JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the day after the Jaguars' loss to the San Diego Chargers Sunday
1)Run, run, run.We begin this Day After Takeaways with the Jaguars' running game, an area Head Coach Gus Bradley on Monday indicated will be a focus moving forward. A main focus could be more touches for rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, particularly in the red zone. The Jaguars on Sunday rushed for 102 yards on 19 carries, with 33 coming on six runs by quarterback Blake Bortles and 10 coming on a reverse by wide receiver Marqise Lee. Yeldon rushed nine times for 36 yards, and while the limited rushing attempts were in a sense understandable because of the Jaguars' effectiveness passing, Yeldon did not have a carry in any of the Jaguars' four red-zone opportunities. Success running often requires persistence, and Bradley on Monday sounded determined to be more persistent. "You're not going to have any argument from us that we need to try to find a way to run the ball more; I think it will just help overall," Bradley said, adding that better balance will help Bortles and the passing offense. "It will make him even better – it will make the team better – if we can get closer to some balance."
2)A veteran thing.The Jaguars' red-zone issues Sunday have been analyzed, re-analyzed and probably overanalyzed – and we're only a day removed. But a key point is worth reiterating, and that's that experience at the quarterback position – and the accompanying command of situations at the line of scrimmage – can't be overemphasized. Bradley talked admirably on Monday of quarterback Philip Rivers' ability to get the Chargers' offense into the proper play, change formations, change protection and even change route concepts based on the Jaguars' defensive looks. "That takes a long time to be able to do that," Bradley said. Rivers is in his 12th NFL season, and Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said last week that it appeared Rivers was doing more at the line of scrimmage than he had even two years ago. Bortles is in his second season, his first in offensive coordinator Greg Olson's scheme. The Chargers on Sunday scored touchdowns on four of five red-zone possessions and the Jaguars scored touchdowns on one of four possessions. Was experience at quarterback the entire difference? No, but it matters, and as Bortles gains experience and command of the offense so should the Jaguars' red-zone efficiency improve.
3)The growth continues.Bortles' development remains a focal point, and while he has made mistakes this season – including a critical interception late in the second half Sunday – the franchise's belief in the second-year veteran remains unwavering. Bortles completed 30 of 49 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns with the interception Sunday, giving him 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions after 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. "Each game, there are going to be situations that come up that maybe he's going to look back at and wish he'd made a different decision," Bradley said, "but overall the progress he had made … we've got a guy who has no fear. That moxie and things will come the more and more times he plays." As for when Bortles' mistakes will reduce to a "reasonable" number, Bradley said, "You hope he learns from all of these. We threw it, what … 40-some times in the game? He threw one interception. I don't know what's reasonable. I know that one hurt. I know it took the wind out of us a little bit. I do know that. But when you throw it 40-some times with a second-year quarterback is there going to be some time where there's an interception? I don't know what's realistic.''
4)Hitting a stride.Don't underestimate the importance of the performance of tight end Julius Thomas Sunday. The veteran not only caught nine passes for a season-high 116 yards and a touchdown, he looked the part of a go-to, reliable playmaker in the middle of the field. That's what the Jaguars expected when they signed Thomas from Denver; after a slow start statistically as he returned from a hand injury that kept him out the first four games, he is starting to play at the level expected from the team's top offseason free-agent acquisition. Thomas on Sunday said it was a matter of continuing to develop chemistry with Bortles – something he said is more difficult than many observers believe – and Bradley said the ability to go all out all the time in recent weeks has helped. "When you watch him on tape, every play he's playing full speed whereas I don't know if you could say that a couple of weeks ago," Bradley said. "That gives him an opportunity in itself."
5)Opportunity knocking?With Allen Hurns in the concussion protocol, Sunday could be an opportunity for Marqise Lee. Not that the second-year wide receiver is approaching it that way. "Nothing will change," Lee said. "The same way I went about these last three games is the same way I'll go about these last five." Hurns, a starter in the first 11 games, sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter Sunday and his status will be updated Wednesday. Lee, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, missed six of the first eight games with a hamstring issue and has two receptions for 11 yards in a limited role since returning. He has just five receptions for 51 yards this season after catching 37 passes for 422 yards last season. "I think he's gaining confidence," Bradley said. "It's probably similar to (tight end) Julius (Thomas). There's a time period when you come back from your injury that you're still working some things out, and you just keep getting better and better. Hopefully, he hits full stride. He appears to be healthy and feels healthy, so (the team will) just try to incorporate him more."