JACKSONVILLE – Statistics are one thing; good choices are another.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles put up impressive numbers this past week in London, but perhaps more impressive was he made good decisions while doing so.
That could be a sign of growth.
That was Bortles' thought on Wednesday, a day the fourth-year veteran discussed decision-making and other possible positive signs this past Sunday in what many considered his best career game.
"That's something that's come along with maturing, I guess, as a football player," Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars (2-1) prepared to play the New York Jets (1-2) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Bortles on Sunday against Baltimore completed 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for a 128.2 passer rating that was the second-highest rating of his career – and his highest rating in a victory. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone afterward said while Bortles was impressive completing passes what may have been as notable were the times he threw the ball away while under duress.
Bortles threw 34 interceptions over the past two seasons, and reducing turnovers was a major priority entering the season. He has thrown two interceptions in three games this season, and has been interception-free in the Jaguars' two victories.
"More so than anything it's making sure we end every possession with a kick – whether it's a field goal, an extra point or a punt, and not turn the ball over," Bortles said. "It all goes back to the way the defense has been playing. If we don't turn the ball over, we're going to have a chance to win a lot of football games. A lot of that is on my shoulders to control."
Bortles, after throwing 15 interceptions in the first 12 games of last season, has thrown three in seven games since. He has thrown two interceptions since Marrone took over as interim head coach with two games remaining last season.
"It's tough; I've always kind of had the mindset of, 'I think I can kind of throw it anywhere and by anything," Bortles said. "That obviously hasn't gone well the past couple of years. So, there was no reason for me not to buy in 100 percent to what [offensive coordinator] Nathaniel [Hackett] was coaching and teaching me."
Notes and observations from Thursday around EverBank Field:
*Cornerback A.J. Bouye, who was among more than 10 Jaguars players who knelt during the National Anthem before the Baltimore game, said he does not plan to do so Sunday. "I'm not trying to be a distraction to the team," Bouye said. "I said my peace. I'm not going to keep this going and going. At the end of the day, it's all about wins. If we're winning everything's better – not only for the fans, but for the city of Jacksonville. …
*Linebacker Telvin Smith, who stood linked arm-in-arm with Owner Shad Khan Sunday during the anthem, said he doesn't yet know the plans of Jaguars players as a whole regarding the anthem this Sunday. "We'll see," Smith said. "I don't want to put anything on anybody. It's what guys want to do." Smith said in the long run it's important for players to contribute in a positive way off the field. "That's what we're working on doing – coming together as players and not just doing stuff out on the field," Smith said. "That's what we've done as players -- we got together and we're working on some things we're going to do as a team. We'll keep working that way." …
*This is the fifth consecutive season the Jaguars have played a home game at Wembley Stadium in London, but this will be first time they hadn't had a bye the following week. The team arrived in Jacksonville around 2 a.m. Monday, and players were off Tuesday. The team began meeting and practicing Wednesday for Sunday's game as they would on a "normal" game week. "It's not as bad as I thought," Bortles said. "When you go play in London, it's like you need a couple of days to recover and get back into it, but it's been OK. I think guys got a good night sleep last night and the night before and I think guys were ready to go when we came out today." …
*Five Jaguars players missed practice Wednesday: wide receiver Jaelen Strong (hamstring), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (ankle), linebacker Donald Payne (hamstring), linebacker Lerentee McCray (knee) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (groin). Linebacker Myles Jack (ankle) and center Brandon Linder (knee) worked limited while quarterback Blake Bortles (right wrist) and left tackle Cam Robinson (shoulder) worked full. …