JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis started running again this week. Backpedaling, shuffling and moving laterally, too.
Although he feels much better, Mathis failed to convince Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio that he can play in a game.
Del Rio ruled Mathis out for Sunday's meeting with the Houston Texans, meaning the Jaguars (6-5) must defend All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson without their top defensive back.
"There's no sense in dragging that out," Del Rio said Wednesday. "He's just not ready to go yet. We'll take another peek and hope for next week. He is running and starting to move around and bring himself back. At a skill position like that, he's going to need to show that over a little bit of time before we can put him out there."
Mathis, a 2006 Pro Bowl pick who owns the franchise record for interceptions (28), injured his groin against the New York Jets last month and missed the last two games.
The Jaguars have struggled without Mathis. Buffalo's Terrell Owens caught nine passes for 197 yards and one touchdown two weeks ago, and San Francisco's Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree combined for 10 receptions for 97 yards last week.
Johnson poses an even bigger threat. He has 63 receptions for 945 yards and five touchdowns this season and repeatedly has burned the Jaguars in his seven seasons.
Johnson caught four passes for 85 yards in the first meeting between the AFC South rivals in September. It was one of the few games against Jacksonville in which Johnson wasn't a huge factor. Mathis shadowed him on every play.
"He's a great receiver," Brackenridge said. "He's probably the best in the league. ... He's very explosive. He's strong. He's a very dominant receiver. He's one of the best in the NFL, might be the best. He's a quiet guy, very humble. That's what separates him from a lot of good players. A lot of good players are more out there when they make plays. He just kind of takes it in stride and goes to the next play, which makes him a great player."
Mathis, who's also still recovering from a broken index finger on his left hand, hopes to be able to return for next week's game against the Miami Dolphins.
"I've been getting better and better every day," Mathis said. "I've been a fast healer, and I'm healing fast now. I'm feeling better than (Del Rio) thought I'd be feeling and I'm feeling better than the trainers thought. I'm doing more stuff than the trainers thought I would, and that's always a plus.
"I'm not pushing it. I'm smart. I know my boundaries. I know my body. I know what it takes to play. If I have that, then I will play. If I don't have that, then I won't play."
Note:Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew sat out practice Wednesday because of a sore knee, but he insisted that it was only precautionary. Jones-Drew did the same thing last week, but he returned to practice Thursday and Friday and started in Sunday's game at San Francisco. Jones-Drew has 1,001 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press