AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars

Giants vs. Jaguars preview

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
video When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla. TV: Fox

Welcome back, Tom.

Former coach Tom Coughlin brings his New York Giants into EverBank Field on Sunday in a matchup of teams that have combined to lose 10 games in a row. The Giants haven’t won a game since Oct. 5 (over Atlanta) and the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t won since beating Cleveland on Oct. 19.

One team’s streak has to end, right?

Unless -- a tie?

Giants reporter Dan Graziano and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup:

DiRocco: It seems like this topic has come up the last several years, but with the Giants on a six-game losing streak, Coughlin’s seat is as hot as it has ever been. Is this going to be his last season with the Giants and is there anything he can do to save his job?

Graziano: Yeah, last time Coughlin’s seat was this hot, he was coaching the Jaguars! But seriously, folks, the Giants and Coughlin haven’t made any decisions yet about next year, and I think the way they play in these final five games will go into the hopper along with anything and everything else they’ll consider. Their next four games are against teams with losing records. They’re 3-0 this year against teams with losing records. If they play well and get this thing back to, say, 7-9 as they did last year, it’ll be clear the team didn’t quit on Coughlin and it’ll be easier for the Giants to keep their all-time-great franchise coach around for Year 2 of this rebuilding process they’re undertaking. If they fall apart over this final month and finish 4-12 or something like that, I imagine all bets are off. But the Giants are in a dicey situation with Coughlin, because they ARE rebuilding on offense and he IS a two-time Super Bowl winner, so there are small-picture and big-picture reasons why just firing him isn’t an easy thing to do. When and if it’s time for the Giants to move on from Coughlin, I feel pretty safe guaranteeing that it’ll be presented as HIS decision, and a celebration of his time there, as opposed to an ugly firing.

They’re clearly rebuilding in Jacksonville, and I don’t think they’d be shy about admitting it. How’s that going in Year 2 of Gus Bradley and Year 1 of Blake Bortles? Do they look like the men to save the franchise?

DiRocco: It has certainly been rough. Bradley is 5-22 since he became the Jaguars’ coach and 18 of those 22 losses have been by double digits. While fans may not have understood just how bad things were going to get, general manager David Caldwell and Bradley did – but that’s not making it any easier for them to handle. The best way to describe the situation is to think of the Jaguars as a 1-year-old expansion franchise that didn’t get the benefit of an expansion draft or extra draft picks. The Jaguars and Carolina Panthers had those advantages in 1995 and were both playing in conference title games the following season. These Jaguars are still trying to piece together a roster from scratch. One of those pieces is Bortles, who seems to have everything you want in a franchise quarterback: size, athleticism, poise in the pocket, unflappable confidence, a good work ethic and intelligence. He played better earlier in the season and now seems like he’s trying to be too careful and not turn the ball over. Like all young quarterbacks, he has to learn to push through that. It’s hard to know right now if Bradley and Bortles are the right people to save the franchise. How much, if any, progress the team makes in 2015 should give us a clue.

Dan, Odell Beckham Jr.’s ridiculous catch against the Cowboys aside, what’s your projection on how good he can be? Megatron-level? Dez Bryant-level?

Graziano: Beckham was the No. 12 pick in the draft, so hopes were always high. I doubt he ends up comparable to either of those guys just because he doesn’t have their size. But obviously he can jump, and his speed and his hands are exceptional. Eli Manning and the Giants coaches have been especially impressed with the precision with which Beckham runs his routes, for a player so young. He seems driven to be great. After he missed all of training camp and the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury, he gravitated toward running back Rashad Jennings to ask him about his elaborate pre-practice and pregame warm-up routines, which are designed to limit the risk of soft-tissue injuries, and now he and Jennings do them together before practices and games. I think he can be a legitimate star receiver in the league as long as he stays healthy. He did leave Sunday night’s game briefly with a back injury, so that’s something to watch in terms of how much the Jags can expect to see him Sunday.

Which of Bortles’ young receivers do you think has the best chance to emerge as his No. 1 for the long term?

DiRocco: Marqise Lee was a big-time player at USC and has a lot of speed and big-play ability, but he struggled early in the season picking up the offense. He wasn’t always sure where he was supposed to be, didn’t completely have an understanding of the route adjustments he needed to make based on coverages, and didn’t run consistent routes. Plus, he had a hamstring injury that cost him three games. That’s why Allen Robinson, who was taken 22 picks after Lee in the second round, has had a bigger impact as a rookie. He’s still the team’s leading receiver (48 catches) despite the fact that he’ll only play in 10 games (he’s out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his right foot). But Lee has the rare combination of speed and play-making ability. Defenses have to account for him because of that. It may take him another season to fully adjust, but I think he’ll eventually become Bortles’ No. 1 target.

