JACKSONVILLE – His confidence is growing and growing.
And Blake Bortles gets better and better.
If any story is defining the Jaguars recently, that may be it – and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Thursday said the fourth-year quarterback's progress is particularly evident in his growing understanding of the offense.
"Blake is starting to own the offense," Hackett said as the AFC South-leading Jaguars (9-4) prepared to play the Houston Texans (4-9) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. "That's what you want from him. It's what you want from a quarterback.
"He's now trying to figure out what we're trying to accomplish. Once you start feeling that, you can start talking to other guys. You can have more fun in the huddle. You're playing football now."
Hackett has said multiple times this season that Bortles' command of the offensive is growing steadily. This is the first year Bortles has run Hackett's system, with Hackett mostly running former offensive coordinator Greg Olson's system after taking over as coordinator with nine games remaining last season.
Bortles is the NFL's highest-rated quarterback through two December games. He threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a 30-24 victory over Seattle last Sunday.
"He knows why the play's being called now," Hackett said. "It's not just going out and running a play and just kind being a robot."
Hackett said Bortles for the first time this past Sunday began checking out of run plays to passes, something necessary because teams tend to stack the box with extra defenders against the Jaguars' No. 1-ranked rushing offense.
"He's owning it and having fun," Hackett said. "We've started giving him the green light. Obviously, people are trying to stop the run. We haven't gone to a lot of passes from audible. This was one of the first times he knew exactly what he was doing. It was awesome.
"It's a new system. So, you want to slowly let him learn. … That's slowly increasing more and more with the system, and how we go through the game. Those are the things that are exciting."
All three Jaguars coordinators – Hackett on offense, Todd Wash on defense and Joe DeCamillis on special teams – spoke to the media Thursday.
Notes and observations from Coordinator Thursday:
*Running back Leonard Fournette missed practice for a second consecutive day Thursday with a quadriceps injury, but the rookie said he expects to play Sunday. "I'm just taking care of it and making sure nothing else happens to it," he said. Fournette said he sustained the injury when hit by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas out of bounds Sunday. "I played through it, though," he said. Fournette also said he is having "no problems" with the ankle issue that hampered him from mid-October through early December. Fournette, who rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries Sunday, has rushed for 923 yards and eight touchdowns this season. …
*Cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Thursday was added to the injury report as practicing limited with a back injury, with wide receiver Marqise Lee working limited with a foot injury for a second consecutive day. Wide receiver Larry Pinkard (concussion) missed practice for a second consecutive day, as did wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle). Offensive tackle Cam Robinson (back) practiced limited after missing practice Wednesday. Quarterback Blake Bortles (right wrist) and linebacker Telvin Smith (concussion) practiced full for a second consecutive day. …
*Hackett addressed rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who has caught 20 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown in his first four NFL games. Westbrook, a fourth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft from Oklahoma who missed the first nine games of the season after undergoing core-muscle surgery in September, caught his first NFL touchdown against Seattle this past Sunday. "He just goes out there and plays," Hackett said. "It's not too big for him. He goes out there, and no challenge is too big or small for him. That's the exciting thing with him." …
*Wash addressed the defense allowing multiple big plays in the last three games, saying the team has allowed six "explosive plays" for touchdowns during that span. Seattle on Sunday scored its three touchdowns on passes of 26, 61 and 74 yards by quarterback Russell Wilson. The 61- and 74-yarders came in the fourth quarter. "It was something we addressed on Monday," Wash said. "Like I told our group, 'I've got to look at myself first.' Are we trying to do too much? Are we trying to get them in a perfect defense for a perfect play instead of just letting them play? I take responsibility for that. We just have to play sound, fundamental football and communicate – and hopefully, we can eliminate those."