AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here is the latest look at what could turn out to be a banner crop of rookie receivers.

They are listed in order of targets, which is a true measure of how much a receiver is utilized. We’re using the qualifier of having a minimum of four targets per game.

Here’s the list of the top-targeted rookie receivers (16 targets needed to qualify):

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina (36 targets): After catching five passes for 76 yards and a TD he has 21 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo (32): He caught four passes last weekend but one was for a touchdown and he now has 17 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans (28): A five-catch game in the rout by the Dallas Cowboys has him at 23 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown.

Robinson
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (26): He caught five passes against San Diego and has 17 catches for 192 yards. He’s the only receiver on the list without a TD catch, but he has 23 targets over the past three games.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay (25): He finally caught his first TD pass and now has 17 catches for 203 yards and one TD. But Evans suffered a groin injury in the Bucs' upset over Pittsburgh and is expected to miss two to four weeks, which could push him off the list.

Allen Hurns, Jacksonville (23): He had five catches against the Chargers, including a 44-yarder that would have gone for a touchdown had he not bobbled it and tripped. He has 12 catches for 254 yards and three TDs. Hurns leads all of the rookies and is second in the league in average yards per catch (21.2).

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia (23): He has 15 catches for 141 yards and two TDs after a relatively quiet game against San Francisco.

 

The Film Don't Lie: Jaguars

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
11:00
AM ET
An examination of what the Jacksonville Jaguars must do after their loss to the San Diego Chargers:

The Jaguars' secondary has given up big plays on a pretty regular basis through the first four games, and that has to have Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown excited about their trip to EverBank Field on Sunday.

The Jaguars have given up a league-worst 25 passing plays of 20 or more yards in four games, including six for touchdowns. The main reason has been coverage busts, particularly from the free safety position. That’s why the Jaguars benched Winston Guy before the Chargers game. Still, receiver Eddie Royal got open for two long TD passes, and watching the film showed both were coverage busts. One came because the Jaguars had linebacker Geno Hayes responsible for running with Royal and there was no safety help over the top. The other came because Guy, back on the field in a three-safety coverage, bit on an out-and-up move and got beat over the top.

The Jaguars cut Guy on Monday and are going with second-year player and sixth-round pick Josh Evans, who started against the Chargers and played well, according to coach Gus Bradley. Cornerback Dwayne Gratz is likely out this week with a concussion, so 2013 seventh-round pick Demetrius McCray will get the start.

That’s certainly not ideal in terms of personnel, but the Jaguars are limited by the lack of talented depth on the roster. But the bottom line is this: They have to do their job and be disciplined. If they are responsible for a certain player coverage area, that’s where they should be. It sounds simple, but it has been an issue all season in the secondary.

Coaches understand being beaten physically on a play. That happens. Mental mistakes, being out of position and freelancing have to stop happening. If not, Brown is going to add to his NFL-leading five touchdown catches.
videoSAN DIEGO -- What mattered most about the Jaguars’ 33-14 loss to San Diego on Sunday wasn’t the final score.

Nor was it that while the defense played a bit better, it still gave up big plays and more than 400 yards.

Or the fact that veteran receiver Cecil Shorts injured his left hamstring in the third quarter and likely will miss a week or two.

Those things do matter, of course, but they’re secondary to the most important thing that happened at Qualcomm Stadium: The Jaguars appear to have hit with Blake Bortles.

The No. 3 overall pick turned in an up-and-down performance in his first career start, throwing for 253 yards and one touchdown but also tossing two costly interceptions. However, he was not shaken or overwhelmed by the situation of playing on the road against the NFL’s 10th-ranked defense with a short-handed offense that got handcuffed even more when Shorts left the game.

"It was good to see," running back Toby Gerhart said. "He didn’t get rattled at all. That’s what we want to see out of our quarterback, to see he handled it well, not get shaken, first time on the road. It’s a testament to him and I’m excited about the future with him."

