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First off the field: Bortles' Sunday better than first thought


JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles had a good practice.

That's how Gus Bradley saw things Wednesday – and upon further review, the Jaguars' head coach said his rookie quarterback may have had a better Sunday than he first realized, too.

Bradley had been pointed when discussing Bortles Monday, a day after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Bradley at the time said Bortles had to play better, and needed to get the ball out of his hands quicker and make better decisions.

But Bradley on Wednesday said there were good things about Bortles' performance against the Colts, too.

"I don't think I'd go back on my words as far as Blake like, 'We're going to challenge him to keep getting better,'" Bradley said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-10) prepared to play the New York Giants (3-8) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

"But there were some areas where I think he did really well."

Bradley said Bortles did well reading coverages and making line calls against the Colts, and also did a good job in his decision-making and reads.

"He was on it," Bradley said. "He did pretty good. His decision-making, and his reads and things like that – I give him more credit after going through it again. He did some really nice things there."

Bradley added of Bortles, "It's a growing period.  He's got this learning curve that he's going through."

Bradley also said rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee had a good practice Wednesday, adding that the second-round selection benefitted from extended playing time against Indianapolis.

"It was really good for him, the chance to get out there and play as many plays as he did," Bradley said of Lee, who caught three passes for 52 yards Sunday. "I think he's grown from that."

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and Bortles spoke to the media for the first time since Sunday's loss to Indianapolis, emphasizing the need for better down-and-distance situations. The Jaguars gained 194 total yards against the Colts, including minus-12 yards in the third quarter when they faced third-and-21, third-and-9 and third-and-22 situations. They did not convert any of the three. "The second half we kind of killed ourselves playing from behind the chains and getting some long-yardage situations, which makes it difficult and can kill you," Bortles said. …

*Fisch and Bortles also discussed the lack of downfield passing recently, with Bortles saying the down-and-distance situations make such throws "tough," adding that on third-and-21 "you're not going to throw the ball down the field because it'll be a pick." Bortles added, "The way the flow of the game has been going, it hasn't allowed us to do some of that stuff. Some of it has been there's shots and there's plays there and we haven't been able to get the ball down the field for one reason or another. It's on everybody and it's definitely kind of a point of emphasis that we want to get back to throwing the ball down the field and moving it." …

*Fisch said there was no easy answer to the downfield-passing issue, saying six downfield passes were called against Indianapolis, with two plays resulting in sacks and four either being batted or not thrown. "We need to do a better job getting those off," Fisch said. "Unfortunately, in offensive football 11 guys kind of all have to work together for that play to work. … We'd love to throw it deep, trust me. There's nothing cooler than completing a deep ball and there's nothing better than finishing in the end zone. Nobody doesn't want to score and nobody doesn't want to throw it deep. We just have to be able to protect it, we have to be able to get open down field and we have to be able to make those throws and not throw behind them and stuff like that." …

*Rookie middle linebacker Jeremiah George returned to practice on a limited basis, seemingly ending what he said was his first extended absence from football because of injury. George, signed by the Jaguars off the New York Jets' practice squad earlier this season, started and played impressively in Week 9 against Cincinnati in his first NFL start before sustaining the injury early in the game. "That's the first time I've ever been injured and not able to practice or play," he said. "It really took a mental toll on me for the first couple of days in London, but it gave me a chance to reflect on what had just happened and what can happen in the future. I was picking up speed and preparing for takeoff. There was a bump in the road and now I have to pick up where I left off and grow." …

*Defensive end Andre Branch returned to practice after missing four games with a groin injury. "He looked good," Bradley said, adding that Branch appears more likely for Sunday than George. …

*Bradley also said when reviewing the Colts game the offensive line graded out well. "It wasn't like the offensive line solely," Bradley said of four sacks allowed.

*Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III were the only players not practicing, with Reynolds missing with a neck issue and Shorts missing because of the flu. …

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