JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Toby Gerhart is not the first member of his family that was under contract to play professional football in Jacksonville.

A year before the Jacksonville Jaguars running back was born, his father Todd was a member of the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League. Todd Gerhart, however, never played a down in Jacksonville because the league folded before the 1986 began.

Todd Gerhart was a running back at Cal State-Fullerton from 1981-84 and played fullback for the USFL's Denver Gold in 1985, rushing for 279 yards and two touchdowns in 18 games. After the 1985 season the USFL announced it was moving to a fall schedule in 1986. Gold owner Doug Spedding, knowing his team wouldn't be able to compete with the Denver Broncos, worked a merger with the Jacksonville Bulls.

The team was supposed to play in Jacksonville in 1986 but the league folded before the season began so Todd Gerhart -- who played in the Gold's 42-6 road loss to the Bulls on June 23, 1985 -- never played a home game in the city.

When Toby Gerhart told his father he was signing with the Jaguars, Todd Gerhart told his son about the city's most recognizable landmark, the Jacksonville Landing, which was finished in 1987.

"When I was going [to sign with the Jaguars] he told me, 'Oh, I remember the Landing out there,'" Toby Gerhart said. "'Go to dinner out there.'"
Bortles
For the Jacksonville Jaguars to have success -- over the next three seasons and beyond -- Blake Bortles has to develop into the quarterback general manager David Caldwell envisioned during the pre-draft process.

Caldwell took Bortles with the third overall pick because he and coach Gus Bradley believed Bortles was the best quarterback in the draft and could become the cornerstone of the franchise the way Matt Ryan did in Atlanta during Caldwell’s five seasons with the Falcons. But unlike Ryan, who started 16 games as a rookie, the Jaguars want Bortles to stay off the field in 2014 and instead learn and develop behind Chad Henne.

Bortles will need to adjust to the speed of the NFL game and learn a new offense, but that’s not what is holding him back. He has some mechanical issues, specifically with his lower body, which he must improve. Bortles said the biggest issue is his footwork, particularly when he throws to his right. He’s not stepping in the direction of the throw with his left (front) foot, which leaves his upper body parallel to the line of scrimmage on his release. That’s costing him velocity and accuracy, he said.

There also are other minor technique tweaks and issues that offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo are working on with Bortles. The plan is to use this season to fix these issues so Bortles can take the field in 2015 as a fundamentally sound quarterback who knows the offense completely.

That’s when the Jaguars will find out if Bortles has some of the other qualities needed to be a great quarterback. Can he feel and elude the rush in the pocket? When he’s under pressure, will he step up into the pocket to make the throw or bail out? Is he capable of putting a team on his back? Does he come through in big situations or does he wilt? Is he a consistent player? Do his teammates believe in him?

Those aren’t questions that can be answered now, and they might not all be answered in 2015, either. But the franchise’s future success depends on Caldwell and Bradley being able to answer “yes” to most of those questions.

NFL Nation Buzz: Jaguars' top plays

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
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ESPN.com Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco discusses the finalists for the team’s most memorable plays.
Morten AndersenAndy Lyons/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we'll feature: Mark Brunell's touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith to clinch the 1996 AFC Divisional playoff game over the Broncos; and David Garrard's fourth-down scramble to set up Josh Scobee's game-winning field goal in the 2007 AFC Wildcard game. Please vote for your choice as the Jaguars' most memorable play.

Score: Jaguars 19, Falcons 17
Date: Dec. 22, 1996 Site: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Four consecutive victories -- all by seven or fewer points -- put the Jaguars on the cusp of their first playoff appearance in just the franchise's second season. All they needed to do was beat the 3-12 Falcons at home.

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It looked like it would happen too. The Jaguars led 16-3 midway through the third quarter, thanks to Brunell's touchdown run and Mike Hollis' three field goals . But the Falcons sandwiched touchdowns around another Hollis field goal and cut the Jaguars' lead to 19-17.

Atlanta then put together what should have been a game-winning drive and set up kicker Morten Andersen with a short 30-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds. Anderson had made 59 consecutive field goals from 30 yards or closer dating back to 1989, so the Jaguars were going to be cleaning out their lockers the next day.

But the left-footed Andersen slipped when he planted his right foot, and the ball squirted left of the upright. The remaining Jaguars fans went crazy, but on the home team sideline there was a moment of disbelief.

"It almost renders me speechless," coach Tom Coughlin said after the game. "We're in the playoffs."

And boy did they make the most of that early Christmas present.

The Jaguars went to Buffalo the following week and upset the Bills in a wild-card game and then produced what is arguably the greatest victory in franchise history. The Jaguars were 14-point underdogs but upset the top-seeded Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium.

Suddenly, they were in the AFC Championship Game.

