JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles understated the obvious on Wednesday.
In the wake of the Jaguars' biggest running game in nearly six seasons, the third-year quarterback was asked how important that sort of effectiveness was to the offensive play-calling.
"I think it helps out a ton," Bortles said as the Jaguars (2-6) prepared to play the Houston Texans (5-3) in an AFC South game at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
Indeed. The Jaguars, after ranking 30th in the NFL in rushing through seven games, not only rushed for a season-high 205 yards on 32 carries against the Chiefs this past Sunday, their first-half rushing total was more than their total in all but one game this season.
Their previous season-high rushing for the season was 136 against the Colts in London in Week 4. The Jaguars last rushed for more than 200 yards in a game in 2010, when they did it back-to-back-to-back, Weeks 12-14 of that season.
The Jaguars, particularly running back Chris Ivory, got into a rhythm running early Sunday. After T.J. Yeldon played the first series, Ivory rushed for 27 yards on three carries on the Jaguars' second possession, then ran for 42 more on the first carry of their third possession. Ivory finished with a season-high 107 yards on 18 carries.
"I love him as a member of this team and what he's all about: his toughness," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said of Ivory. "He's really a no-nonsense guy. 'What do I need to do? Call the play, tell me what I need to go and let me go to work.'"
Ivory, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the New York Jets in the offseason, rushed for 83 yards on 10 first-half carries as the Jaguars as a team rushed for 132 yards on 18 first-half carries. That start set the tone for the most-balanced, productive offensive day of the season, helping the offense produce a season-high 449 yards.
"Now, it's going to be able to find out, 'Can we do it on a consistent basis, week in and week out, against different teams – find ways to run the football?''' Bortles said. "I think that will be a challenge for us, but we're excited about it. I think last week was a good start for us getting our running game headed in the right direction."
Some of the best images from Wednesday's practice.
BACK AT IT
Defensive end Jared Odrick returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis after missing the last two games with foot/ankle issues. Odrick worked limited last Wednesday before missing Thursday and Friday and missing the Chiefs game.
Wide receivers Allen Hurns and Bryan Walters remained in the concussion protocol Wednesday after being placed in the program Sunday.
Rookie linebacker Myles Jack (hip) missed practice, as did right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee). Center Brandon Linder (hand) was limited Wednesday as was left tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee) and defensive end Chris Smith (eye).
FOWLER MAKING STRIDES
Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash likes Dante Fowler Jr.'s recent progress. While the second-year Leo defensive end hasn't had a sack since registering two against San Diego in Week 2, Wash said Fowler "played one of his better games" against Kansas City Sunday. "He's fixing some fundamental stuff," Wash said. "We've been on him here for about the past three weeks." Wash said Fowler forced pressure on an early play Sunday. "We just have to continue to stay on him to make sure he's working on the fundamentals," Wash said of the 2015 No. 3 overall selection in the NFL Draft. "When he does that, he's a good football player. He's pressing right now, trying to make plays. Usually, when you press you don't make any plays. He just has to trust that he can execute and make plays within the scheme. I think he did that on Sunday."
"I LIKE THE CHALLENGE"
Jalen Ramsey looks forward to covering Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. "He's a really good player," the Jaguars' rookie corner said of Hopkins, one of the NFL's best playmaking wide receivers. "I always like opportunities like that. I try to seize those opportunities. I like the challenge." It remains to be seen how often Ramsey will get the opportunity. While Ramsey has shadowed receivers such as Amari Cooper of Oakland and Alshon Jeffery of Chicago in the last month, Wash on Wednesday said Ramsey won't necessarily cover Hopkins one-on-one throughout. "They're both good players," Wash said. "Jalen will be on his side at times and other times he might not be. … I think we have some other good corners who match up well also." Hopkins, after 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, has 40 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns this season.
"I think I've seen them four times now; this will be the fifth. You're familiar with personnel, you're familiar with scheme. It's been the same group of coaches there since I've been here, so it's good to have familiarity with that. At the end of the day, it still comes down to execution and just going and making plays."
--Bortles on playing the Texans