JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's Wednesday notes and observations: On Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, New York Giants QB Eli Manning and Jaguars HC Doug Marrone's daily Tom Coughlin question
1.Consider Blake Bortles "bought-in" on Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone's philosophy. That was evident last season, and the Jaguars' fifth-year quarterback made it clear again speaking to the media Wednesday. Marrone, when asked earlier this week what he wanted to see from Bortles this season, said "zero turnovers." While such a statistic isn't realistic, Bortles said Wednesday he understands the importance of protecting the ball. "Kind of a cliché saying we always talk about is, 'End every position in a kick:' whether it's punt, field goal or extra point,'' he said, adding that he is more concerned about having a low interception number than a big touchdown statistic. "As long as you're controlling and eliminating those interceptions as much as possible, you'll be in good position." Bortles added that he feels as good as he ever has entering an NFL season – and that the ability to protect the ball and be efficient are major reasons. "I feel as though I'm the best I've been this far in career in those categories," he said. "Obviously, I have much more to improve on, but I feel pretty good going into it."
2.Don't overlook Giants quarterback Eli Manning as a factor Sunday. Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said while Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley is dynamic, and while Giants All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s talent is undeniable, the importance of Manning – a 15-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player – to the Giants' offense can't be overestimated. "I don't think Eli Manning gets enough credit," Gipson said. "I respect his game. He's been in the league a long time. He's won big games. When have a quarterback at the helm like that – a proven quarterback -- with that kind of skills on the outside, that's dangerous year in and year out." Added Gipson, "A guy like that with wisdom is tough. Guys like that, you can see why they have had success. They know what you're in before you can disguise it. It might be the littlest thing that makes these guys have success and who they are in the game. It truly comes down to who's going to win that matchup." …
3.Marrone fielded his daily "Tom Coughlin" question Wednesday with characteristic deftness. A reporter asked Marrone if he joked with Coughlin – the Jaguars' Executive Vice President of Football Operations – about returning to play the team for which he served as head coach from 2004-2015. "First of all … do you joke about it?" Marrone said. "There is no joking with Coach. Do I needle him? That would not be a smart move by me or anybody else. Would you needle your boss?" This will be the Jaguars' first game against the Giants since Coughlin returned to his current position in January 2017, but Marrone said that's not a focus for players and coaches this week. "We are very focused, and we are focused on our team and we are focused on what we are about," Marrone said. "Even for me, when I have gone back to London or gone back to Buffalo or the Jets or back to New Orleans – all these places that you do have a connection to – I think on the outside it is more of a big thing than it is on the inside."
4.Among the more overlooked Jaguars offensive players during the preseason: wide receiver Donte Moncrief. The veteran signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Indianapolis Colts in March, then was listed as a reserve on the depth chart throughout the preseason. But Moncrief caught eight passes in three preseason games for a team-leading 106 yards and is now listed on the team's depth chart as a starter opposite second-year veteran Keelan Cole. Bortles said Moncrief has shown good ball skills since arriving in Jacksonville, and "picked up the system pretty quickly." Added Bortles, "The thing that sticks out to me were the two big slant routes he ran. He had a big slant route against Minnesota [for a 15-yard gain in Preseason Week 2] and then he had the big one [for 37 yards] against [Atlanta] in [Preseason] Week 3. That's just something we haven't seen in a while – a guy who's able to go out there in press coverage and win on a slant – win one-on-one and get inside. He has been able to do that, and I think he'll be able to be a threat in the red zone when we get down there as well. He has been super-impressive and is going to be a big part of our offense."