Sunday’s game was about the future. The Jaguars needed to know if Bortles is the player who can transform the franchise. That’s what GM David Caldwell believed when he drafted Bortles out of Central Florida in May. They liked what they saw during training camp and were even more convinced during the preseason.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bortles
AP Photo/Denis PoroyBlake Bortles has shown the ability to scramble behind the line and still make big pass plays.
But they didn’t really know. They’d never publicly admit there was any doubt, but logically there had to be. This franchise hasn’t hit on a quarterback since Mark Brunell (1995-2003). They missed on first-round picks Byron Leftwich and Blaine Gabbert. They rewarded David Garrard with a big contract and he turned out to be nothing special.

Physically, those guys had what it took to play in the NFL. Bortles measures up there, as well, but it’s poise, confidence, playmaking ability and intangibles that set him apart from the Jaguars’ past QB failures. Two plays he made against the Chargers are all the proof that anyone needs.

In each case, Bortles scrambled around to evade pressure and hit open receivers for big gains. He found Allen Hurns for a 44-yard gain to the San Diego 2-yard line in the second quarter and that led to Bortles’ 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nic Jacobs and a 14-10 lead.

Bortles did it again in the fourth quarter. He was nearly sacked but spun out of trouble, rolled to his right, and found tight end Clay Harbor open for a 30-yard gain on third-and-17.

In each case, Bortles kept his composure, kept his eyes downfield, and turned a broken play into a big gain. He did it against Indianapolis last week, too, scrambling out of a sure sack and finding fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou open for a 26-yard gain.

Once is great. Twice is better. Three times is a trend.

"That’s who he is," receiver Mike Brown said. "Poised, calm, all that."

The ability to do that during the chaos of a game was clearly something that Gabbert lacked. The ability to do that and keep a play alive and get something out of what should be nothing on top of that are the ingredients of what could be the answer to the franchise’s QB problems of the past decade.

"It’s a great thing to have," offensive tackle Luke Joeckel said. "Not every great quarterback has that."

Bortles is far from a great quarterback right now, but he appears to have a few of the necessary ingredients.
videoSAN DIEGO -- Receiver Cecil Shorts knows the familiar feeling, and he didn’t like it.

Shorts
Shorts tried to explode off the line of scrimmage in the third quarter of the Jacksonville Jaguars' 33-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium but he felt the tug in his left hamstring. He stayed on the field for one more play, which turned out to be an interception, but did not return.

Shorts will be evaluated on Monday. So will cornerback Dwayne Gratz, who suffered a concussion against the Chargers. They were the only players listed as being injured during the game.

Shorts’ history with hamstring injuries would suggest he could be out for a while. He left practice during the first day of training camp with what he said was tightness in his right hamstring but ended up missing the next 23 days.

He felt tightness in his left hamstring three days before the season opener and missed the first two games, which brings the total number of games he has missed because of injury since being drafted in 2011 to 13. He has finished the last two seasons on injured reserve.

If he misses significant time with this latest injury, it would rob the offense of its most experienced receiver. The loss would be mitigated somewhat by the return of second-year player Ace Sanders, who was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

Shorts has just seven catches for 60 yards in less than seven quarters.

Gratz was injured while tackling receiver Keenan Allen and stayed on the ground for several moments. Trainers eventually got him into a sitting position and then helped him walk off the field. Second-year player Demetrius McCray replaced Gratz.

Coach Gus Bradley’s Monday news conference is scheduled for 3 p.m. EST and he’ll have updates then.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One word that keeps popping up in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ facility this week is trust.

It’s being used as a way to try and solve some of the defensive issues the team has had in the first three weeks of the season. Players are blowing coverages and missing assignments in part because they’re trying too hard or attempting to make up for someone else’s mistake. As a result they’re out of position, and that’s when big plays happen.

Coach Gus Bradley is modifying his Do Your Job mantra to: Do Your Job and Trust That Your Teammate Will Do His.

"Can we count on you play in and play out to perform the necessary techniques?" Bradley said. "If there’s uncertainty [about someone’s responsibility on a play] or there’s a couple big plays, it can create anxiety for the defense. What went wrong? What’s happening? How do we fix this?

