JACKSONVILLE – For Toby Gerhart, Tuesday was a good day.
Now, he and the Jaguars hope he can turn Thursday into a better night by getting some much-needed work with a new offensive line.
Gerhart, the Jaguars' starting running back who signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, missed the last week and a half – and the preseason opener against Tampa Bay – with a hip flexor injury. He returned to practice Tuesday, and said he expects to play Thursday in the Jaguars' preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
"I should be ready to go," Gerhart said Tuesday following a two-hour, 10-minute practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said if Gerhart responds well following Tuesday's practice – and the expectation is that he will – the veteran running back should play Thursday.
"We're going to get him some reps," Bradley said. "It may be like four or five carries or something like that to get him going."
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch also said five or six carries would make sense for Gerhart.
"I'd like to see Toby run the ball a little bit," Fisch said.
Gerhart said he felt good Tuesday. He worked extensively with the first team, beginning the team period with a run for a long gain, and said he had no issues with the hip.
"It's been feeling good, so I don't expect it to feel any worse tomorrow," he said.
Jaguars veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said the rest of the preseason will be important for Gerhart and the running offense.
"You want to get that timing, and you all want to be on the same page," Lewis said. "We've added a few wrinkles to the run game, and we have some new pieces we've added to the offense. It's important we all trust each other in the run game, and if you've got your run game going, it's going to be easier in the passing game."
Gerhart said he's looking forward not only to working behind the Jaguars' offensive line for the first time in a game situation, but to his first game hits of 2014.
"We don't get hit in practice too often," he said. "I don't know if we ever get taken down to the ground purposely, so it's good to get a few hits in."
LOOKING ON . . .
*Jaguars coaches want rookie defensive end Chris Smith to work as an inside pass rusher against the Bears, Bradley said. The team has been working with multiple Leo-pass rushing packages, and has toyed with the idea of playing four Leos – Chris Clemons, Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and Smith –simultaneously. The team used its three-Leo "lightning" package against Tampa Bay with Davis rushing from the inside. Bradley said the team needs to see Smith in the package, too. "That's the thing we need to look at," Bradley said. "I think that's one that we're trying to figure out." …
*Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles on Tuesday spoke to the media for the first time since the preseason opener, saying he was pleased for the most part with his performance that night. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 117 yards in a little less than two quarters. "For the most part we did what we wanted to do," he said. "We sped up the tempo and we were moving the ball a little bit."
*Second-year running back Denard Robinson took repetitions at kickoff returner Tuesday, working in a role where he worked last offseason and in last year's training camp. Robinson struggled at the position last year, but Bradley said the Jaguars may take a look at Robinson in the role to take advantage of his speed. "He's got a chance," Bradley said, with Robinson adding, "I did it at the beginning of the year last year, so I feel comfortable doing that. Whatever they ask me to do I want to try to be the best I can be." …
*Cornerback Alan Ball, who missed the preseason opener for precautionary reasons last Friday after starting training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list with an ankle injury, said he expects to play against Chicago. "I'm looking forward to it – put it that way," Ball said Tuesday. …
*The Jaguars continue to game plan more for Chicago than they did for Tampa. The team worked on 20 plays of Chicago's defense and 20 plays of its offense on Tuesday, Bradley said. …
"We're always seeing to see if we get improvement. Sometimes it's a scheme. We might not get the sacks but we're disruptive in other ways. We want to continue to make progress with (the defensive line). First thing is stop the run – at least contain the run – and then get our four-man rush and have that mindset about the ball, and then tackling. Always in preseason, tackling is something that we emphasize so we'll go in with that same mindset."
--- Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley
"We needed those guys (the offensive line) to start getting some run together (against the Buccaneers). I wasn't as concerned with the end result of the run. I wanted to get carries. It wasn't about saying, "How are we going to win the down?" It was a matter of how are going to evaluate our running game."
-- Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch
A daily training camp thought from Jaguars.com senior correspondent Brian Sexton …
"I'm looking for their ability to run when they want to run. I'm not looking to see 4.5 yards a carry, but on third and three, when they want to run the ball for a first down, can they do it? Which means the guard/center combination has to get motion and movement off the ball. I'm looking to see if this team has established its running game enough so they can run when they want to."
A daily training camp thought from Jaguars Radio Network analyst Jeff Lageman …
"From Preseason Week 1 to Preseason Week 2 is always when you see your biggest improvement. I want to see the biggest improvement in a jump in the offensive line play and the precision of the offense."