possibilities if Nwaneri can't play Sunday.

One option is moving rookie Brewster to the position, and another is moving right tackle Cameron Bradfield to guard and playing veteran Guy Whimper at tackle.

"Any one of those four guys could be plan B," Mularkey said of Brewster, Whimper, Bradfield and Beekman, adding of Bradfield, "He definitely has more experience (than Brewster at guard)."

While the Jaguars also may be without Austen Lane and George Selvie at defensive end, Mularkey said defensive tackles may rotate outside Sunday. Possibilities there include Tyson Alualu and D'Anthony Smith.

WATCHFUL EYE

When it comes to Maurice Jones-Drew's readiness, Mularkey said he's still assessing.

Jones-Drew reported to the Jaguars Sunday, and after practicing Monday he participated in a second full practice in three days on Wednesday. Mularkey said a key day will come Thursday, a day after what was expected to be a physical practice.

"I will have a better feel for that after we go through Friday," Mularkey said. "I will have a better feel how he feels tomorrow after his first day in full pads, a good nine-on-seven period and a good hit, taking some of the hits he's going to take today. I will let you know. It wouldn't be fair for me to say that right now."

Mularkey has said Rashad Jennings will start at running back Sunday, with Jones-Drew – the NFL's leading rusher last season – likely playing a third-down role and relieving Jennings on a few series. Mularkey said he was more concerned with Jones-Drew mentally than physically.

"He is in good shape," Mularkey said. "I'm not as concerned about that as putting him in a position that he may not have a chance, to fail, because he has so much information thrown at him."

INJURY REPORT

Lane and Selvie each missed practice Wednesday for injury-related reasons, while rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon was limited with an ankle injury.

Defensive end Aaron Morgan and center Brad Meester missed for non-injury reasons.

Also limited were Cox, Nwaneri and Harris (hamstring).

MULARKEY SAYS

"We actually have an extra day this week, so today was more of a game-plan installation, the real deal. So it was good to get started rolling this morning. I think we're ready to go. I think our players feel that way. I know our coaching staff feels that way."

GABBERT SAYS

"I think every year in the league you learn more and more, but coming into the NFL you really haven't experienced kind of the ups and downs, the little nuances of the game like I did last year. I definitely have learned a lot, picked up on a lot of stuff."

JONES-DREW SAYS

"Last year we had a little fallout because I thought I should have carried the ball more. I thought I was ready. This year, it's not necessarily about being ready. It's about earning that position and earning that time. It's going to take a little longer, and I understand that. It is what it is. That's what happens when you do the things I do."

WHAT'S NEXT

The Jaguars will practice Thursday without pads, then practice again Friday. They visit the Minnesota Vikings in the regular-season opener Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

TODAY'S TAKE

On this front, it looks like we'll have to wait and see. The issue? Whether or not Jones-Drew will engage in touchdown dances, as has been his norm. Mularkey has instituted a plan under which he donates $250 to the Ronald McDonald House after a player scores a touchdown and hands the ball to the official. The team matches the donation, and while Jones-Drew is aware of Mularkey's approach, he said, "We're entertainers, but at the same time I'm coachable. I have to get in there first before we can answer this question. It doesn't make sense to answer a question when I haven't been in there yet. I haven't even scored in practice yet, so we'll see how I do in practice first and then we'll move on to the game. I'm just trying to get there first. Let me get to the end zone first and then we'll definitely talk about it."

QUICK HITS

  • Gabbert said a primary focus this season is minimizing interceptions, adding that quarterbacks coach Greg Olson has emphasized that "You can never take interceptions back, that's always next to your name in your career. You do your best job in your preparation throughout the week to minimize your mental errors so you don't force the ball."
  • Cornerback Rashean Mathis won't be on a snap count, Mularkey said, but the veteran cornerback will play a nickel role mainly based on the personnel Minnesota has in the game. Mathis is playing the nickel role after rehabilitating a torn ACL throughout the offseason. Mularkey said linebacker Daryl Smith will be similarly monitored, but that Smith will start. "Daryl Smith has got to see where he's at and see what his conditioning level is," Mularkey said.
  • Gabbert also said while he didn't believe he was as "skittish" in the pocket as many analysts and media believed last year, those opinions matter little. "I really can't worry about your guys' opinion or your opinion right there," he said. "There are things you learn going from year one to year two about your protections and about certain things when you're hot and when you're not. It's kind of a different ballgame this year. I know a lot more than I did last year."
  • Jones-Drew on the difference in Gabbert from last season to this season: "His command of the offense is great. He tells guys where to go, he calls the plays, knows where the play is going. It's not like he's learning on the run."
  • Mularkey, as he has in recent weeks, continued to speak highly of Blackmon's approach. Mularkey said in training camp that Blackmon had improved his focus and work dramatically following a DUI arrest in early June, and he said Wednesday Blackmon has become more confident the more comfortable he has become with the offense. "It's night and day from his first couple weeks here compared to now where he just feels more comfortable," Mularkey said. "Guys have welcomed him in and he's gone through some adversity here. He's settled down and he understands how (wide receivers coach) Jerry Sullivan coaches. He understands the demands on him from us as a staff and really the demands from his teammates. He's getting it from a lot of different ways how to be a pro. It's been fun to watch the process."
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