"We’ll take care of it; we’ll get this person right. Make sure he knows what he has to do, you just continue to do what you’re supposed to do."

The main reason the Jaguars benched starting OTTO linebacker LaRoy Reynolds for J.T. Thomas and free safety Winston Guy for Josh Evans is those two players didn’t do their job numerous times. They missed assignments or blew a coverage. Guy, for example, was supposed to cover the back in the flat early in the game against Indianapolis. Instead, he was looking inside, and it was an easy completion for a first down for Andrew Luck.

Those two players have been the most frequent violators, but they are certainly not alone. Bradley said when he watches tape he’ll see 10 players doing things correctly and in the correct spot. That one guy, though, can make a huge difference. For example, safety Chris Prosinski bit on a crossing route and allowed Jeremy Maclin to be wide open for a 63-yard touchdown pass against Philadelphia in the season opener.

"Instead of just doing your job and making the play that comes to you, you want to get out and do above and beyond and that sometimes ends up causing the defense a big problem," outside linebacker Geno Hayes said. "It’s something that’s correctable, but that’s something that we do have to gain as a whole defense, to trust that the man next to you is going to be doing his job, and everybody is going to be accountable."

Defensive players are embarrassed by what has happened the first three weeks. A unit that was supposed to be significantly better than 2013 and keep the team in games while a relatively young offense developed has instead been worse. The Jaguars are last in the league in rushing defense (160 yards per game), passing defense (306 ypg), total defense (466 ypg), and scoring defense (39.7 points per game). After holding Philadelphia scoreless in the first half of the season opener, the Jaguars defense has allowed 113 points.

The Jaguars are giving up a lot of big plays, too: 21 plays of 20 or more yards, including 10 against Indianapolis last Sunday. Four of those plays have resulted in touchdowns.

"We have to do a good job of eliminating those mental errors," cornerback Alan Ball said. "Make guys beat us physically and make guys earn plays. We can’t give teams plays. … We’ve got to find a way to make teams earn plays on us."

Regaining that trust level won’t automatically mean the defense will be significantly better -- sometimes every player does his job and the other team is just better -- but it certainly will be a start.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles recently saw a video clip of himself in college and was stunned.

The guy throwing passes for Central Florida looked nothing like the guy he saw on film from the Jaguars’ preseason games. Right team, right jersey, but Bortles had a hard time believing he was watching himself play.

"It was like watching two different quarterbacks," Bortles said Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeBortles
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackBlake Bortles showed off his improvisational skills and cleaner mechanics against the Colts.
The fact that he almost didn’t recognize himself is the reason he is now the Jaguars’ starting quarterback. His mechanics are cleaner, his arm is stronger, and his throws are crisper. His poise and comfort level are better, and so is his understanding of defenses and what he’s supposed to do on each play.

The guy on tape winging it around for the Knights was relying on athleticism, moxie and ability. The guy on tape in the preseason looked cleaner, more efficient and more polished. He was playing pretty close to the way Jaguars GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley envisioned when they drafted him third overall.

That’s why Bradley made the switch at halftime of last Sunday’s 44-17 loss to Indianapolis after Chad Henne produced 55 yards of total offense and zero points. Bortles threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. More importantly, he led the Jaguars to 17 points -- seven more than the offense had scored in the last eight quarters under Henne.

"I just love his mindset. I love the strength that he has," Bradley said. "He is a tough, hard-nosed competitor and he will attack. The team felt that part of it and I think it’s no coincidence that all of a sudden we blocked a little bit better [and] the receivers played a little bit better.

"… When he came in there things fell into place a little bit better and guys were making plays. Sometimes that happens with a guy that goes in there."

Bortles made several plays, too. He came out of a bootleg after the play fake and nearly ran right into Colts defensive end Bjoern Werner for what should have been a sure sack, but he reversed field, ran to his right, and eventually lofted a pass down the sideline to fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou for a 26-yard gain.

