Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Daunting Debut; Jaguars Rookie CB Cox Jumps Right into Fire against Colts, Manning

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Daunting Debut; Jaguars Rookie CB Cox Jumps Right into Fire against Colts, Manning

Article excerpt

Byline: VITO STELLINO

INDIANAPOLIS - Derek Cox will be wearing No. 21 when he takes the field for his first NFL regular-season game today.

It might be more appropriate if the Jaguars' rookie had a bull's-eye on his chest.

It's hard to imagine a rookie facing a more daunting task in his first pro game. A third-round pick from William & Mary who missed the Jaguars' first three preseason games with a groin injury is going up against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

The Jaguars will start four rookies in this game, but it's Cox who will be the target of Manning and the Colts' potent passing attack.

The Jaguars aren't announcing their game plan, but they're likely to give Rashean Mathis the task of following the Colts' top receiver, Reggie Wayne, all over the field and assign Cox to Anthony Gonzalez, who has replaced Marvin Harrison.

And the Jaguars will probably attempt give Cox some help so he's not on an island.

Still, it's a large task, but not one that seems to worry Cox. He appears to have the personality a cornerback needs.

"You've got to have a short memory," he said, a reference to the fact that if he's beaten, he's got to put it behind him and go to the next play.

Nor does Cox seem intimidated by facing a future Hall of Famer like Manning and his elite receiving corps.

"You can't make them out to be superhuman," Cox said. "They're regular guys."

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said Cox has the attitude to succeed and compares him to Mathis, who was a surprise second round pick in 2003 from Bethune-Cookman. Mathis also started his first game, though at safety, not cornerback.

"I think when you get a chance to know him, I think you'll see he's similar to what Rashean was," Del Rio said. "I think when Rashean got here, from a maturity, from an intelligence standpoint, he feels he belongs. He's coming in, and he's just going about his business. He's not overly talkative. He's not trying to boast his way to anything. He's not trying to talk his way to anything. He's just coming in, going about his job, working at it, learning, getting better."

Mathis had already shared his early experiences with Cox.

"I've talked to him [about] how there were doubts when I first came in. I let him know that as a small-school guy [there were questions] about, 'Can he do this? Can he do that?' I let him know to stay out of the paper and stay as far a away from you guys [reporters] and just do what he was born to do. He'll be fine," Mathis said.

The Jaguars gave up their 2010 second-round pick last April to move up and take Cox in the third round. He was a three-year starter and two-time captain at William & Mary. He also earned his degree.

"He's a very good athlete, and you have to be to make it to this level," Mathis said. …

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