The Giants rank 31st in total defense and rushing defense. What’s been their biggest issue and is it something that can be fixed over the final five games?

Graziano: Well, they’ve had a lot of injuries, but mainly in the secondary, where three of their top four cornerbacks are out for the year and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is playing hurt. Up front, they’re without middle linebacker Jon Beason but have otherwise been fairly healthy. The guys who are supposed to dominate in the front four just haven’t. They’re not generating any pass rush at all. Before the game-winning touchdown pass Sunday night, Tony Romo had time to text his wife, “Hey, I’m gonna throw this touchdown pass as soon as Dez gets open and then I’m gonna head home. You need me to pick anything up?” Jason Pierre-Paul is playing for a contract, but he hasn’t been consistent enough to wow anyone into giving him the one he’ll want. They just don’t tend to win enough of their physical matchups, on either line, really.

Which brings me to my final question: The Jaguars are way up there among the league leaders in sacks, and Manning has faced a lot of pressure over this six-game losing streak. How tough is Jacksonville’s defensive front, and do you expect a big game from them Sunday?

DiRocco: The unit has played very well and what makes the pass rush so effective is that the production has come from across the front. Defensive end Chris Clemons, who had three sacks against Indianapolis last week, leads the group with 7.0 sacks. But 14.5 of the team’s 33 sacks have come from the interior of the defensive line. The two biggest contributors there are tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (5.0) and Ryan Davis (5.5), a part-time player who primarily lines up inside when the Jaguars go to their third-down rush package. The Jaguars got to Andrew Luck five times in the first half last week and that kept the Jaguars in the game. I think the defensive front is going to have to put the same kind of pressure on Manning to keep the game close because the offense is struggling so badly right now. Getting five sacks would be great, but it’s more important to pressure Manning into some bad decisions and hopefully get turnovers to put the offense in good field position.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive end Andre Branch was back on the practice field on Wednesday for the first time in more than five weeks, and it appears he’s on track to make his return in Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

Branch hasn’t practiced since he suffered a groin injury in the Jaguars’ 24-6 victory over Cleveland on Oct. 19.

"I’ve been working my tail off to be back," Branch said. "I’m pretty excited to get back out there with my brothers. I felt good, felt good sprinting. They took me through all the right protocol to get back but you can’t even correlate what it’s like going up against another person, pushing off on it."

Branch had played well before his injury (three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two pass breakups), and defensive coordinator Bob Babich said he’s eager to see how Branch handles practice on Thursday and Friday because that will determine how much the Jaguars will use him against the Giants.

"We need to see where he’s going and we need to make sure that we don’t rush him," Babich said. "Hopefully he has his burst which I assume; a lot of times when a guy comes off an injury because he hasn’t been running quite as much his legs feel fresher and he does have a little different burst. So we’re excited to see that."

Branch, who practiced on a limited basis, said he’s not going to hold back when he does get on the field.

"You can't be [tentative]," he said. "I'm going to be smart, but not tentative. Concerned is way different than being tentative. You've got to be smart on it, take your time and don't rush it. But at the same time there should be no drop-off."

Defenisve ends Ryan Davis and Chris Smith got increased playing time during Branch's absence and contributed five sacks and three forced fumbles in the four games that Branch missed.

In addition to Branch, rookie linebacker Jeremiah George (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday. Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds (neck) and receiver Cecil Shorts (illness) did not practice.

Coach Gus Bradley said Shorts was battling the flu and was seeing a doctor for treatment.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles agrees with what Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said Monday: He’s not playing well right now.

He’s also eager to show that he can fight through the adversity that all quarterbacks face at some point in their rookie season. Some, like Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell, never get past it but Bortles said he’s determined to be one of the ones that does.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bortles
AP Photo/Michael ConroyBlake Bortles had a Total QBR of 2.3 against the Colts Sunday.
"It’s ruined guys careers by starting young and not doing well," Bortles said Wednesday. "I kind of take it as an opportunity to say, ‘We’re not doing well. Watch how I can handle this and bounce back and continue to grow from it.’ That’s how I look at it.

"I know that’s how Gus looks at it and it’s kind of the environment and message that we’re given."