Henne has been in that situation several times during the first three games and the play either resulted in a sack or an incompletion. Bortles’ mobility and the ability to turn a broken play into a positive play is one of the biggest differences from Henne. Considering the struggles of the offensive line this season (17 sacks allowed, 46.7 yards per game rushing), that’s a huge plus.

"He was able to make plays that were not necessarily on time or schedule," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "That stood out for us and guys were making some plays. It was cool all around to watch it unfold."

That looked a lot like the player that Bortles saw on that college clip. That’s fine, because he doesn’t want to lose that improvisational part of his game and it’s one of the things that intrigued the Jaguars about him. But that’s the only part of that college clip he wants to see on any of the Jaguars tape he watches.

He doesn’t recognize most of what he sees from that older clip.

"That’s just a tribute to all of the work I’ve done with [quarterback coach] Frank [Scelfo] and extra stuff we’ve done together in meeting time with Jedd and Chad," Bortles said. "Learning as much as possible, continuing to get better, and work every day at practice."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- While they might not be drastic moves, the Jacksonville Jaguars did make two personnel changes they hope will have an impact on the NFL’s worst defense.

Evans
Thomas
Thomas
Coach Gus Bradley on Wednesday benched starting Otto linebacker LaRoy Reynolds for J.T. Thomas and free safety Winston Guy for Josh Evans. Reynolds and Guy were demoted because they have struggled with missed assignments and blown coverages. Mental mistakes, such as blown coverages and missed assignments, are the big reason the Jaguars’ defense has given up 21 plays of 20 or more yards, including 10 against Indianapolis.

Those mistakes aren’t confined to Guy and Reynolds, but they have been among the more flagrant violators.

"My conversation with Winston and LaRoy was very similar," Bradley said. "It was that we really like them as players, we like their skill set, but it’s about consistency, about when the opportunity to make plays [arises they have] to make the plays. I think they both understood that.

"I was very pleased with how they came back today. Sometimes the shock to the system like this brings them back and elevates their level of play. Maybe that’s what we’ll see from them."

The hope is the switches can make a difference in a defense that ranks last in the league in rushing (160 yards per game), passing (306 yards per game), total defense (466 yards per game), and scoring (39.7 points per game). After holding Philadelphia scoreless in the first half of the season opener, the Jaguars defense has allowed 113 points.

Bradley said he doesn’t want to make any more personnel changes and added that he didn’t like having to make the ones he did.

"It’s not a fun day doing that because you feel like as a coach you didn’t help them as much as you could have and I know they take personal responsibility," Bradley said. "You’d like to have guys play up to their full capabilities."

The Film Don't Lie: Jaguars

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
11:00
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A weekly look at what the Jacksonville Jaguars must fix:

Among the many problems the Jaguars (0-3) have on defense is the inability to cover tight ends, and that makes Sunday's matchup against host San Diego (2-1) a potential nightmare since the Chargers have one of the league's best tight ends in Antonio Gates.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, tight ends have combined to catch 25 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns against the Jaguars and opposing quarterbacks have completed 78.1 percent of their passes to tight ends in three games. No team has given up more yards, and only Dallas (27) has given up more receptions. The Jaguars have faced some of the league's more talented tight ends in Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Coby Fleener, but they've also been burned by Niles Paul (eight catches, 99 yards, one TD), who had 18 career catches in four-plus seasons entering the game against the Jaguars.

The reasons for the problems are twofold. First, the lack of speed at linebacker is an issue whenever the Jaguars are in man coverage that calls for a 'backer on a tight end. Outside linebacker Geno Hayes can hold his own with most tight ends, but middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is a liability in coverage, even if it's zone. He can't keep up with tight ends crossing in the middle of the field. The other issue, which is more troubling, is blown assignments. Guys are freelancing or making a mistake and covering the wrong route or area.

There's not much the Jaguars can do about the first problem right now. They drafted speedy linebacker Telvin Smith out of Florida State but he's still raw, and the coaching staff said he's not ready to be more than a nickel linebacker right now. Upgrading the speed and athleticism at linebacker will be one of general manager David Caldwell's goals in the offseason. Blown assignments and coverages are fixable, but there are always several each game, especially involving safety Winston Guy. The Jaguars don't have the kind of quality depth to bench players that continue to make mistakes, though if the mistakes continue they might very well do so and live with the limitations.

