INDIANAPOLIS – Gus Bradley loves Blake Bortles' approach.
That wasn't the first thing the Jaguars' head coach said at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Thursday, but he said it more than once and made this much clear:
The passing camp in California?
The work on fundamentals with Jordan Palmer?
The effort to create continuity and chemistry with teammates?
Bradley, entering his third season with the Jaguars, spoke on a variety of topics early Thursday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium in frigid downtown Indianapolis, but when discussing the above Bortles-related questions his smile was particularly wide.
"We felt like he was very competitive during the season, but this offseason – what we're hearing, the feedback we're getting … he's taking it to another level," Bradley said Thursday on the second day of the '15 combine.
Bortles, the Jaguars' starting quarterback and the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, has said he plans to work with Jaguars receivers in California in the coming weeks. He also said he will work with longtime NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer to improve fundamentals and footwork.
"He's going after it now," Bradley said. "I'm so pleased about that. I'm excited to hear how it's going with him. I think he's, 'OK … been there, done that … I know what that year's about, now let's take this thing to another level' and he's competing like crazy to do that."
Bradley also said he was pleased in retrospect that Bortles played in 14 games, starting the final 13, as a rookie. The Jaguars originally planned to have Bortles back up quarterback Chad Henne this past season.
"What an unbelievable experience for him," Bradley said, adding, "His mindset now is, 'What can I do to get better?'''
Bradley also on Thursday said he is confident the team can improve its roster when free agency begins March 10. The Jaguars enter the new league year with significantly more salary cap room than most NFL teams, and Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell and Owner Shad Khan have said since the end of last season the team likely will be more aggressive in free agency than the past two offseasons.
"Our philosophy is to build primarily through the draft, and that's really our focus," Bradley said. "But we've seen several guys come in (as free agents such as defensive tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks) and been very good for us."
Bradley said, too, that he likes where the offensive staff is in the installation process, and said he remains hopeful that the scheme under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson can emphasize the run with the pass building from that. Olson, assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach Doug Marrone, running backs coach Kelly Skipper and quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett all have been added since last season.
"Oley has good flexibility, he's versatile and he's adaptable," Bradley said. "Really, now, after analyzing our players to see what they do well we can adjust offensively what we want to do to their strengths. Rather than bringing in a coach who says, 'Hey, this is my offense. This is all I do. We don't have the players to do it. We have to get new players in …' I didn't think that would be very good for us in the direction we wanted to go.
"That's one of Oley's strongest traits, and we're making very good progress on that."
Bradley added that while an offense that included six rookie starters at various points last season will face a challenge learning a new scheme, effort is being made to incorporate "some likes from the old system."
"I really like the dynamics of the [offensive staff meeting] room now, with the experience we have brought in," Bradley said.
Also on Thursday:
*Bradley said the Jaguars try to be aggressive at the combine by having coaches work with players during on-field work. Marrone, for example, will work with the offensive linemen Friday when the group works on the field. "He can try to get a better feel for them than up in the stands, watching really how they try to attack a specific drill," Bradley said. …
*Bradley called running back Denard Robinson, who had two 100-yard rushing games in his first stint as a starter this past season, "a pleasant surprise for us. We're really pleased with his progress. We're hopeful that he makes the next step. Where that takes him as far as the rotation or what number back he is, that's yet to be seen. … The future's bright for him." …
*Bradley said the team is in the process of determining roles for many offensive players, including running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 326 yards and two touchdowns on 101 carries after signing as an unrestricted free agent from Minnesota last offseason. "Toby's done a nice job for us," Bradley said. "You may consider him a third-down- or short-yardage-situational-type back, but we saw him do enough good things on first- and second-down that I think he'll have a role for us. He's a different-style back and that's what we're putting together now – an offense to try to best utilize his strengths." …
*Bradley discussed Storm Johnson, who rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns this past season after being selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. "Storm is very intriguing to us – his athleticism, his talent," he said. "This year was also a good growth period for him. We hope we see a big jump in his maturity level, as far as handling the week's prep, what it takes to prepare for Sunday and what it includes. There was a lot on his plate initially." …
*Bradley discussed the hiring of Marrone, saying again that two discussed very little about the circumstances that led to Marrone re-signing as Bills head coach shortly after last season with a year remaining on his contract. Bradley said the two initially talked in January without a clear idea of Marrone joining the Jaguars' staff. "I just felt like it was a good fit," Bradley said. "It started off, 'Let's communicate and talk philosophy' and extended into, 'Hey, we might have a role for you now as an offensive line coach. It never really got into what took place in Buffalo. I know that seems odd, but it never did.' … I just know he's in our building now and he's doing a great job.''
Jaguars draft picks that are on currently on the team, at their NFL Combine workout.