JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With health concerns piling up even quicker than losses around the Jacksonville Jaguars, the return of safety Johnathan Cyprien is welcome news on a team which could use it.
Cyprien, the Jaguars’ second-leading tackler last season as a rookie, was cleared to resume practicing after seeing an independent doctor Monday in his last step in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Cyprien was injured in the second quarter of the season opener at Philadelphia when he fell to the turf after helping break up an incomplete pass and the back of his head hit the ground.
"It was scary at the time," he said. "But I’m fine. It happens. It’s football."
Without Cyprien, the Jaguars gave up 291 yards in the second half to the Eagles and 449 yards in a 41-10 loss to the Washington Redskins which dropped their record to 0-2. Josh Evans, who made 11 starts in 2013 at free safety, moved into Cyprien’s strong safety spot and had a team-high 14 tackles in one of the few bright spots on a defense which was on the field for more than 39 minutes.
"Yeah, it’s always tough not being able to help your brothers out there when they’re battling," said Cyprien, who never suffered a concussion during his four-year college career at Florida International.
During the week in which he could not practice, Cyprien claimed he didn’t experience any acute sensitivity to light as a side effect of what happened to him. With him back in the lineup, the Jaguars are back to full strength on defense for their home opener Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, who ran for 169 yards Monday night in a loss to the Eagles.
"He’s a second-year player, but he has a lot of experience on the back end," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "And he’s great in the run defense, which is going to be big for us this week. They have a power running attack, so to be able to bring a guy like that in the box is a big advantage for our defense."
"We still know what we’re able to do and capable of doing," Cyprien said. "All the guys are still in here. And we’ve just got to get rolling."
It’s on offense where the Jaguars remain banged up. Already having played the first two games without wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (hamstring), they placed tight end Marcedes Lewis on injured reserve/designated for return Tuesday after he was helped off with a high ankle sprain against the Redskins.
With Lewis out and Clay Harbor having been sidelined since training camp with a calf injury, the Jaguars might have to start undrafted free agent Marcel Jensen — who was just brought off the practice squad — at tight end against the Colts. Jensen would join center Luke Bowanko, right guard Brandon Linder and wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns as rookies in the Jaguars’ starting offensive lineup, although Hurns is recovering from an injury to his left ankle late in the fourth quarter at Washington.
Bowanko, a sixth-round pick out of Virginia, is taking the place of Jacques McClendon, who was part of a line which gave up a franchise-record 10 sacks against the Redskins.