The Jaguars won't be able to stop Gates, who is the Chargers' leading receiver (14 catches, 185 yards, 3 TDs), because he's going to win the physical matchups with the linebackers. But they can at least limit the damage if they quit playing bonehead football.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars came out of Sunday’s 44-17 loss to Indianapolis with only one somewhat significant injury. Safety Chris Prosinski, one of the team’s top special-teams players, suffered an elbow/triceps strain and will miss two to four weeks.

Prosinski is tied with LaRoy Reynolds for the team lead with three special-teams tackles.

Here’s an update on other injured players, according to the Jaguars:
  • Linebacker Paul Posluszny suffered an ankle sprain to go along with the knee contusion he suffered against Philadelphia. He will be evaluated on Wednesday and is expected to be a limited participant in practice this week.
  • Fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou suffered a sprained ankle and will be evaluated on Wednesday.
  • Right tackle Austin Pasztor, who was inactive on Sunday as he continues to recover from a broken bone in his right hand, will be evaluated throughout the week.
  • Tight end Clay Harbor, who returned to practice on a limited basis last week for the first time since suffering a calf injury on July 28, should practice on Wednesday.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Lost in the quarterback change on Sunday and the ensuing excitement about Blake Bortles' performance is that the Jacksonville Jaguars' running game was actually productive against Indianapolis.

It wasn't great and there's still a lot of room for improvement, but the Jaguars did have success on the ground. They rushed for 105 yards, which was more than their total through the first two games (89 yards). That total includes 30 yards rushing by Bortles, but even if that's removed the Jaguars running backs still gained 75 yards.

Gerhart
Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson and Jordan Todman combined to average 4.2 yards per carry. Adding in Bortles' two carries increases that average to 5.3 per carry.

Granted, some of that is due to the fact the Colts were playing pass most of the game and certainly in the second half with a 30-0 lead. However, the Jaguars have been so poor at running the ball in losses to Philadelphia and Washington that what happened against the Colts is certainly progress.

"That was exciting to finally move the ball a little bit in the run game," Gerhart said. "I'm excited with the progress and we're going to go back and look at it [Monday] and try to keep getting better. Definitely a good step today."

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- So much for easing Cecil Shorts back into things.

Shorts
Shorts missed the first two games of the season with tightness in his left hamstring, but he played all 60 offensive snaps in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 44-17 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday. Coach Gus Bradley said before Week 2 that if Shorts did play against Washington they would monitor his reps. That apparently wasn’t the case on Sunday.

Shorts was targeted 10 times and caught five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. After the game he said he had no issues with his hamstring.

"I felt good," Shorts said. "I tell you what, our training staff and our strength staff does a great job. They got me back real fast. It felt good to be back out there with the guys."

Now the question for Shorts is whether he can stay healthy for the rest of the season. He has missed 13 games with various injuries since being drafted in 2011, and he finished the last two years on IR. He has had hamstring problems, two concussions, a shoulder sprain (which he played through last season), and a sports hernia during the regular season.

He missed parts of organized team activities and minicamp this past spring with a calf injury, and sat out 23 days of the most recent training camp with tightness in his right hamstring.

Jaguars defense embarrassing itself

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
8:30
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Linebacker Paul Posluszny conducted an interview that lasted nearly three minutes, but he really needed only one sentence to sum up the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive performance against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

"It was awful," he said.

That’s a pretty good way to describe it. Indianapolis rolled up 529 yards, Andrew Luck threw for 370 and four touchdowns, and held the ball for little more than 37 minutes. The Colts scored 30 points in the first half, which were the most points the Jaguars have allowed in the first half in their 20-year history.

"We should be playing a lot better than that," Posluszny said. "We’re making mistakes. We’re not playing together as a unit. We’re not very consistent.

