Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JAGUARS NOTEBOOK; Rookies Set for Returns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JAGUARS NOTEBOOK; Rookies Set for Returns

Article excerpt

Byline: BART HUBBUCH

At least for the season opener, the Jaguars are trusting their return duties to a pair of rookies after cutting David Allen over the weekend.

Sixth-round pick Chad Owens will be the punt returner and undrafted free agent Derrick Wimbush will be the primary kick returner on Sunday when the Jaguars open the regular season at home against Seattle.

Owens will handle punts despite muffing two of them in the preseason, while Wimbush will be the main kick returner despite never performing that task until this summer -- not even in college at Division II Fort Valley State.

"Sure, you worry about it as a coach," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said Monday when asked about having two rookies as returners.

The Jaguars ranked last in the NFL in kick returns a year ago with an average of 19.1 yards. They were 10th in punt returns at 9.6 yards.

The Jaguars have a backup plan on punt returns if Owens' preseason problems carry over. Del Rio said cornerback Rashean Mathis and rookies Matt Jones and Alvin Pearman are continuing to field punts in practice as a precaution.

Wimbush also will get plenty of help on kick returns, although he might not need it after averaging 28 yards on two returns in the Jaguars' preseason finale at Dallas last week.

"I didn't return any kicks in college, but on this level, it was just a matter of getting an opportunity and running with it," said Wimbush, who made the final roster mainly on his rushing ability. "I guess they like what they see."

PEARSON TO START AT LT

Capping his nearly year-long comeback from three torn knee ligaments, Mike Pearson was tabbed as the opening-day starter at offensive left tackle.

Pearson rotated with Ephraim Salaam in the preseason but ultimately regained the starting job he had lost last October at Alltel Stadium because of a knee injury suffered against Indianapolis.

Despite winning the job, Del Rio said Pearson -- a former second-round pick from Florida -- has no guarantees about playing time.

"Mike Pearson will run out with the first group but like I mentioned last week to you all, we plan on rotating Salaam," Del Rio said. …

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