JACKSONVILLE – Here are five takeaways from Gus Bradley's day-after press conference following Steelers-Jaguars in Preseason Week 1…
1.Injuries not ideal, but could be worse…: Tight end Julius Thomas suffered a fracture in his right hand on the second play from scrimmage Friday night, an injury that will keep him out of the preseason. Also on Saturday, the team announced that safety Johnathan Cyprien suffered a non-displaced finger fracture, and will also miss the remainder of the preseason. "They'll both go through a lot of walkthrough reps and some of the group install maybe on the field," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said in a Saturday afternoon press conference. "Anything especially in the early stages where they could be tempted at catching the ball or falling on the ground, even though they have a cast on, that's what we will try to keep them out of." Bradley was unsure of when Cyprien's injury happened in the game. Josh Evans and Craig Loston will get the bulk of the reps at strong safety with Cyprien out. The team is hopeful both Cyprien and Thomas will be healthy enough to play Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
2. and other injured players are getting healthy.: The team announced that defensive end Chris Clemons (non-football injury list) and James Sample (physically unable to perform list) could both return to limited practice Monday, with Sample possibly playing in the Preseason Week 3 game against the Detroit Lions. Defensive tackle Roy Miller (knee) and defensive end Jared Odrick (knee) are both day-to-day, but both will likely see playing time in Saturday's game against the New York Giants. Running back T.J. Yeldon will remain in a red jersey during practice this week, and will continue to be evaluated with a sprained finger suffered in last week's scrimmage.
3. Bradley's mindset on preseason playing time has not changed.: With the two new injuries, Bradley said that the balance of playing time for the starters and protecting them against injury is delicate. "We don't want to run scared, or have that issue where, 'Let's only play them at the fear that someone could get hurt,'" Bradley said. "We don't want that mindset. That's not who we are. It's more so based on the number of reps, and it's the game of football. It's a physical game, and things can happen like that."
4. Blake Bortles' toughness is a trait the Jaguars love: Blake Bortles went 11-for-15 passing for 118 yards, but the highlight of the game came on a scramble for a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, when Bortles reached the ball for the pylon with his throwing arm while diving. Bradley said that type of play, even in the preseason, comes with the territory with Bortles. "One of the things that we were committed to, one aspect of his game where it's a strong suit, is his toughness. You can do two things, you can coach him out of that, or say that's an asset, the team rallies around it and we don't want to change who he is. But, let's be smart. If it's first-and-10, slide. If it's a third down and three and you've got a chance to get it, you've got to pick and choose."
5. The offensive line, including left tackle Luke Joeckel, played well: The entire group playing well was an initial reaction after the game Friday night, and reiterated again by Bradley Saturday after watching film. In addition, the offensive line working with the running backs in protection along with the physicality in the run game stood out. "We saw the quarterback have time, whether it was Chad (Henne) or Blake (Bortles), where they actually sat back there for a while and had time." Bradley said. "Very pleased with the progress, but still, I know they would say the same thing, but not where we need to be." Left tackle Luke Joeckel gave up an early sack to veteran linebacker James Harrison ("He lunged on it, and got beat," Bradley said), but the coaching staff was pleased with how the third-year veteran played overall. "There's going to be times when sacks happen, but the consistent play is what we're looking for, and that's what we felt like we saw out of Luke," Bradley said. "I thought in the run game you saw toughness from him, as well as the whole offensive line. As far as us as a coaching staff, very pleased with the progress. Very pleased with where he's at."