It wouldn't have been possible without Andersen's shocking miss. To this day, Andersen still holds a place of reverence among Jaguars fans.

Surprisingly, Andersen has embraced his piece of franchise history. He served as a surprise presenter at the Florida Sports Awards show that was held in Jacksonville the summer of 1997. Andersen even pretended to slip as he was announced and made his way on stage.

The award he presented: The Jaguars' MVP, of course.

Jimmy SmithJamie Squire/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Jacksonville Jaguars history. On Wednesday, we’ll feature David Garrard’s fourth-down scramble to set up Josh Scobee’s game-winning field goal in the 2007 AFC wild-card playoffs. On Monday, we featured Morten Andersen’s missed field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale that sent the Jaguars to the playoffs. Please vote for your choice as the Jaguars’ most memorable play.

Score: Jaguars 30, Broncos 27
Date: Jan. 4, 1997 Site: Mile High Stadium

You could argue that the Jaguars didn’t belong in the playoffs in just their second year of existence. They got in only because Morten Andersen slipped and missed a chip-shot 30-yard field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale.

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And you also could argue the Jaguars got a bit lucky in their 30-27 AFC wild-card victory over host Buffalo. Mark Brunell threw an end-zone interception and had another pick returned for a touchdown, but the Jaguars turned a Jim Kelly fumble into the game-winning points.

But you can’t debate that the Jaguars pulled off one of the biggest upsets in playoff history by beating the top-seeded and 14-point favorite Broncos to earn a trip to the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars outgained the Broncos by 92 yards, didn’t turn the ball over and won the game, thanks to two of the franchise’s greatest players.

The Jaguars trailed 12-0 into the second quarter but then scored on six consecutive possessions. The last in that streak was the most important because it gave the Jaguars a 10-point lead with 3:39 remaining.

The touchdown came on a play that the Jaguars had run countless times: a fade pass to Jimmy Smith. From the Denver 16-yard line, the left-handed Brunell took a three-step drop and lofted the ball down the sideline toward Smith, who had gotten behind cornerback Tory James. Smith caught the ball three steps into the end zone before free safety Tim Hauck could get over to help.

Brunell threw 195 touchdown passes (11 in the playoffs) and Smith caught 74 touchdown passes (seven in the playoffs) in their NFL careers, but none may have been bigger than that one. That touchdown, one of Smith’s three catches in the game, gave the Jaguars a 10-point cushion.

The Broncos scored their second touchdown of the fourth quarter on John Elway’s 15-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey with 1:50 remaining to pull to within 30-27, but Jason Elam’s onside kick attempt traveled only 5 yards and the Jaguars ran out the clock.
The Jacksonville Jaguars released their full training camp schedule Monday. Players report on July 24 and the Jaguars will hold their first practice the next morning.

Thirteen of the Jaguars' first 20 practices will be open to the public, highlighted by a scrimmage at EverBank Field on Aug. 2. Fans must register for the scrimmage at jaguars.com, starting July 8, to be able to attend the game. The Jaguars will have an open practice at Bartram Trail High School (St. Johns, Florida) from 6-8 p.m. on July 28.

"We are excited to announce our 2014 training camp schedule," Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said in a statement released by the team. "We want our fans to be a part of our journey and they will have the opportunity to watch 13 practices including our practice in St. Johns County and the annual scrimmage inside the stadium. We had a productive offseason and our players are looking forward to getting back to work as we continue preparations for the 2014 season."
David GarrardGary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Jacksonville Jaguars history. On Monday we featured Morten Andersen’s missed field goal in the 1996 regular-season finale that sent the Jaguars to the playoffs. On Tuesday we featured Mark Brunell’s touchdown pass to Jimmy Smith to clinch the 1996 AFC divisional playoff game over the Broncos.

Score: Jaguars 31, Steelers 29
Date: Jan. 5, 2008 Site: Heinz Field

The Jaguars have won just one playoff game since their run to the 1999 AFC Championship Game, and it came thanks to a gutsy play call, a couple of good blocks and a holding penalty that wasn’t called.

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The Jaguars appeared headed for an easy victory over Pittsburgh in a 2007 AFC wild-card game after beginning the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead and the Steelers facing a fourth-and-12 at the Jacksonville 37-yard line. But Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes hooked up for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh’s comeback got jump-started.

The Steelers eventually took a 29-28 lead with a little more than six minutes to play. After the teams traded possessions, the Jaguars drove into Pittsburgh territory but faced a critical fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 43 with 1:56 remaining.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t choose a pass play or a run by Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew. He called a quarterback draw out of the shotgun formation, putting the season on David Garrard’s feet.

