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Offseason program: Bortles all for keeping it simple


JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles is cool with this simplicity thing.

In fact, the Jaguars' third-year quarterback said it makes perfect sense as he enters his third NFL season – his second under offensive coordinator Greg Olson.

Olson earlier this offseason said the focus entering next season will be to further improve the strengths of a young improving offense as opposed to overloading Bortles and overcomplicating the team's offensive approach.

Bortles said he gets that. Absolutely.

"You go through the first year in a system, and you kind of figure out what you do well and don't do well," Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars' 2016 offseason program began at EverBank Field.

"Rather than going into Year Two and expanding it, you kind of want to narrow it. You say, 'This is what we did really well and this what we sucked at, so let's get rid of what we sucked at so we can do what we did well more.' I think we'll kind of narrow in on what our personnel is."

Bortles, after throwing 11 touchdowns with 17 interceptions as a rookie, threw 35 touchdowns with 18 interceptions last season. Wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson both surpassed 1,000 yards receiving, with Robinson catching 14 touchdowns and Hurns catching 10.

That's significant improvement in the first year in a scheme, and Olson said at the Senior Bowl in January it was important to make sure to avoid over-installing new offensive concepts in the offseason.

Bortles, asked if he was fluent in Olson's offense, said he wouldn't quite go that far, but said this time last year was probably "like trying to speak Spanish right now."

"I don't know if I'd say fluent, but I'd say we can have conversations about anything," he said. "Every now and then there are a couple of words I probably don't understand, but we'll continue to work on it. My goal would be to know the offense better than anybody in the building and that's including him. That's obviously a long-term goal."

Other takeaways from Bortles' media availability Wednesday:

*Offensive efficiency and the short passing game will be an offseason focus.The Jaguars emerged as a big-play offense last season, with Robinson averaging 17.5 yards per reception and Hurns averaging 16.1 yards per reception. Bortles said a focus will be on utilizing the short-passing game more, including an emphasis on using backs out of the backfield. "A lot of it's me," Bortles said. "I think check-downs need to become a bigger part of our offense rather than me forcing some stuff downfield — and getting the ball in their hands and giving them a chance to do stuff." …

*The Jaguars believe strongly in tight end Julius Thomas.Robinson and Hurns both mentioned Thomas during their media availabilities Wednesday, with Hurns calling him perhaps the NFL's best tight end. Bortles also spoke highly of Thomas, who caught 46 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games last season after making the Pro Bowl with Denver in 2013 and 2014. Bortles said the coming weeks in the offseason will be key for him and Thomas to continue building the chemistry that began last offseason. "I think we should be able to pick up where we left off," Bortles said. "He's awesome because he's such an open communicator. Everything's out there. You know what he's thinking. You know what he wants and what he's willing to do and change. …

*Bortles will stay aggressive.Among Bortles' goals: reducing interceptions. He has thrown 35 over his first two NFL seasons, and said a few weeks ago on live he would like to reduce his seasonal to somewhere in single digits. Asked about staying aggressive while trying to achieve that goal, he smiled. "I don't know if I'll ever lose that, so I'll probably be good there," he said, adding, "I think you just have to kind of find a way." Bortles said the primary focus is to reduce "unnecessary" interceptions. "It all kind of ties together with tightening up what we're going to do," Bortles said. …

The players put in work in the weight room on Wednesday as they continue their offseason workouts.

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