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View from the O-Zone: Bortles keeps working

Posted Aug 8, 2017

Oehser: Learning process continuing for Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles – and with the regular season approaching, improvement needs to keep coming

FOXBORO, Mass. – The process continues for Blake Bortles.

It’s a learning process, and it won’t be complete in one practice, or two. It’s still about improvement for the Jaguars’ fourth-year quarterback, and make no mistake:

Improvement is still necessary. And still needs to come quickly.

That’s not a knock, and it’s not a snapshot reaction to what by any measure was a difficult team portion of the second of two consecutive days of dual practices Tuesday against the defending Super Bowl champions.

It’s not anything except what it is – the reality of Bortles’ 2017 Training Camp.

We bring this up today not because Bortles struggled during 11-on-11 work Tuesday against the New England Patriots, but because Bortles on Tuesday spoke to the media for the first time since what for him and the team is a very important camp began.

He was asked about the Jaguars’ offense thus far in camp.

He discussed it from an overall perspective, and because he was discussing it in the wake of a difficult practice, his answer included an element of what had just happened on the Patriots’ practice fields outside Gillette Stadium.

“There is no doubt there has been some bad stuff that has happened and we have to fix and continue to work on,” Bortles said on a remarkably cool, overcast August New England day, “but I think if you watched seven on sevens today or one on ones and there wasn’t a whole lot times we got stopped.

“We obviously didn’t have the team period we wanted to. We messed up some things there, but I thought from a receiver, passing-game standpoint, the one on ones and the seven on sevens were extremely good today. We just have to find a way to carry that over into the 11-on-11.”

Jaguars Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin was asked about Bortles Tuesday. On a day on which Coughlin talked mostly about the opportunity that the dual practices with the Patriots represented, Coughlin stayed in that vein when discussing the quarterback.

“This is good work for him – good work in this environment and no doubt he’s learned a lot from it, so we just keep getting better,” Coughlin said.

Bortles touched on a couple of other topics Tuesday …

He likes the confidence of rookie running back Leonard Fournette, calling the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft “a breath of fresh air.” He also said he likes the progress being shown by rookie Cam Robinson, who hasn’t officially been named starting left tackle but unofficially almost certainly will be playing that role.

“I have been really impressed; I think he has done a good job,” Bortles said of Robinson. “I think he is extremely athletic. He has picked everything up quickly and I am excited to see what he is able to continue to do.”

But when Bortles speaks these days, the most interesting thing is what he has to say about Bortles, because the quarterback’s progress and mindset remains the No. 1 story in ’17 camp.

Bortles for the most part has been OK in training camp. He has gone without interceptions most days, with the notable exception being the first Saturday of camp when he threw five in the team’s first padded session of the summer.

That topic was a topic Tuesday.

“I think any time you throw an interception, I think you learn from it,” Bortles said. “It’s practice, not downplaying practice or justifying that it’s okay to throw five interceptions; it’s not. But if there’s a time to do it, that’s then. You learn from it then and hopefully move on and grow from it and don’t do it again.”

Give Bortles credit for this:

He hasn’t done it again – hasn’t had anything close to a repeat of the five-interception day. He threw one in a Thursday practice last week and one against the Patriots Monday, but aside from those, his performances have been clean. He has shown good accuracy at times, particularly on fades passes and passes down the sideline, and his much-talked about mechanics have seemed stable through the first two weeks. He doesn’t appear to be throwing as confidently in the middle of the field, but his rapport with his receivers – particularly Robinson and Marqise Lee – appears to be growing. That’s a start.

So, yes, the process continues for Bortles, and it will continue Thursday when he likely will play a few series – perhaps a couple – in the preseason opener against the Patriots.

That will end an early-camp period that in a lot of ways can be summarized by Tuesday’s practice. As he put it Tuesday, there has been some “bad stuff,” some rough periods. There have been throws you wish he hadn’t made, and there are have been some missed opportunities. And intertwined with that have been some impressive plays and some real stretches of progress and production – and the fact that the former exists doesn’t mean the latter doesn’t matter.

So, overall, the learning process continues. It’s not going to be complete in one practice, or two. But that improvement is still necessary. And it still needs to keep coming. Quickly.


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