Bortles played his worst game of the season in Sunday’s 23-3 loss to Indianapolis. He completed 15 of 27 passes for a season-low 146 yards. He completed just 4 of 10 passes for 34 yards in the first half and his third quarter was even worse: He was 2-for-5 for 5 yards, sacked twice for minus-18 yards, and fumbled once.

Sunday was the latest in a stretch of poor play. In his last five games Bortles has completed 58.0 percent of his passes for 1,063 yards and four touchdowns with eight interceptions. His Total QBR of 9.1 (50 is considered an average quarterback) is the worst in the league over that span. That’s in contrast to his first four games, three of which he started: 67.8 completion percentage, 1,004 yards, four touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a Total QBR of 48.6.

Bortles admits he was playing more freely in the first four games than he has the last five. He said, as Bradley did on Monday, that he needs to make quicker decisions and get the ball out quicker. He has gotten caught up in a bit of overthinking, he admitted.

"I think that’s part of it," Bortles said. "You want to go play and I want to and I feel like I’m playing my best when I’m playing carefree running around and not thinking a whole lot. I think just trying to get back to that, trying to eliminate some thinking and all of that comes with preparation during the week and making sure that on Sunday you can go play carefree."

Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis spent time with Bortles on the flight from Indianapolis because he wanted to make sure Bortles understood that he had the support of everyone else as he fights through this slump.

Don’t get impatient and let us help, Lewis said he told Bortles.

"He wants it right now and I was just telling him, like, you have to just slowly get better," Lewis said. "Stop worrying about all the stuff he can’t control. The quarterback’s job is hard enough as it is in this league so just worry about your job. We have to get better around you.

"Just making sure that he knows that we’re not blaming you. You’re not the problem. It’s so many different pieces that need to come together for us to get this thing rolling in the right direction."

But Bortles knows it starts with him.

"That’s pretty obvious that I can do better and do more in my efforts to contributing to help this team be successful," he said.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ridiculous. Sick. Amazing. Crazy. Phenomenal.

Those were all used to describe the one-handed (three-finger, actually) catch that New York Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. It certainly was the highlight of the weekend, not only among the league’s banner crop of rookie receivers, but the entire NFL.

Beckham caught 10 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in that game. It was the third time he has surpassed 100 yards receiving in the past four games. Beckham has 41 catches for 609 yards this season and most of that has come in the past four games (31 for 503 yards).

Here is the latest look at the class or rookie receivers, which includes two Jaguars. They are ranked by 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 (48 targets needed to qualify):

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina (97 targets): The Panthers had a bye so he wasn’t able to pad his stats of 52 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. His catches and yardage are second among rookie receivers and his eight TD catches is tied for the lead.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo (89): The Bills were all over the Jets in a 38-3 rout, but Watkins contributed only three catches for 35 yards. He now has 48 catches for 684 yards and five touchdowns.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville (80): He’s out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his right foot and finishes with 48 catches for 548 yards and two touchdowns. He has just one drop.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia (77): He caught six passes for 77 yards in the Eagles’ 43-24 victory over Tennessee. He has 50 catches for 635 yards and six touchdowns and is tied with two other players on the list for the fewest drops (one).

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay (77): He was targeted nine times but caught only three passes for 47 yards in the Bucs’ 21-13 loss to Chicago. One catch went for a touchdown, though, and that tied him with Benjamin for most TD catches by a rookie this season (eight). He has 49 catches and his 841 yards leads all rookies.

John Brown, Arizona (71): He was a non-factor in the Cardinals’ 19-3 loss to Seattle, catching just three passes for 61 yards. He has 37 catches for 529 yards and five touchdowns.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans (66): He is out for the rest of the season with a broken thumb and finishes with 53 catches for 550 yards and three TDs.

Jarvis Landry, Miami (64): Landry had two touchdowns among his seven catches for 50 yards in the Dolphins’ 39-36 loss to Denver. He has 49 catches for 450 yards and five TDs.

Allen Hurns, Jacksonville (59): He caught just one pass for 13 yards in the Jaguars’ 23-3 loss to Indianapolis and has 31 catches for 488 yards and five touchdowns.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (57): His monster game (10 catches, 146 yards, 2 TDs) gives him 41 catches for 609 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Taylor Gabriel, Cleveland (57): He caught one pass for 13 yards in the Browns’ 26-24 victory over Atlanta and has 30 catches for 540 yards and one touchdown.

