- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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Toby Gerhart's debut: We’re going to get our first game-action look at Gerhart, whom the Jaguars signed to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March to be the replacement for Maurice Jones-Drew. Gerhart practiced on Tuesday for the first time since July 31 because of a strained hip flexor. Gerhart isn’t expected to play a lot of snaps -- offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said this week that five to six carries would be a reasonable goal -- but it will give us a glimpse of how the Jaguars plan to use him in the regular season. He’s a physical downhill runner who is at his best between the tackles, but early in camp the Jaguars ran a lot of outside zone plays with him. The key will be to get enough of a look at how the running game looks with Gerhart on the field and then get him out of there to avoid aggravating the hip flexor.
Center of attention: Mike Brewster has been one of the biggest topics of the past week after he sent two shotgun snaps over quarterback Chad Henne's head during the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. Those were fluke plays, though, because Brewster had not had any trouble with snaps in organized team activities, minicamp, or the first part of training camp. The biggest concern about Brewster is his strength at the point of attack. He is not a powerful player, but he does move well and that is an asset on the outside zone plays the Jaguars like to run. Jacques McClendon is stronger at the point of attack, but doesn’t move as well as Brewster. Coach Gus Bradley has backed Brewster and said he will start against the Bears, but the Jaguars have also had McClendon take first-team reps at center this week and have worked rookies Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko at the spot. It’s likely that all four will take snaps against the Bears. With Henne playing the entire first half, I’d expect McClendon to get some first-team reps at some point, with Linder and Bowanko playing in the second half. The starting job is still likely to come down to Brewster or McClendon.
Pressure: Specifically, how does rookie quarterback Blake Bortles handle it? He only faced more than a four-man rush once in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. That is one of the reasons he was able to complete 7 of 11 passes for 117 yards. Chicago should bring more pressure on Thursday, and Fisch is eager to see how Bortles handles it. The Jaguars had a couple periods early in the week in which they sent extra rushers after the quarterbacks and Bortles struggled a bit, misfiring on several passes because he was off balance and throwing earlier than he wanted. Learning how to recognize and adjust to blitzes is an important part of Bortles’ development.