Four players threw key blocks: Center Brad Meester sealed linebacker James Farrior on the inside, left guard Vince Manuwai drove defensive end Brett Keisel backward, right tackle Maurice Williams took down nose tackle Casey Hampton and tight end Marcedes Lewis turned safety Troy Polamalu outside.

That opened a huge hole for Garrard, who put a move on safety Tyrone Carter and ran by him at the 30 before Carter finally ran him down at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. That play set up Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining, and defensive end Bobby McCray sacked Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that defensive tackle Derek Landri recovered with 20 seconds to play to give the Jaguars a 31-29 victory.

Except it shouldn’t have happened.

Officials missed a pretty blatant hold by left tackle Khalif Barnes on linebacker James Harrison. Barnes got his feet crossed as Harrison went outside and then back inside and grabbed Harrison’s jersey by his shoulders. By the time Barnes let go, Garrard was already past the first-down marker.

Steelers players and fans were irate about the noncall. Their complaints were eventually validated when the NFL’s head of officiating admitted the following spring that the crew working that game missed the holding call.

There was obviously nothing the NFL could do about the outcome. That remains the last time the Steelers lost a playoff game at home.

We know that every NFL player is extremely talented. They wouldn't have made it this far if they weren't. But playing in the NFL is more than just physical talent. So to find out what drives them, focuses their energy and mind, and is important to them, I asked several Jaguars the following question: "Who was and is your biggest football influence?"

The answers were diverse and interesting.

Today we find out about former Clemson defensive end Andre Branch, a third-year player from Richmond, Virginia.

Branch
Who was your biggest football influence growing up?

Branch: My mother [Paulette Battle] and both my grandfathers [Orlandus Branch and Lucion Battle]. Because I do this for my mom and both my grandfathers, who are deceased. That’s who I play for. I pray to them before every game and I owe them that. They always were there for me, so this is how I’m changing my family around.

So they helped you learn the game?

Branch: My mom never missed a game. Ever. She never missed a game, no matter what. If I redshirted, she didn’t miss. No matter what state I was in, she didn’t [miss]. My grandfathers, they made me the man I am now. Not having my father there every day, they picked that up. That’s who I do it for.

So it wasn't necessarily football skills. They were your biggest supporters?

Branch: Through the highs and lows.
video

John Clayton shows how the 2013 draft class of top offensive tackles struggled all season.
We know that every NFL player is extremely talented. They wouldn't have made it this far if they weren't. But playing in the NFL is more than just physical talent. So to find out what drives them, focuses their energy and mind, and is important to them, I asked several Jaguars the following question: "Who was and is your biggest football influence?"

The answers were diverse and interesting.

Cyprien
Today we find out about former Florida International safety Johnathan Cyprien, a second-year player from North Miami Beach, Florida.

Who was your biggest football influence growing up?

Cyprien: My favorite by far was Randy Moss growing up. I know he plays offense, I play defense, but Randy Moss -- I was definitely a fan of everything he did and how great he was as a receiver.

Who helped you become the player you are?

Cyprien: I always loved playing football. I used to just play on the street, throw with the guys, until I got introduced to little league football in my neighborhood. I always had the drive in myself to be good and just play well. But I think the turning point kind of had been high school where my coach -- Jeff Bertani, North Miami Beach Senior High -- he really pushed us to a level that I don't believe normal high school students are pushed to. With that standard I had for myself since high school, bringing it to college, it stood out and it was a difference. That same drive that I have now from high school got me drafted and I'm bringing it here now and just hoping it continues to make a difference.

How did he push you?

Cyprien: He was a leader for our whole team, and not only on the field but how we conducted ourselves in school. He connects with everybody off the field, even now. On the field, in my neighborhood where I'm from, my school was the first team pretty much for both players to go both ways. We went both ways and we trained to do so, so in the summers we did crazy conditioning that most people would just stop and give up on, but we felt like if you didn't do it then you couldn't be a Charger. This is what Chargers did so if you wanted to be one this is what you had to do. With that said we only had 32 players on our team every year.

Two-way players? Was North Miami Beach Senior High a small school?

Cyprien: My graduating class was 600. We were 6A and we only had 32 players. It’s either you stayed or you left. If you wanted to be a Charger, if you wanted to play for us, you had to play his way. That just made us closer as a team and we knew that's what it was. We pushed ourselves like that and we were always well-conditioned. Not only that, we competed. We weren't just going through the motions when we played both ways, so it was great.

Sounds like tough love.

Cyprien: Definitely.
We know that every NFL player is extremely talented. They wouldn't have made it this far if they weren't. But playing in the NFL is more than just physical talent. So to find out what drives them, focuses their energy and mind and is important to them, I asked several Jaguars the following question: "Who was and is your biggest football influence?"

The answers were diverse and interesting.

Today we find out about former Grand Valley State offensive lineman Cameron Bradfield, a fourth-year player from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Bradfield
Who was your biggest football influence growing up?

