Ernest Wilford made a statement and his coach got the message. As a result, Wilford will get more playing time this Sunday when the Jaguars host the Houston Texans.
"I think he stepped forward yesterday and said 'I want more playing time, coach,' " Jack Del Rio said of Wilford's performance in Sunday's 24-21 loss in St. Louis. Wilford caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, the top performance of any Jaguars receiver this year. It would seem to have been good enough to move Wilford up from his number four spot, but how high? Might Wilford move into the starting lineup this Sunday?
"It's possible," Del Rio told reporters at Monday's press conference. "He's going to play more. Whether he's the starter or not is less relevant. Byron (Leftwich) is comfortable throwing the ball to him. We're looking for playmakers. I think he's earned that."
Monday marked a day of pending change in the Jaguars' lineup. In addition to Wilford, Jamie Winborn could find himself in the starting lineup. Winborn might replace either Akin Ayodele or Daryl Smith at one of the two outside linebacker spots.
"That wasn't very good on Sunday," Del Rio said of his team's outside linebacking play. The Jaguars allowed Steven Jackson 179 yards rushing and Del Rio is clearly looking for an upgrade on his run-defense.
"You guys (reporters) have been hammering me about the run-defense and I've defended it, but there's no defending it (Sunday)," Del Rio said.
Winborn came to the Jaguars a few weeks ago in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. At the time, the Jaguars were coming off a poor run-defense performance against the Denver Broncos.
Del Rio divided his Monday press conference into equal segments of good and bad news, beginning with the bad.
"We lost. That's how you're judged," he said.
He included a blocked field goal that resulted in a Rams touchdown, two missed field goal attempts and an 83-yard Rams touchdown pass among the bad news.
The good news included the performances of Wilford, Fred Taylor, Byron Leftwich, Nick Sorensen and Paul Spicer.
"Byron was sharp. He had a few drops," said Del Rio, who also defended his defensive line's performance. "We can win with what our defensive line gave us yesterday," he said.
The inevitable question about first-round pick Matt Jones' play resulted in this response from Del Rio: "Matt is continuing to grow as a wide receiver. I think he'll continue to blossom. As a coach, you want to see two hands on the ball. He's so confident with his one hand he doesn't fight with his other hand. We'll work with him on that."
On four occasions Sunday Jones attempted to catch the ball with one hand. He was unsuccessful in each attempt, most critically on a sideline pass in the Jaguars' final drive.
A fourth-and-one play-call in the first quarter was another hot topic. The Jaguars were at the Rams 25-yard line when Leftwich threw an incomplete pass for Jimmy Smith in the end zone.
"That was my call. I anticipated we'd get something," Del Rio said, absolving offensive coordinator Carl Smith of responsibility.
"Here's my stance on fourth-and-one. We'll go for them sometimes and at other times we'll go for the field goal. I'll make that call and live with the consequences," Del Rio said.
Wilford remained the press conference's prime subject.
"It's likely to be more competitive," Del Rio said of the wide receiver position. "I'd like to see more (Cortez) Hankton, to be honest with you.
"We have three big receivers and there's not a lot to separate them. We like all three of them. Ernest shows he belongs and he's produced, so we'll look to give him opportunities to make plays for us," Del Rio said.