“We’ll have Red Bryant make a great play and make a tackle for a loss and then we’ll get beat over the top for a 20-yard gain. We need to be much more consistent in everything we do."

This is a familiar refrain. Outside of the first half against Philadelphia in the second opener, the Jaguars’ defense has been terrible. In the last 10 quarters it has given up 112 points. It is confusing, befuddling, baffling, perplexing, puzzling -- any adjective you want to use.

The Jaguars’ defense was supposed to be better in 2014 after the additions of ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, tackle Ziggy Hood, and linebacker Dekoda Watson. It was supposed to keep the team in games longer to allow a young offense time to develop.

Instead, it has been a giant, ridiculous mess: The Jaguars are giving up 446 total yards, 306 yards passing, and 160 yards rushing per game. Oh, and 39.7 points per game.

Coach Gus Bradley seems to know why things are so bad, but he has not been able to get it fixed.

"It feels like 10 guys are doing things right and you have an opportunity for one guy to make a play and he didn’t make it," Bradley said. "We’ve got to train to be clutch. The message to them is when you get your opportunity called you have to make the play. I just think we missed on too many opportunities there defensively."

The most troubling aspect is that players seem to know exactly what to do but for whatever reason aren’t doing it. For example, safety Winston Guy was supposed to cover the back in the flat on Indianapolis’ first drive. Instead, he goes inside and Ahmad Bradshaw is wide open and catches an easy pass for 12 yards.

Posluszny believes people are pressing instead of following Bradley’s defensive mantra: Do your job.

"We’re not trusting the guy next to us," he said. "We have such a strong desire to do well that we want to do a little bit more and that’s when things start to break down. We have to realize everybody has a job to do, a very specific job, and each one of us has to take care of that and trust the guy next to him that they’re going to do theirs as well."

That’s what players have said after each of the first two games, as well. But, as we saw Sunday, nothing has changed.

"It’s unbelievable," Posluszny said. "We say that’s not our type of ball, that’s not us, but that’s what we’re putting out there. We should be playing better."
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' plan for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles was for him to sit the bench and develop and then step onto the field as the team’s starting quarterback in 2015.

It was a smart approach, especially with the struggles that emerged along the offensive line and the three rookie receivers that made double-digit mental mistakes -- including running into each other on one play in Week 2. Unfortunately, that strategy imploded after just 10 quarters.

After a lackluster first half in which the offense gained only 55 yards, generated two first downs, and scored zero points, coach Gus Bradley benched veteran Chad Henne and handed the job to Bortles -- and not only for the second half of what turned out to be a 44-17 loss to Indianapolis at EverBank Field.

The Jaguars are Bortles’ team now, and there is no going back. They have committed themselves to riding it out with the talented rookie for the rest of the season, no matter how ugly things become.

"He’s going to go through some learning on the field," Bradley said. "Hopefully for us that learning curve means more good than bad. The challenge for us with him is just keep getting better. I think Blake really understands that’s what it's all about."

It will be ugly at times. It was on Sunday. Bortles, running to his right, threw a pass across his body toward the middle of the field that was so far behind receiver Allen Hurns that cornerback Greg Toler had an easy interception that he returned 47 yards for a touchdown. Bortles also lost the ball in his own end zone, tried to recover it, and had it bounce out of bounds for what would have been a safety -- except the Colts bailed him out by committing an illegal contact penalty to negate the play.

Bortles threw another interception on a deep ball to Allen Robinson and misfired on several other throws, including some that weren’t even close. He went 1-for-5 on his first possession.

"There’s going to be mistakes and that’s part of the game," running back Toby Gerhart said. "Especially for him. Defenses are complex, run checks, whatever it may be, there’s going to be times where he may not check it the right way. But we’ll live with it and make the most out of it."

They will live with it because Bortles also can make plays: Evading defensive end Bjoern Werner on a bootleg, scrambling to his right, and lofting a pass down the sideline to fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou for a 26-yard gain. That is the kind of play Henne hasn’t been able to make -- he was in a similar situation against Washington several times last week and was sacked -- but Bortles can make those plays over and over again.

