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Inside the Jaguars: Learning from experience

Posted Sep 26, 2013

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans could make first NFL start as a tandem against Colts and QB Andrew Luck Sunday.

JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes, you have to “see” it to “get” it.

Johnathan Cyprien says when it comes to the speed of the NFL – and meshing playmaking instincts with that speed – he knows now that’s absolutely true, and Josh Evans agrees:

You can’t simulate it. It has to be experienced.

“Seeing it first-hand is the best way to learn,” Cyprien said this week as the Jaguars (0-3) prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Jaguars’ rookie safeties will see it first-hand in a big way Sunday.

And they may see it as starters together for the first time.

Cyprien, the team’s second-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, will make his fourth NFL start when the Jaguars play host to the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck. Evans, a sixth-round selection, will start alongside him if Dwight Lowery can’t play.

Lowery has not practiced the last two days after sustaining a concussion during the first series of a loss to Seattle Sunday, so there’s a good chance the Jaguars will play the Colts with two rookies starting at safety.

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Wednesday said he was fine with that because of the enthusiasm and attitude showed by both Cyprien and Evans, saying, “They’re scrappy. They’ll fight. They’ll challenge one another.”

Cyprien struggled at times in the preseason, and while he is credited with five missed tackles, he also is showing signs of adapting to the speed of the game in recent weeks. Coaches like his intensity, athleticism, aggressiveness and playmaking ability. He has a sack this season, two quarterback pressures and has forced a fumble in each of the last two games. His 18 total tackles are third on the team.

 “I’m a person who figures, ‘just go out and do it and fix it on the run,’” Cyprien said, adding that with each week he recognizes more and more the player he was in college. “I‘m starting to see it some plays. I’m starting to see me standing out on film sometimes. Some plays I notice I’m doing things real well, and some plays I know I can do better.”

Evans, who played just four plays on defense in the first two games, played 68 against Seattle after Lowery’s injury, registering seven tackles. Bradley talked extensively early in the week about how Evans responded to a mistake that led to a Seahawks touchdown pass in the third quarter.

On the play, Evans was in good position in the end zone, but drifted backward, allowing wide receiver Sidney Rice to leap in front of him for a 23-yard, third-quarter touchdown reception. Bradley said Evans learned from the mistake, and corrected it later in the game.

“I learned I have to go up and attack the ball when I get my opportunity,” Evans said.

Evans said he and Cyprien have talked about the possibility of being on the field at the same time this season since rookie minicamp, and said the two communicate well.

“We need to have two young guys try to play big,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing right now: ‘Don’t look at it as you’re rookies. Play like you’ve been around.’”

And Evans said he is facing the same challenge as Cyprien – trying to play aggressively and instinctively, while doing the job necessary.

“You’re trying to factor in, ‘How can I play fast and have the knowledge of the game as well,’” Evans said. “That’s where we’re at now. We want to do this and that, but we have to know all our keys. That’s the process that’s going on, and I feel like it’s going pretty well.”

Also on Thursday:

*Wide receiver Mike Brown (back), Lowery, wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion), cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) and guard Uche Nwaneri did not practice Thursday. Nwaneri had the day off to rest his knee.  . . .

*Cornerback Alan Ball (groin), defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee/elbow), running back Maurice Jones-Drew (ankle), tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf), cornerback Will Blackmon (head), linebacker J.T. Thomas (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday. . . .

*Burton, who sustained the concussion against Seattle Sunday, initially thought he was fine, and then was diagnosed with symptoms Wednesday morning, Bradley said. . . .

*Bradley on Thursday said a focus this week on defense will be limiting “explosive” plays. The Jaguars define an explosive play as a 12-yard-run or a 16-yard pass. The Seahawks had 11 explosive plays in a 45-17 victory over the Jaguars Sunday. “We have what’s called the Sweet 6, on offense and on defense,” Bradley said. “One of them is, ‘Capture Explosives.’ That means we have to get explosives on offense and it means we have to eliminate them on defense.” Of the 11 plays, “That’s far too many. We have to correct it. Those things we have to clean up. That’s unacceptable.”

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