Bradfield: I would say when I first started playing, it was my friends. I didn’t really follow football that much growing up. I was more of a basketball player, but I started playing when I was 8 years old and it was mainly because my friends were playing. We would play street ball and stuff like that, but they had already been playing organized football and they asked me to come out and I was like, 'Sure. I’m not doing anything else this summer, so I might as well go out.' So I would say initially it was them.

Were you a big kid?

Bradfield: I was tall. I was always a tall kid. I wasn’t big. Didn’t play offensive line until I got to college. I probably played every position except [offensive line]. I played running back, I played some tight end, wideout, linebacker, defensive line. I didn’t really like gain a lot of mass until I got to college.

So what position did you play when you got to Grand Valley State?

Bradfield: I came at tight end. It was primarily tight end. Or D-end. Whichever one they wanted to put me at. But, yeah, I came in at tight end. Was about 230 [pounds]. I would say probably that offseason, going into like May or June, probably gained 25, 30 pounds. That’s how that whole offensive line thing started.

What about high school? Who was your biggest influence there?

Bradfield: I would definitely say my high school coach [Sparky McEwen at Creston High in Grand Rapids, Michigan]. He definitely lit a fire under me to really push me a lot to be better than everybody else. I would say I was a decent high school player but he really pushed me to be great and really taught me what it means to have a work ethic and stuff like that. So, I’d definitely say him.

Were you one of those guys that skated by on talent alone?

Bradfield: Pretty much. Like I said, I came up playing a lot of basketball and [in] high school I took it serious. I wasn’t joking around with the sport, but I really thought of it as a second sport to basketball. He said since my ninth grade year: 'Yeah, you think you’re going to play basketball. You’re going to be a football player.' Back then, I’m like, 'Yeah, OK.' He was right.

Jaguars' top training camp competitions

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
10:00
AM ET
video 
ESPN.com Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco delivers a preview of important training-camp battles, including the competition between Winston Guy and Josh Evans at free safety.
We know that every NFL player is extremely talented. They wouldn't have made it this far if they weren't. But playing in the NFL is more than just physical talent. So to find out what drives them, focuses their energy and mind, and is important to them, I asked several Jaguars the following question: "Who was and is your biggest football influence?"

The answers were diverse and interesting.

Today we find out about former Ohio State center Mike Brewster, a fourth-year player from Orlando, Florida.

[+] EnlargeMike Brewster
AP Photo/Scott A. MillerBasketball helped Mike Brewster make the transition to football in middle school.
Who was your biggest football influence growing up?

Brewster: Growing up I didn’t play football until I was in middle school. I played flag and stuff growing up, but I didn’t play padded until seventh grade. My dad [Bill] played Division II basketball at Missouri Southern so I grew up playing basketball, and I really credit my football to basketball. All the footwork I’ve done, he was my biggest influence as far as sports. He wasn’t overbearing. He just wanted me to work hard. That’s all he really preaches: work hard. He wasn’t the guy screaming at the games. He let me make my own decisions. He’s been my biggest influence in sports.

And then also, I’d say football-wise my cousin Jerry [Webb]. My dad was really involved with him growing up. He’s like 40. He’s older than me. He played football at Missouri Western. He was like a freshman when he was like 17 or something in college. He had a good career there. Didn’t play in the league, but he’s always been like my No. 1 fan, and he’s just been kind of someone I’ve always talked football with, and he’s always checking on me. So between my dad and Jerry, they were probably two of the biggest influences, people I didn’t want to let down. Of course, my mom was at every game. Got to give her credit. Can’t leave her out. Those are probably the two biggest things.

Sounds like you had two good football role models.

Brewster: I feel like the best thing for me was I never had someone that was just overbearing in my life that wanted it for themselves. They just wanted the best for me, and I think that made it easier on me and just preaching hard work and just going to every practice and things like that. I feel lucky in that sense. ... Those are two guys [who have] always really been my No. 1 fans, beside my mom.
Here's Monday's Jaguars' Reading the Coverage ...
  • Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, tells The News-Herald in Cleveland that he thought the Browns would take him with the fourth pick. “The pre-draft visit (to Jacksonville) went really well and I made some good connections, but there was nothing further than that,” Bortles told the newspaper. “I had no idea. I was as surprised as anybody else when they called me."
  • Gary T. Mills of the Florida Times-Union has a funny nugget about a Jaguars billboard along I-10 that takes a shot at the video boards the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans use in AT&T Stadium and NRG Stadium, respectively. The Jaguars new video board is 362 feet wide by 60 feet tall.
  • Hays Carlyon, also of the Times-Union, gives his take on the battle for a safety spot on Jacksonville’s roster involving Sherrod Martin.

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