QB snapshot: Blake Bortles

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Blake Bortles and how he played in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 23-3 loss in Week 12:

Bortles played the worst game of his career against the Colts (15-of-27 for 146 yards with an interception) and that continued a trend of poor play over the past five games. Bortles has completed 58.0 percent of his passes and has a Total QBR of 9.1, the worst in the league over that span. That performance has caused fans to start wondering if he's Blaine Gabbert 2.0.

No way.

Bortles has been better through his first eight starts. Gabbert did win one more game (2-6) and threw eight fewer interceptions (five), but Bortles has a better completion percentage (62.6 percent to 48 percent) and Total QBR (21.0 to 19.8) and has thrown for more yards (1,844 to 1,183). Both threw six touchdown passes.

Gabbert also was playing on a better team and had the benefit of a running game. Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing that season (1,606 yards). Gabbert also wasn't throwing to three rookie receivers, playing behind two rookie offensive linemen, and had a healthy Marcedes Lewis (a 2010 Pro Bowler) all season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley obviously doesn't want rookie quarterback Blake Bortles gambling every time he throws the ball.

He doesn't want Bortles being overly careful and debating over and over in his head whether to make a throw, either.

Bradley wants Bortles to walk the gray area in between those two extremes. It may sound vague and seem hard to do, but that's where the game's better quarterbacks exist.

Unfortunately, Bortles appears to be stuck at the overly careful end of the spectrum right now -- and his progress won't continue until he fights his way through that.

"My hope is that fear hasn't entered in the equation for Blake, where he gets in there and he's going, 'Oh, I made an interception' and, 'Oh, I've thrown a couple interceptions. Boy I need to make good decisions and I'm going to hold onto the ball,'" Bradley said Monday afternoon. "We don't want that from him.

"At times he holds the ball a little bit too long. His decision-making is not as quick as we need it to be. I know you can say he's young, but we expect more. We expect more."

Bortles played his worst game of the season in Sunday's 23-3 loss to Indianapolis. He completed 15 of 27 passes for a season-low 146 yards. He had a horrible start: The first pass he threw was behind tight end Marcedes Lewis and intercepted, the second was dropped by Toby Gerhart, and the third was deflected at the line of scrimmage.

Bortles completed just 4 of 10 passes for 34 yards in the first half and his third quarter was even worse: He was 2-for-5 for 5 yards, sacked twice for minus-18 yards, and fumbled once.

Bortles' confidence, however, isn't shaken, Bradley said. Nor is the team's confidence in Bortles now and as the franchise quarterback.

"[Don't] get confused with [a lack of] confidence and being frustrated," Bradley said. "I think he wants to get more and wants to produce more and that part is frustrating. But [a lack of] confidence, I don't see that. He's confident going into it, game plan and things like that, but it's just the execution."

Bortles, who doesn't speak to the media on Mondays, played much more freely when he first got on the field than he has over the past five games. In his first four games (three starts), Bortles completed 67.8 percent of his passes and had a Total QBR of 48.6 (50 is considered an average quarterback). In the last five, however, Bortles has completed 58.0 percent of his passes and has a Total QBR of 9.1, by far the worst in the league over that span.

Bortles threw 12 interceptions in his first six games, including four pick-sixes, and Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch have been constantly emphasizing being careful with the ball. The Jaguars' offense doesn't have enough playmakers to overcome turnovers and Bortles' interceptions took away what little margin for error the unit had. It's possible the repeated message of "Don't turn the ball over" has had a more severe effect on Bortles than anticipated.

Maybe his holding onto the ball too long and hesitating on throws is him overcompensating?

"From our coaching staff you don't hear it so much on the field. I think they do a good job with it," Bradley said. "Maybe it came from me when I'm on the practice field with him, me talking to him about good decisions and things like that. But I think there's got to be a heightened sense. You can't sugar-coat it. It's the game of football and it's the NFL and you're expected to play at a high level."

Which is located between the two extremes.

"Blake's a confident guy," receiver Cecil Shorts III said. "That's just his nature. He's a competitor. And from me, I see no fear creeping in."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley had several reasons to feel optimistic when he jogged off the field at halftime on Sunday.

His offense had managed just 104 yards and quarterback Blake Bortles was just 4-for-10 for 34 yards, but the Jaguars trailed Indianapolis 6-3. Plus, the defense had sacked Andrew Luck five times and forced three turnovers, including one when the Colts were inside the Jaguars’ 10-yard line.

So, a few adjustments and tweaks at the break and the Jaguars were getting the ball first ... no wonder he felt pretty good.

