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Gus Bradley: Bortles, offense must stay the course


BOCA RATON -- Gus Bradley loved a lot about Blake Bortles last season.

His aggressiveness. His development. His approach.

All were positives Bortles showed during his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback. Now, the Jaguars' head coach said the team's mission with the improving, third-year veteran is clear and critical: push him to improve and develop …

But don't push too, too hard.

"I think the common thing for an offensive coordinator is to say, 'OK, he understands it: let's add more,''' Bradley said Tuesday during the AFC Head Coaches Breakfast at the 2016 NFL Annual Meeting at the Boca Raton Resort.

"Well, that's not what we're going to do. I think it's a big mistake, to add more to his plate.  I think [the objective] is to stay the course with the offense we run, find out what he does well and stay to that portion of the offense. We're definitely not looking to add to it – just to refine it a little more."

Bortles last season threw for 4,482 yards and a franchise-record 35 touchdown passes, but also threw 18 interceptions. Bradley said reducing the interceptions and increasing efficiency are offseason keys for Bortles.

"We understand that with his style, we're going to have some turnovers," Bradley said. "With that, we're going to have some big plays, too. We just want to stay away from the ones [interceptions] where he gives the [opposing offense] big opportunities. He just has to continue to make good decisions. …"

Bradley said while there will be new wrinkles and additions, the idea is to avoid overloading and adding huge elements to the offense.

"The continuity of the offense [with coordinator Greg Olson entering his second season with the team] is really going to help him, and as coaches we've got to be sharp as far as, 'Hey, he's been in this system; let's put even more on his plate,''' Bradley said. "He's going to have more. It comes with the position. Let's not add to it too much."

Bortles talked following last season about wanting to develop at the line of scrimmage and improve his ability to get into good plays and out of bad ones before the snap. That's a key for quarterbacks in the modern NFL and something Bradley said will develop in time.

"I would say Greg [Olson] and Blake are on the same page at the line of scrimmage," Bradley said. "They made great strides, and that's what he [Bortles] wants as well."

Also on Tuesday:

*Bradley discussed this week's addition of Monte Kiffin as a defensive assistant, saying the decision came over time and just made sense. Kiffin, a 50-year coaching veteran who spent 1996-2008 as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive coordinator, worked with the Jaguars as an unofficial consultant during the January search for a defensive coordinator, sitting in on defensive meetings after that. "I said, 'Let's just take it day by day and add insight: tell us what you see,''' Bradley said. "I thought he did a great job. I saw [defensive coordinator] Todd [Wash] talk to him, the DB coach [DeWayne Walker] … his experience and expertise add a lot. We just came to the conclusion to eventually pay him for what he'd been doing." Bradley worked with Kiffin in Tampa Bay in 2006-2008. …

*Bradley said the team could alter its approach to rookie minicamp. Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament on the first day of rookie minicamp last year. "There's two ways of going about it," Bradley said. "There's the coach who was like myself who said, 'These guys maybe haven't worked out as much as they should have because they've been on a lot of trips; we're going to go into rookie minicamp and they're going to learn the tempo so the following year they'll be ready to go.' Or is it, 'We're going to give in and understand they've been traveling a lot and they're not physically where they need to be, let's understand that and facilitate our schedule accordingly.' This has forced us to maybe look at the second and say, 'OK, what do we really what rookie minicamp to do? We'll maybe take a little different philosophy than we have.'' Bradley said future minicamps could feature more individual work and meeting with coaches.

*Bradley was asked about the patience owner Shad Khan has shown in the building process under him and General Manager David Caldwell. The Jaguars are 12-36 during their tenure, having rebuilt the roster with only five players remaining from 2012. "I don't know if he would say it's patience," Bradley said. "I think he [Khan] just feels like, 'This is the way we're going to do it.' We took a big undertaking. We've all been on the same page since the day we started. But he's also a guy who has tremendous expectations, and as we build this and get these players in here, that's part of it. We've felt those expectations since Day One, but we've been strict to say true to the plan." …

*Bradley said he believes defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks can return to the form he showed in 2014 when he led the team with 8.5 sacks. Marks missed the first five games of last season returning from a torn ACL, then missed the last seven games with a torn triceps. "I'm very confident," Bradley said. "He showed flashes when he did come back, so we expect him to come back 100 percent."

*Bradley, like General Manager David Caldwell did on Monday, said he believes newly-signed offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum could be ready by early training camp. Beachum, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers, missed the last 10 games last season with a torn ACL. He is expected to compete with Luke Joeckel at left tackle. "I know he's progressing faster than they anticipated, so that's what we're shooting for," Bradley said of Beachum.

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