"He kept plays alive," Bradley said. "He’s got really good instincts. Made some really good decisions and some good throws, and then some of throws that you saw I’m sure he wished he had back. But we’ll learn through those. I just love his mindset. I love the strength that he has. He is tough, hard-nosed, competitor and he will attack.

"And the team felt that part of it. I think it’s no coincidence that all of a sudden we blocked a little bit better; the receivers played a little bit better. He has a way to uplift people and uplift a team."

It certainly won’t be easy for Bortles, especially next week in San Diego. It’s likely he’s going to struggle in his first start now that teams will be game-planning to stop him. He’s going to see more exotic coverages and defenses are going to blitz him mercilessly, especially if the Jaguars' run game continues to be anemic and the defense continues to play poorly.

He might, at times, look even worse than Henne did in the first two-and-a-half games. In fact, it’s a virtual guarantee.

The Jaguars can’t go back to Henne, though. They have jumped on the Bortles train and it's going to be a rough ride in 2014, with the hope that the lumps they take now will make things much smoother next season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 44-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

Posluszny gloomy: Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, one of the last players to leave the locker room, didn’t mince words when describing the way the defense played in the first half. "It was awful," he said. "We should be playing a lot better than that, but we’re making mistakes. We’re not playing together as a unit. We’re not very consistent." That pretty much covers the complete breakdown that allowed the Colts to run up 30 points and 330 yards (239 passing).

Henne understands: Quarterback Chad Henne was up front about being benched and said he expected it to happen after the offense’s abysmal first half. He said coach Gus Bradley had talked to him earlier in the week and said the offense needed to be better. "It was an uphill battle for me [on Sunday], and we both understood that," he said. "Like I said, if you’re not winning, things are going to be changed, and I’m one of those cases."

Getting a lift: Receiver Allen Hurns said he could feel a difference at EverBank Field when Blake Bortles ran out with the offense to start the second half. Not just on the first possession, either. "When he comes in the game, he’s getting all the love," Hurns said. "It’s a great atmosphere."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 44-17 loss to Indianapolis at EverBank Field.

What it means: The Blake Bortles era has begun in Jacksonville. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said last week that there were no discussions among the coaches to bench starting quarterback Chad Henne and insert Bortles as the starter for Sunday’s game, but that was before a lackluster first half in which the offense gained just 55 yards and generated just two first downs, and Henne completed 4 of 7 passes for 33 yards. Bradley decided to go with the rookie from Central Florida in the hopes of providing a spark, and Bortles did that. The offense at least looked functional and managed to put a drive together that resulted in points. Now that the Jaguars have made the move, there is no turning back to Henne. They have committed themselves to riding it out with Bortles the rest of the season, no matter how ugly things become. The offensive line still needs work, they are without tight end Marcedes Lewis, and the receivers are a still work in progress, so it’s going to be a mess at times, but it makes no sense to go back to Henne.

Stock watch: The Jaguars' defense didn’t get much help from the offense in the first half, but the unit didn’t exactly stuff the Colts on their first few drives when the game was still close. Indianapolis gained 330 yards, including 91 rushing, and scored 30 points in the first half. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 22 of 37 pass attempts, including a streak of 13 consecutive completions.

Tight end trouble: The Jaguars' troubling trend of struggling against tight ends continued on Sunday. Even with safety Johnathan Cyprien back in the lineup, the Colts' tight ends had a field day. Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Jack Doyle combined to catch 11 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Entering Sunday’s game, the Jaguars had allowed opposing tight ends to catch 99 passes for 1,155 yards and 11 touchdowns in the previous six games.

Game ball: This sounds like the Bortles report, but his debut was really the only bright spot for the Jaguars. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He started 1-for-5 on his first drive and went 13-for-19 the rest of the half. He also threw a pair of interceptions, including one on a terrible throw across his body that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

What’s next: If Bortles does indeed remain the Jaguars’ quarterback, he’s going to have a tough task ahead of him because the Jaguars travel cross-country to play at 4:05 p.m. ET next Sunday in San Diego.

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