That didn’t last long. The Jaguars lost yardage on their first two possessions, fell behind by 10 points, and the Colts quickly took control.

"You want to get some positive yards and you want to drive the ball and change the field position at least, and we didn’t do that," Bradley said.

The Jaguars’ first snap in the third quarter was Bortles’ pass to Marcedes Lewis that lost 5 yards. The second play was even worse. Bortles took the shotgun snap, looked for a receiver, and then simply dropped the ball. Bortles fell on the ball for a 6-yard loss.

Bortles threw incomplete on third down and the Jaguars punted.

The Colts took over on the Jacksonville 38 and nine plays later scored a touchdown on Trent Richardson’s 1-yard run.

How did the Jaguars follow that?

Denard Robinson lost 2 yards on first down and gained 3 on second down. Bortles threw incomplete for Allen Hurns on third down.

Six offensive snaps, minus-10 yards.

"At halftime, going in 6-3 and saying, ‘All right, we missed some opportunities. Let’s come out of the halftime, we’re a touchdown from taking the lead. Let’s get back on track,’" Bradley said. "And the start of the second half we lost yardage and I believe in the second series we lost yardage again. It’s not a good way to start. There’s no other way to look at it."

More thoughts on the day after …
  • Been getting a lot of questions about whether Denard Robinson is capable of being the Jaguars’ long-term featured back, but it’s too early to tell. One of the reasons for uncertainty popped up against the Colts. After not fumbling in the first nine games, Robinson has lost the ball in back-to-back games, including at his own 42-yard line late in the first quarter. Ball security was an issue for him in 2013 because of the nerve damage in his right hand from an injury during his senior season at Michigan, but he seemed to have moved past that. If it continues to be an issue, his playing time will decrease.
  • Chris Clemons’ three sacks against the Colts marked the first time he’s had more than one sack in a game in nearly two years. Clemons had 2.5 sacks against Buffalo on Dec. 16, 2012. The three sacks are the most he’s had in a game since he had four against Green Bay on Sept. 24, 2012.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bortles threw only seven passes deeper than 5 yards downfield against the Colts. He completed three of them for 57 yards and an interception. Only one quarterback had a worse performance on throws deeper than 5 yards downfield this season: Tampa Bay’s Josh McCown went 2-for-8 in Week 3.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s easy to point to the stat sheet to prove that the Jacksonville Jaguars had their worst offensive performance of the season on Sunday in a 23-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Jaguars set a season-low in points, passing yards (114) and completions (14), and it was their second-lowest output of the season with 194 total yards. They had only four drives reach Colts territory, and two of those possessions began with fumble recoveries already inside Colts territory.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bortles
AP Photo/Michael ConroyBlake Bortles seems to be falling backward as the Jaguars continue to flounder.
It goes beyond the stats, though.

It’s getting two turnovers in Indianapolis territory and coming away with just three points.

It’s a rookie quarterback who seems to have regressed and isn’t playing as freely as he did early in the season.

It’s a group of receivers who couldn’t get separation and managed just 5 receptions for 71 yards.

It’s failing to score on four tries inside the 3-yard line and not once giving the ball to their best short-yardage back.

Granted, leading receiver Allen Robinson is done for the season with a stress fracture in his foot, and 10 first- or second-year players either started or got significant playing time. But that doesn’t excuse the mess the Jaguars put on the field against the Colts.

The two biggest reasons for Sunday's loss are Bortles’ seeming regression from the gunslinger mentality that he had when he first stepped on the field in Week 3 and the Jaguars’ inability to get points off the turnovers.

Bortles completed 15 of 27 passes for 146 yards, and most of it went to the running backs (nine catches). He should have had pretty good numbers because the Colts regularly put eight men in the box and played with a single high safety. The Colts were concentrating on stopping the run and challenging Bortles to beat them.

He didn’t, and that continues a trend that has surfaced in the past month. When he first got into the lineup, Bortles ran around and made plays, threw the ball down the field, and took some chances. But as his interceptions mounted, the coaching staff kept emphasizing being smart with the ball, not taking too many chances and not putting the team in bad situations with turnovers.

Now it appears he’s playing tighter, afraid to make a mistake. He says that’s not the case.

"I don’t really think about it a whole lot," he said. "I actually just try to think about the ball and not turning the ball over, but if I see something and there’s something I like or something that looks good, I’m going to throw it. So there’s not really a problem with that."

