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Open Locker Room: HC Gus Bradley praises QB Blake Bortles’ poise

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Jaguars HC Gus Bradley on rookie QB Blake Bortles’ first NFL preseason start: “We felt this would be good for him. We wanted him to go through what it feels like to start.”


JACKSONVILLE – To Gus Bradley, Thursday was about opportunities.

And while the Jaguars’ head coach knows difficult days with difficult decisions lie immediately ahead, he said he liked a lot about how the Jaguars’ approached those opportunities during a 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2014 preseason finale at EverBank Field.

“We got to see a lot of guys play,” Bradley said late Thursday. “We moved some guys around and the more-that-you-can-do mentality was something we looked at.”

Such is the reality of every NFL preseason finale in every city:

While the game provides opportunities for young players, it also means roster cutdowns in the coming days. The Jaguars must trim the roster from 75 players to 53 by the end of the weekend.

“It’s always tough this time of year,” Bradley said. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions. I do have a genuine appreciation for all of their efforts.”

To ensure players near and at the bottom of the roster were given ample opportunity, the Jaguars rested a slew of front-line players Thursday, including quarterback Chad Henne, defensive end Chris Clemons, running back Toby Gerhart, tight end Marcedes Lewis, defensive tackle Roy Miller, safety Johnathan Cyprien and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny.

Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles made his first NFL start in Henne’s absence, playing three series and leaving the game after a 57-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide Marqise Lee. Bortles completed four of six passes for 86 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

“We felt like this would be good for him,” Bradley said of Bortles. “We felt like we wanted him to go through what it feels like to start – just adding to his body of work.”

Bradley said Bortles stayed poised under pressure early in the game, noting that the touchdown pass to Lee came on a read that was not Bortles’ first option on the play.

“He stood in the pocket and showed the poise that he had,” Bradley said.

Bortles’ touchdown to Lee tied the game, 7-7, but Atlanta quarterback T.J. Yates capped two second-quarter with touchdown passes of more than 60 yards and the Falcons never led by less than 10 points again.

“I thought the first half we didn’t come out with the energy we had had in preseason games,” Bradley said. “The second half was much better, so I appreciate how they responded.”

 

READY FOR THE REGULAR SEASON

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III played into the second quarter Thursday.

While that’s unusual for a starter in a preseason finale, the fourth-year veteran missed the first two games of the preseason. After playing 15 plays against Detroit in Week 3, Shorts said he wanted more reps Thursday and the team wanted to give them to him.

“It was good,” Bradley said. “We knew before the game he was going to play extra. We wanted to add more just for him to get his wind and get ready for next week.”

Shorts caught one pass for 17 yards Thursday and said he feels ready for the September 7 regular-season opener at Philadelphia.

“It was really good,” Shorts said. “My body felt good. My conditioning is further along than I thought it would be. You don’t want to miss anytime, but I came back at the perfect (time). I feel ready to go for Week 1.”

 

ACE RETURNS

Wide receiver Ace Sanders won’t play in the first four regular-season games.

But he played Thursday night for the first time this preseason, and immediately showed why the Jaguars like him, particularly on special teams.

Sanders, a second-year veteran who missed the first three preseason games dealing with personal issues that led to a four-game, season-opening suspension, returned three punts against the Falcons, including one for 31 yards in the third quarter.

“It was great to see him back there,” Bradley said. “When he’s a returner, he creates things and he makes things happen.”

Sanders said he felt like he was among family Thursday.

“It felt good to be back out there with the guys,” he said. “They make you feel that way. There’s something special here.”

Said running back Denard Robinson, “Don’t call him Ace, call him the ‘Magic Man.’ Did you see what he did when he got the ball? It’s great to have him back.”

 

NOTABLE

*With veteran Tandon Doss reaggravating an ankle injury in the first half and Sanders suspended for the first four games of the season, Bradley said the team must make a decision at punt returner. He mentioned cornerback Will Blackmon and wide receiver Mike Brown as possibilities. “Those are the two guys right now,” he said. …

*Bradley noted four missed tackles in a 66-yard screen pass from Yates to running back Antone Smith early in the second quarter. “That, we can’t do,” he said. …

*The Jaguars made a slew of moves on the weekend following the preseason finale last season, acquiring seven players off waivers, including tight end Clay Harbor and safety Winston Guy, Jr. Bradley said he doesn’t anticipate such activity in the coming days. “We feel like we’ve developed some depth,” he said. …

 

INJURY UPDATE

Rookie cornerback Rashaad Reynolds sustained a fractured hand in the first quarter and did not return. The injured may require surgery.

Doss re-aggravated an ankle injury in the second quarter, having missed the first three preseason games with the injury. Tight end Brandon Barden sustained a groin injury late in the game.

 

QUOTABLE

1. Bradley: “We don’t have one guy. We don’t have any celebrities. We have servants. We have guys who are really trying to help each other get better. That’s how we operate. That’s how we play our best. If we play with great energy, great enthusiasm, great toughness and play smart, then I really like the way we are.” …

2. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny: “This is the best a lot of us have ever felt with the training camp schedule that we’ve had, the physical play that we wanted to have. We were able to rest ourselves tonight and get ready for Week 1. We had a great training camp. We got a lot better as a defense as we went on. We learned a lot and we’re still going to continue to learn and get better as we prepare for the regular season.” …

3. Lee: “I’ve come a long way from OTAs. I can honestly say that I’m still working on the move. It was good to have an opportunity to get out there and go on against the ones with Blake to see where he stands and how we work and it was a great experience.” …

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The Jaguars will visit the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in the 2014 regular-season opener Sunday, September 7 at 1 p.m.

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