JACKONVILLE – Blake Bortles put it simply.
“It is kind of what we want to do,” the Jaguars’ quarterback said.
Bortles was talking about the first drive of a 24-20 preseason-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, a drive that set an early tone for Bortles and the first team offense – and that indeed fit perfectly with the identity of the defending AFC South Champions:
*Five first downs.
*Twenty-four yards rushing from running back Leonard Fournette.
*Six-of-nine passing for 53 yards from Bortles with three of his completions going for first downs. One of those completions – a 16-yarder to wide receiver Dede Westbrook – came on 3rd-and-10 from the Saints 22 as Bortles was being hit as he threw.
The Jaguars possessed the ball 7:02 on the series and the first-team offense left the game after Bortles gave them a 7-0 lead with a two-yard rollout into the right corner of the end zone.
“We were kind of talking about it, joking about it, that it kind of felt like we never left – like we kind of picked up where we left off last year,” Bortles said. “It felt good. There’s obviously some things we need to fix out of those 15 plays. Some things we could have done better, and I think overall as a first team offense, it was a successful outing.”
The drive came without starting right tackle Jermey Parnell and starting left guard Andrew Norwell, each of whom missed with what are thought to be minor injuries.
“How we want to be as an offense is to be able to do what we did last year and do it better,” Bortles said. “We want to run the football and we want to do a lot of things off of that, so I think to go out there without two offensive starting linemen and move the ball in the run game the way we did and hold up in the pass protection, I thought it was extremely impressive from the guys up front.”
Linebacker Telvin Smith, running back T.J. Yeldon, Fournette and cornerback Jalen Ramsey opted to remain in the tunnel during the playing of the national anthem before the game. “It’s a personal thing and I don’t want to get into it, but everyone has their own beliefs in certain things,” Fournette told reporters after the game. Said Smith: “I’ve got certain beliefs, but this is not going to become a distraction in Jacksonville. This is not going to become a distraction for this team. I’ve got beliefs. I did what I did. I don’t know if it’s going to be every week … can’t answer if it’s going to be every week, but, as a man, I’ve got to stand for something. I love my team, I’m dedicated to my teammates and that’s what we’re talking about. I did what I did, it was love. I hope people see it and respect it. I respect views, I love the military, I wore my Salute to Service cleats today. It’s love, and we’re just going to move forward and move forward in the preseason. It’s about that we lost a game, we’ve got to get this team prepared, this roster prepared and move forward in the season. No more questions about the beginning of the game.”
Backup quarterback Cody Kessler turned in two and a half solid quarters in his Jaguars debut Thursday, completing 14 of 17 passes for 139 yards and a seven-yard third-quarter touchdown to tight end Scott Orndoff. Kessler was acquired from the Cleveland Browns in an offseason trade following the Jaguars’ decision not to retain long-time backup Chad Henne. “Messing up and making a few mistakes is something you’ve got to go through,” Kessler said. “It’s been nice to make those mistakes in practice and learn from them. It was nice because I got here in the first preseason game and it was like, ‘I don’t really feel nervous. I’ve messed up these plays, learned from them and now I’ve fixed it. It felt like I could play loose and feel comfortable with the play calling.”
Linebacker Blair Brown left the game in the second quarter Thursday and was evaluated for a concussion. He entered the concussion protocol.
The following players missed the game: nose tackle Eli Ankou (knee), wide receiver DeAndre Smelter (concussion), safety Don Carey (personal reasons), offensive tackle Will Richardson (shoulder), Parnell (knee), Norwell (calf), linebacker Brooks Ellis (concussion), wide receiver Keelan Cole (foot), defensive end Dawuane Smoot (ankle), defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), defensive lineman Taven Bryan (abdominal) and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (shoulder, Physically Unable to Perform list since start of training camp.).
“We weren’t trying to go back out there for another series, so our main focus was to put up a good drive and try to score and that’s exactly what we did.”
--Wide receiver Marqise Lee on the Jaguars’ opening-drive touchdown