That doesn’t match his play on Sunday. His longest completion was 37 yards to Marqise Lee, but that was a quick pass of less than 10 yards and Lee broke free. Bortles also had a 19-yard completion to Denard Robinson, but that came on a swing pass out of the end zone. Jordan Todman’s 10-yard reception was on a short pass, too.

Bortles completed only one pass in which the ball traveled more than 10 yards in the air -- a 13-yarder to Allen Hurns.

That was partly the reason why the Jaguars weren’t able to capitalize on turnovers, which is a necessity for them to have a chance to score more than 14 points because their margin of error is so slight. They got three turnovers total -- including one at the Indy 12 and one at the Jacksonville 7 -- but managed just three points.

"They did a hell of a job forcing turnovers, putting us in situations where we were in their territory a couple times," said receiver Cecil Shorts, who caught one pass for 6 yards. "The offense has got to find a way. That’s just flat out. We’ve got to find a way.

"... We’ve got to score. Inside their territory, we’ve got to score. We’ve got to be a touchdown offense. I’m tired of getting field goals."

And losing games.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Jaguars’ 23-3 loss to Indianapolis.

Help needed: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley confirmed that cornerback Dwayne Gratz was supposed to have safety help on T.Y. Hilton’s 73-yard touchdown catch. Johnathan Cyprien bit on an underneath route and got pulled up into the middle of the field. Hilton was so wide open because Gratz, thinking he was getting help from Cyprien, let him go by. “We were in Cover 2 and the safety bit a little bit,” Bradley said. “He [Hilton] got an outside release, which puts a strain on it [the coverage], but the safety’s got to stay back.”

Streak continues: Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has yet to have an interception-free game in his career. He threw his NFL-leading 15th interception in the first quarter, two plays after the Jaguars got the ball at the Indianapolis 46-yard line after Telvin Smith’s fumble recovery. Bortles was trying to hit tight end Marcedes Lewis. “Bad throw,” Bortles said. “You’ve got [Lewis] on Vontae Davis and he [Davis] was behind him. I tried to stick it on his body and missed behind him. It was just a poor throw.”

Clemons highlights early pressure: The Jaguars tied their season high with five sacks. They also did it in the season opener against Philadelphia. As in that game, all of Sunday’s sacks came in the first half. Defensive end Chris Clemons had three, making him the first Jaguars player to record three sacks in one game since Paul Spicer against the New York Jets in 2005.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At some point on Sunday, Aaron Colvin will begin his professional football career.

He’s not sure when he’s going to get on the field against the Indianapolis Colts. It could come in the first quarter. It could be in the second half. The Jacksonville Jaguars rookie cornerback only knows that when it does happen he’s not going to be thinking at all about his surgically repaired right knee.

"I’m definitely eager to go out there and just get back playing football again," Colvin said. "It’s been a long time.

“Sometimes you don’t know how it can pan out when you get back on the field with an injury. When I went out there, there were some mental blocks I had probably the first week [after he returned to practice] but now I’m just playing football."

[+] EnlargeAaron Colvin
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsAaron Colvin (14), a former Oklahoma standout, will make his season debut for the Jaguars after recovering from a knee injury.
Colvin thought he’d be on the field long before Nov. 23. He thought he’d be a high-round draft pick, too. Those things changed on the Tuesday of Senior Bowl week, when the former Oklahoma standout tore his ACL during practice.

Instead of participating in the NFL combine and OU’s pro day, visiting NFL teams, and conducting private workouts, Colvin had surgery and began the rehab process. Before the injury, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had Colvin the fourth-best cornerback prospect in the draft, which should have translated into, at worst, being a second-round draft pick.

Instead, he fell all the way to the fourth round where the Jaguars -- which coached the South team and had worked with Colvin for two days -- took him with the 114th overall selection.

Colvin practiced with the Jaguars for the first time on Oct. 22 and the team activated him from the reserve/non-football injury list on Nov. 11. He’ll make his debut against the Colts as a nickel back and will share the reps with Sherrod Martin.

"He’s been practicing for a while," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "We feel good about it. He’s been getting a lot of reps. He’s a really smart guy who’s been in the room and I think he really feels comfortable now.

"I would say he probably has butterflies and he’s excited about doing it and when he gets out there he may, but we’ll just work through it and give him the opportunity to fight through it himself."

The 6-foot, 186-pound Colvin was a three-year starter at Oklahoma and a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2013. The scouting report on him was that he has good instincts in coverage and is an above-average player against the run. The Jaguars hope to see some of those things from him over the final six games of this season while at the same time easing him back onto the field.

