Without question, the pressure must increase.
Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey said that's true this week whoever's playing in the secondary, and it's true whichever Josh – starter Freeman or backup Johnson -- plays quarterback for Sunday's opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"We'll find a way to get it done," Mincey said Wednesday as the Jaguars (3-9) prepared to play the Buccaneers (4-8) at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Pressure became an issue for the Jaguars in the wake of Monday's loss to the San Diego Chargers, when the front pressured quarterback Philip Rivers at times, yet failed to register a sack. The result was Rivers exposing a depleted Jaguars secondary for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
"Going into the game, we wanted to find ways to make him uncomfortable and force him into bad throws," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We weren't able to do that. He was able to put the ball on the money. That was one of the things we need to fix coming out of that game."
All three touchdowns came in a five-minute stretch around halftime, and came at the expense of cornerbacks Ashton Youboty and Kevin Rutland. Youboty is a veteran who signed with the Jaguars in mid-November and a Rutland made the team as an undrafted free agent.
The pair moved into starting roles in the wake of injuries to starters Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, as well as to third corner Will Middleton. All are on injured reserve.
"It's hugely important (to get a pass rush) because we have to take some pressure off our back end," Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker said. "That's one of the keys to great pass defense is a great pass rush. The coverage has to improve and the rush has to improve to have any amount of success on Sunday.
Tucker said while the Jaguars ideally would like to get pressure from the front four, "We're also prepared to manufacture some pass rush and attack some protections.
"We're always prepared to do that," Tucker said.
Youboty and Rutland each worked with the starters early in practice Wednesday, and after sustaining a shoulder injury Monday, safety Dwight Lowery appeared to be working with the first unit early in practice, too.
The situation on the defensive line also is uncertain.
Defensive ends Aaron Kampman (hamstring) and Matt Roth (concussion) each missed practice Wednesday, and with end John Chick going on injured reserve with a knee injury Tuesday, tackle Tyson Alualu took some reps at end Wednesday.
Alualu said coaches told him he will play tackle, but to be prepared to play end, and Tucker said Wednesday he wasn't sure how much Alualu would play on the outside.
"Unfortunately, our defensive ends have gone down throughout the season, so I don't mind it at all," Alualu said. "Whatever has to be done to help the team, I'm willing to do it. I'm looking forward to it. We all know what to do in each other's job."
Mincey, who leads the Jaguars this season with 4.5 sacks, said whoever is available, there must be no repeat of Monday. Mincey said while the Jaguars pressured Rivers at times, and the Chargers "threw us off guard the way they ran their offense."
"Philip Rivers is a cagey guy," Mincey said. "He saw we had a young secondary and they picked on us a little bit. We were rushing the guy, but he was stepping off the back foot and letting it go. They were hoping guys would make the play and they did.
"We got some hits on him, but it wasn't enough. They had a lot of play actions and kind of got us on our heels. We'll learn from it and play a little harder, a little smaller."
Said Alualu, "We go into the game saying, 'If we control of up front, it's better for the back.'"
Also on Wednesday around the Jaguars:
*Quarterback Blaine Gabbert said the key to improving offensively remains simple. "We just need to be more consistent," he said. "I know it's a pretty monotonous answer, but it's the truth. We just didn't execute in the second half. We had a breakdown here, a breakdown there. Something went wrong on every play." The Jaguars scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the second quarter Monday, with Gabbert capping each drive with a touchdown pass. The Jaguars produced just 109 total second-half yards, with Gabbert passing for 59 yards.
*Wide receiver Taylor Price went through his first practice with the Jaguars since signing with the team off waivers from New England. "It means a lot," Price said. "It's a fresh start. Obviously, what happened in the past happened in the past. You can't go back on the past. I'm grateful for the opportunity. I want to make the most of it. I see bright things for the future of this team and I want to be a part of it." Price caught three passes for 41 yards for the Patriots, playing four game after being selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Price called his release "tough. The situation had never happened to me before, but I'm still confident in my skills I bring to the team as a wide receiver and a football player," he said. "There are a few things I want to be more proactive about and more mindful of, and more cautious of. I want to have no regrets."
*Kampman and Roth were the only players who did not participate in practice Wednesday, with Alualu, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and fullback Greg Jones practicing limited for non-injury related reasons.
*Tight end Marcedes Lewis worked on a limited basis with an ankle injury, with Lowery (shoulder), wide receiver Cecil Shorts (hamstring) and offensive tackle Guy Whimper (thigh) also working limited.
*Posluszny said he's seen no change in Tucker since Tucker took over as interim coach after working as the coordinator the past two and a half seasons. "From our perspective, none at all," Posluszny said. "He's still running the defensive meetings and making the calls. Obviously, he has a lot on his plate, running the entire team as a whole, but he's still kept all the responsibility of being a defensive coordinator as well." Tucker is coaching from the sidelines as a head coach as opposed to being in the booth as a coordinator. "It was good to have him down there," Posluszny said. "It was still the same procedure as normal when it comes to calling plays. The good thing was, whenever there was a mistake, you're able to have the defensive coordinator talk to you about it as well, which was great."