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Open Locker Room: A lot to like in ’14 preseason opener, Bradley says

Posted Aug 8, 2014

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley calls 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay in 2014 preseason opener “a good day.”


JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley liked a lot about what he saw.

That was true of the player generating the most postgame buzz – rookie quarterback Blake Bortles – but the Jaguars’ Head Coach wasn’t just talking about the No. 3 overall selection in the NFL draft when he talked about positives from Friday’s preseason opener at EverBank Field.

The Jaguars beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 16-10, in front of an announced crowd of 59,100 on Friday, establishing the tone early with an aggressive, pressuring defense.

And that tone was something Bradley said afterward he liked. A lot.

“It was a good day,” Bradley said after the Jaguars clinched the victory with a 26-yard run by running back Denard Robinson with 6:27 remaining. “I thought we did a good job taking care of the ball and going after the ball. We talk about, ‘It’s all about the ball,’ and that was one of the major things we wanted in all three phases. We wanted to have that mindset.

“That’s one thing I talked to our whole team about, ‘Let’s go out and play this game and see what kind of mindset are we building?’”

The Jaguars’ defense held the Buccaneers to 47 first-half rushing yards, which enabled a revitalized pass rush to pressure Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks registered a quarterback hurry, and defensive end Ryan Davis forced two penalties while pass-rushing early.

Defensive end Tyson Alualu also had a first-half sack.

The first-team defense played three series, holding the Buccaneers to a first down and giving the Jaguars a 7-0 lead when safety Winston Guy returned an interception 68 yards on the Buccaneers’ third offensive series.

The Jaguars never trailed, leading 7-0 and 10-3. They clinched the game when Robinson – a second-year veteran from Michigan – got free around the left side and tiptoed into the end zone to continue the positive feeling that built within the team throughout the offseason and training camp.

“The main thing is we’re all excited to be here,” Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “We just need to work on improving, getting better each day, our communication. That’s still something that can always get better.

“The more we practice together, the more we’re on the field together, the easier it will become. We just need to stick to our process and continue to work and improve.”

The Jaguars’ first-team offense, quarterbacked by veteran Chad Henne (4 of 7, 30 yards), struggled to establish the run, rushing for 12 yards in eight carries on the first four series.

“Overall, there were some good plays out there that were made,” Henne said. “So we will have to check the film and re-evaluate.”

For the game, the Jaguars had 91 yards rushing and 264 total yards.

“Sometimes in the first preseason game, it feels like the defense might be ahead of the offense,” Bradley said. “We know that will take some time. We have a starting point. We have a bar, and now the challenge is to raise the bar.”

And while the offense managed just one field goal with Bortles in the game, the rookie looked impressive in his first NFL action.

“Blake did a nice job in the second half,” Bradley said.

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, completed 7 of 11 passes for 117 yards, and though he did not lead a touchdown drive, he appeared confident and poised, throwing downfield with accuracy. He also had three passes dropped.

“I thought it was alright,” Bortles said. “It’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. There were some good reads and some bad reads.”

 

A POISED PERFORMANCE

Bradley said the performance from Bortles wasn’t unexpected.

Bradley said not only had Bortles had shown good poise in training camp, the second-team offensive line also had played well in practice.

“We felt like we could protect him, and I thought he did some good things,” Bradley said.

Bortles played exclusively with the second team on Friday. That has been the case throughout the offseason and training camp. Bradley also said while Bortles could conceivably get work with the first team before the end of the preseason, the plan is to play several rookies with the first team in an effort to get the players experience.

Bradley mentioned the fourth preseason game as a time Bortles could work with the first team.

“Somewhere, you’re going to see it,” Bradley said. “We do that with all of our guys and I’m sure we’ll do it with Blake as well. … We’ll see how it progresses.”

Bradley added, “He’s progressing nice.”

 

COOL FEELING

Bortles received an ovation upon entering the game with 9:51 remaining in the second quarter.

“It was cool,” he said. “Especially being down there near our own end zone and having a very energetic crowd cheering us on. That fired us up.”

 

CENTER OF ATTENTION

Center Mike Brewster has been a focal point throughout training camp.

His debut didn’t go as he might have hoped, with two shotgun snaps from Brewster twice leading to losses in the first half, but Bradley said “we still have faith” in the third-year veteran.

Brewster, who has worked with the first team throughout most of training camp, started on Friday. He worked alongside Jacques McClendon, who started at right guard and later worked at center. The Jaguars had planned entering the game to get each player repetitions at center.

“They came a little high and faster than normal,” Henne said of the snaps. “We’ll have to look at it on film and correct it. We’ll talk to Mike (Brewster) about it and we’ll get it fixed. We’ll be fine.”

Said Bradley, “We’re going to continue to grow with him and challenge him, but just like with all of our guys, we need to see improvement.”

 

INJURY UPDATE

Jaguars wide receiver Lamaar Thomas sustained a concussion late in the game.

That was the only significant injury for the Jaguars on Friday, with cornerback Will Blackmon returning soon after sustaining shoulder injury in the first half.

 

QUOTABLE

1.Tight end Marcedes Lewis: “Our main goal is to continue to get better. There are some plays that we left out there today. There were some plays we felt like we could do better. That’s what the preseason is for. It’s to work out the kinks.”

2.Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny: “There is definitely a noticeable difference with our defensive-line play. You saw them get after the quarterback right from the start. We’re really excited about that group because we know that’s something they can do all year long.”

3.Denard Robinson: “It’s always a good feeling to get in the end zone, but I have to give credit to the receivers and the offensive line. They did a great job. When I see the end zone, you always think you’re getting in. But the receivers got me in there.”


 

WHAT’S NEXT

The Jaguars will visit the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, Thursday at 8 p.m.

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