The expectations are tempered, though, because he’s a rookie who missed six weeks of training camp and 10 games.

"Any time a guy comes back you just want to see him play fast," Babich said. "You’re trying to just get him to go fast where he doesn’t have to think quite as much. He can play fast. If you make a mistake you’d like to make it full speed. Usually when guys are thinking it slows them down physically, so we just want to make sure that we can get him in position where he can play fast and he doesn’t have to think quite as much."

Colvin understands he’s behind everyone else, but he’s not going to accept being rusty.

"Any time I’m out there I’m trying to make plays," he said. "I’m trying to help this team. My expectations are higher than anybody else has for me. I’m my worst critic and at the end of the day if I’m not playing up to my standards then it’s a disappointment."

Right now, the most important thing is that he’s going to play.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are shuffling the linebackers -- again.

This time it includes something the Jaguars have not yet tried this season: moving weakside linebacker Geno Hayes to the Otto spot. The Otto, which replaces the strongside linebacker in the Jaguars’ defense, lines up close to the line of scrimmage and can rush the passer or drop in coverage depending on the play.

The first time the Jaguars tried that look this week, though, Hayes lined up at his normal spot. That meant the Jaguars had two weakside linebackers and nobody on the other side.

"It’s new for him," coach Gus Bradley said. "Geno is pretty sharp and some of the techniques that we’re asking him to do he’s done before so he has some recall."

Hayes is fifth on the team in tackles (33), but he hasn’t made many impact plays. He has five tackles for loss but no quarterback pressures, interceptions, forced fumbles, or fumble recoveries. He is a seventh-year veteran who has started 66 games, which makes him the team’s most experienced linebacker now that Paul Posluszny (torn pectoral) is done for the season.

"He’s done a good job," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "I had him in Chicago [in 2012] and I’m very proud of the effort and the attitude. He’s now the old man on the linebackers unit so he’s accepted that role and has flourished in it so we’re excited about what he’s doing."

With Hayes at Otto, the Jaguars’ plan to start fourth-year player J.T. Thomas in the middle and rookie Telvin Smith on weak side. If the Jaguars are in nickel they’ll either pair Thomas with Smith or Hayes with Smith depending on the coverage.

The Jaguars would like to use rookie Jeremiah George in the middle but he is expected to miss his second game in a row because of a high ankle sprain he suffered against Cincinnati on Nov. 2.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Reading the coverage of the Jacksonville Jaguars ...

The Jaguars are eagerly anticipating tight end Marcedes Lewis' return on Sunday, writes the Florida Times-Union's Hays Carlyon. The 6-foot-6, 272-pound Lewis will help in the run game and be a bigger target for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. "He’s obviously a dominant force in pass protection and in run blocking," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "But, the target that he gives us in the passing game is something that we don’t have. We don’t have someone with that kind of size and range, so to be able to get him back is huge for us."

Gus Bradley liked Thursday's spirited practice, which included a couple of minor scuffles, writes the T-U's Vito Stellino. Bradley wouldn't give up the names, though.

ESPN NFL Nation Colts reporter Mike Wells writes that three starters -- right tackle Gosder Cherilus, cornerback Greg Toler, and tight end Dwayne Allen -- missed practice on Thursday. Allen is likely out. Toler has to go through the NFL's concussion protocol before he can practice so he's likely out, too.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The success of the Jacksonville Jaguars over the next several seasons largely depends on the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

If Bortles cleans up his fundamentals, limits his mistakes, and adjusts to the speed of the game, the Jaguars could be a playoff team rather quickly. If not, they could continue to be one of the league’s worst teams and spending a lot more time at the bottom of the AFC South.

In other words, it’s all about that Blake.

Which is why one Jacksonville radio station decided to parody Meghan Trainor’s hit "All About That Bass" by recording a song entitled "It’s All About That Blake." John Scott, the music director and a member of the morning "Jax Big Show" on WQIK (99.1 FM), wrote it in about an hour and it debuted shortly after Bortles made his first appearance on the field in Week 3.

The idea struck when he and his son Paul-Reid were running errands during the Jaguars’ home game against Indianapolis on Sept. 21. Paul-Reid stayed in the car during one stop and when Scott returned, his son told him that Chad Henne had been benched and Bortles had begun the second half.

