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Jaguars OC Jedd Fisch: Center competition will play itself out


JACKSONVILLE – Overall, there was progress.

That was offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's first takeaway from the Jaguars' first game of the preseason – that the offense took a step forward. The second is there is more to progress to be made.

Another storyline from Fisch's meeting with the media Tuesday morning is that perspective is needed over the ongoing competition on the interior of the offensive line.

Mike Brewster. Jacques McClendon. Brandon Linder.

From that group, the team is looking for a starting right guard and center. And although significant answers are needed as the team tries to replace retired center Brad Meester, Fisch said a reason for the angst may be that the Jaguars haven't had questions there in a long time.

"One of the things that has happened here is we've been so spoiled," Fisch said Tuesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago Thursday at 8 p.m. "We've had the same center for how many years?"

Meester started at center from 2003-2013, and hadn't missed a start in the last five seasons.

"I was thinking about this as I was driving home the other day," Fisch said. "I was like, 'Not only did we (Brewster) shoot two snaps over (quarterback Chad Henne's) head in the first preseason game, we did it in the first year Brad Meester's not on our team. So, I think it kind of magnified it a little more."

Brewster started against Tampa Bay and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said he will start again against the Bears. Fisch said on Tuesday Brewster, McClendon, Linder and rookie sixth-round selection Luke Bowanko all will work at center Thursday.

Linder has worked extensively with the first-team at right guard. He practiced Monday and Tuesday at center.

"He played center for us some at Miami," Fisch said. "We felt pretty good about giving him some opportunities out there as well."

Asked if that was a contingency or if this was a three-man race at center, Fisch replied, "You've got four guys who are continuing to compete. We're really going to allow it to play itself out."

Bradley said Tuesday while Linder has done a "nice job" this week, Brewster also has played well in practice this week.

"We're just looking at and trying to figure out what's the best," Bradley said.

Fisch on Tuesday also discussed rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who impressed in his preseason NFL debut on Friday against Tampa Bay. Fisch said he liked Bortles' poise, confidence and comfort level. Bortles went 7-for-11 passing for 117 yards and Fisch said Bortles could have been 10 of 11.

"He made the right decisions with the ball," Fisch said.

Fisch said he also was impressed with Bortles' approach during the game, coming to the sidelines immediately for feedback and direction rather than praise.

"He handled himself very well," Fisch said.

Fisch said while Bortles regressed a little in his footwork during the game, that's not unusual for a young quarterback. Bortles has been focused on that area in the offseason and training camp.

"That kind of always happens your first time playing with live balls," Fisch said. "Now, we're rolling, so sometimes you speed up your feet and throw a little off-balance. But all in all, I thought he had a good performance."

Bortles on Tuesday called his footwork "a work in progress," adding that "you need to take what you do in drill-work and transfer it to live game situations."

Fisch said while ideally the Jaguars would get Bortles repetitions against blitzes and complicated looks, such situations depend on the defensive's approach. Fisch said Tampa Bay blitzed just once.

The Jaguars have their final practice before Thursday night's game at the Chicago Bears on ESPN.

"We'll see what Chicago does and what Detroit does ends up doing," he said. "The key for him is to not only be able to handle the pass rush pressure, but to maybe get a two-minute drive, lead us down – that type of thing."

Fisch also on Tuesday said the Jaguars will continue to focus on the run during the preseason. He said that was focus against Tampa Bay, and that although the team struggled early, he was more concerned about getting run-blocking repetitions for the first-team line than the actual production of the play.

"We were going to commit to the run," he said, adding that a group that includes four new starters at five positions needed that time to work together. "It was a matter of how we're going to evaluate our running game."

Fisch said overall the area improved as the game continued, and that the running game was close to a productive night. He said that's a good sign as the team works the area to be ready for the regular season.

"I was excited how we came out," he said. "There are some chances there to be able to (be successful). I think we're one block away here or one read away there that we can make it better."

Quite the formidable force in Joeckel & @marcedeslewis89. #JagsCamp — Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) August 12, 2014

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