Reggie Nelson's sprained ankle will likely cause him to miss what remains of the preseason, but Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters on Monday that he's optimistic Nelson will be in the lineup for the start of the regular season.
"The news we got back since (Saturday's preseason game) has been encouraging. We're optimistic they'll be back for the start of the regular season," Del Rio said of Nelson, Chris Naeole, Tony McDaniel and Pat Thomas, all of whom were injured in the Jaguars' 31-19 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Nelson's injury is a "simple, lateral sprain," Del Rio said of the team's first-round draft pick. McDaniel and Naeole sustained sprained knees and Thomas pulled a hamstring muscle.
Quarterback Quinn Gray (ankle) was to return to practice on Monday; Clint Ingram (ankle) would not practice.
The Jaguars are on a short work week, as they'll fly to Green Bay on Wednesday for Thursday's game against the Packers. Game three of the preseason is traditionally the best test for starters and Del Rio confirmed that starting quarterback Byron Leftwich will get more playing time in Green Bay.
"We'll play him a little longer and see how the flow of the game goes," Del Rio said.
Leftwich played most of the first half against Tampa. He rebounded from a slow start – two of six for 12 yards in the first quarter – to quarterback the Jaguars to a touchdown. He was replaced by David Garrard, who performed well against Tampa's reserves.
Wide receiver Charles Sharon was the star of Saturday's game. Sharon caught three passes for 54 yards and continued his impressive play. Aside from time early in camp he lost due to a concussion, Sharon has been the Jaguars' most consistent pass-catcher since spring drills began.
"We don't want to put a limit on how high he can reach. Charles has shown the ability to get into and out of cuts and adjust his body," Del Rio said of Sharon, who might be the Jaguars' best route-runner.
Rookie wide receiver John Broussard also distinguished himself on Saturday, which marked Broussard's second consecutive impressive preseason performance.
"We knew about his speed. The first day he made a diving catch and we said maybe he can catch, too," Del Rio said of Broussard, a seventh-round draft choice who is thought to be the Jaguars' fastest receiver.
The emergence of Sharon and Broussard could force Del Rio to make difficult roster decisions at wide receiver. Five or six, he was asked?
"That's right. Well said," he offered jokingly in response, referring to a decision as to how many wide receivers he will keep on the final roster.
"Every year you deal with decisions about numbers at positions. You know if you're adding one, you're taking from another. It's the active 45 that's most important," Del Rio said.
"The group has improved. Coach (Todd) Monken has done a nice job of detailing exactly how he wants things done. We're going to let it sort itself out in competition," Del Rio said of his wide receivers. "We're going to be better at throwing the ball this year."
Backup tackles Richard Collier and Mo Williams drew praise from their head coach, who credited Collier and Williams with having "very solid" training camps.
Halfway through the preseason, the Jaguars will use the next two games to make sure they're ready for the start of the regular season and an extremely important opener against AFC South rival Tennessee. Del Rio was asked what is left to accomplish in what remains of the preseason?
"We need to continue to approach things with a very business-like demeanor. Beyond that, we want to stay healthy. The best way to do that is to go 100 miles an hour," Del Rio said.