"For whatever reason, maybe I had heard that song, I remember saying, 'Oh, it’s all about that Blake, about that Blake,'" Scott said. "... It pretty much wrote itself. Once you get the title you go, 'Oh yeah, we’ve got to go with this one.'"

Scott produced the song, and he voices most of the backing tracks. Paul-Reid, who works at Jacksonville sports talk station SportsRadio 930 AM, sings background vocals. Hillary Borden, a promotional assistant at WQIK, sings the lead.

Bortles hadn’t heard it until Wednesday. He seemed a bit sheepish, as well as amused, by it.

"It’s weird," he said. "I don’t know a lot of people who like songs about themselves.

"It’s kind of cool that somebody took the time to do it."

Scott said the Jax Big Show tries to come up with a parody song each month, and the Bortles parody has generated the most positive feedback in a long time.

"For parody songs you want to hit what’s hot or universal," Scott said. "That’s why Weird Al [Yankovic] made so much money singing about food. It’s universal. The Jaguars are pretty much universal [in Jacksonville].

"It was the best response we’ve had in years because everybody was excited about [Bortles]. ... It hit at the right time, and it’s all about timing when it comes to things like this."
Every Thursday I’ll present an interesting (to me, anyway) stat, break it down, and try to provide some context heading into the game the following weekend.

Robinson among league’s best

Denard Robinson has certainly energized the Jacksonville Jaguars’ running game since taking over as the team’s primary back in Week 7. He has rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns over that span. The yardage total is seventh and the TDs tied for third among players in the league in that span, too.

A better indicator of how effective Robinson has been for the Jaguars is his yards per carry. He’s averaging 5.4 yards on 72 carries in his last four games, which is the fourth-highest total among all players and third-highest total among running backs.

The top five:

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle: 8.14 yards per carry (350 yards on 43 carries)
RB Arian Foster, Houston: 5.62 yards per carry (309 yards on 55 carries)
RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City: 5.46 yards per carry (497 yards on 91 carries)
Robinson: 5.40 yards per carry (389 yards on 72 carries)
RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas: 5.27 yards per carry (448 yards on 85 carries)

Robinson’s numbers for the first six weeks: 94 yards on 28 carries (3.36 yards per carry).

"For Denard, you’ve got to give him all the credit, and the coaching staff, for his development," Jaguars GM David Caldwell said. "Over the offseason he got serious about football, gained about 20 pounds, maintained his weight and he’s just going to continue to get better. I think there’s even a higher ceiling for him than where he’s at now."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the main goals the Jacksonville Jaguars have over the final six games is cutting down on turnovers.

That begins with rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who has thrown an NFL-high 14 interceptions and lost one fumble since he took over as the starter at halftime of the Week 3 game against Indianapolis. He knows it, and he's eager to show he's able to do it.

"We talk about that all the time, all about the ball, and just continue to have a conscience about it and protect it and take care of it," Bortles said Wednesday. "You don't need to be timid with it, especially playing quarterback, but you've got to be smart with it and understand when to take shots and when not to.

"Things are going to happen, you're going to get some bad breaks and turnovers are going to happen. You want to limit those and definitely try to not turn it over so much."

The Jaguars have committed 22 turnovers and have a minus-11 turnover ratio through 10 games, numbers that both rank next-to-last in the NFL. A bigger issue is that six of Bortles' 14 interceptions have come inside the opponents' 45-yard line, including five inside the 25.

Overall, though, Bortles has cut down his turnovers over the last two games. He threw a combined five interceptions in back-to-back weeks against Cleveland and Miami but threw just one each against Cincinnati and Dallas. Unfortunately, both came inside the opponents' 25.

"We're down to one [per game over the last two games] so I guess you could say that's getting better, but the goal is to have none," Bortles said. "You don't want to turn the ball over at all especially playing quarterback in this league. It's hard to do and that's something we continue to work on and it's a work in progress."

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars are getting Bortles to be more conscious of down, distance, time on the clock, score, and score differential in his decision making. Trailing by double digits late in the fourth quarter is the time to take more chances, not when the game is tied midway through the third. It's something they worked on pretty heavily in Wednesday's practice.

"When he gets into those situations, I think the challenge for him is just to play and not think too much," Bradley said. "I think what we want him to do when he gets into the team situations is just play with that clear mind. It's hard though. Make good decisions, but play with freedom. Don't throw interceptions, but be fearless. It almost feels contradictory at times.

"He's figuring it out and I know today in practice, he did some really good things and then some things he wish he had back. It was more good today, so that was good."