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Open Locker Room: Bortles talks risk-taking, McCray likely to start

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JACKSONVILLE – Balance can be tough to find.

That's life in the NFL for a young quarterback, but difficult or not, Blake Bortles said he knows the task is to balance the need to make good plays with the need to avoid turnovers.

That's a significant focus this week as the Jaguars prepare to play the Tennessee Titans, and Bortles – the Jaguars' rookie quarterback who will make his third NFL start Sunday – said risk management is the reality of quarterbacking.

"I think you have to be smart with it," Bortles said as the Jaguars (0-5) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (1-4) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.

"Obviously, you have to take shots. You have to throw the ball downfield. You have to move the ball. But I think you have to take calculated risks and do it when the time presents itself, and not just be throwing balls up and throwing balls into coverage.

"But if it's a one-on-one matchup, I think it's definitely a necessity to throw the ball downfield."

Bortles and Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch discussed interceptions the same day the team announced that cornerback Dwayne Gratz has been cleared to return to practice.

Gratz sustained a concussion 10 days ago in San Diego.

Demetrius McCray started for Gratz Sunday and received high grades from analysts after faring well against Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown Sunday. He likely will remain the starter Sunday, and he said Wednesday he was glad the coaches had confidence to give him a second consecutive start.

"Any time coach has confidence in me to start again after a pretty good game, I'm pretty confident," McCray said Wednesday.

Offensively, turnovers became a topic early this week as Bortles settles into what figures to be a long-, long-term stint as the Jaguars' starting quarterback.

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, has energized the offense, leading the team to a pair of touchdowns in the second half against Indianapolis in Week 3 and the first half against San Diego in Week 4.

But he also has thrown two interceptions in each of his three NFL regular-season appearances, with Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley saying Monday, "Those are the things we have to get out of his game."

Bradley added that the challenge is to reduce the turnovers while ensuring that Bortles continues to play without fear, and Fisch said Wednesday coaching Bortles in that area is a matter of reviewing the play, figuring out what happened and moving forward.

Fisch used the example of Bortles' first interception Sunday, which came with the Jaguars facing 2nd-and-28 from the Jaguars 9. Bortles threw deep to Allen Robinson and Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen intercepted. Fisch said the dialogue between he and Bortles might be him asking Bortles what happened, Bortles replying that he wanted to give Robinson a chance to make a play and Fisch essentially saying that that might not have been the best time to take the chance.

"That's really sort of what it comes down to: 'Let's just learn from this,''' Fisch said. "There are going to be so many firsts for him. I don't know how many second and 28s he's had in his career. I know he's had none as a Jaguar, though."

Fisch said as he and Bortles work more together Bortles will develop more of an understanding of the intent of certain play calls.

Bortles said balancing risk-reward is just part of being a quarterback and gaining experience.

"You've seen hundreds and hundreds of looks as a quarterback," he said. "You kind of get a feeling. You know when you throw a ball if you shouldn't have thrown it or not. You kind of start hoping as the ball is in the air that something good happens. You've seen it and sort of taken the risk when necessary, I think."

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said he hasn't given up on playing Sunday. He missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury after also missing the first two games and two preseason games with a hamstring issue. "I feel good," Shorts said Wednesday. "I'll be in the return-to-play protocol today out at practice, and we'll see how that goes and go from there." Asked if there was a chance he could play Sunday, the fourth-year veteran said, "We'll find out throughout the week and on Sunday." Shorts has seven receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown this season. …

*Wide receiver Marqise Lee said he expects to work on a limited basis Wednesday. The rookie second-round selection has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury after catching eight passes for 73 yards in Weeks 1 and 2. "I'm feeling good," Lee said. "I'll have the opportunity to come out today and get a couple reps in team (drills). We'll see how that goes. … It feels good to have the opportunity to come back and at least get in a little bit with the team." …

*Gratz said while missing a week was difficult his priority now is returning to practice, which he is expected to do at full-go Wednesday afternoon. "I was antsy to get back," Gratz said. "Watching a game isn't the same as playing it. Not at all. I'm just ready to get back out there and play football." …

Get a closer look at the Jaguars Week 16 opponent, the Tennessee Titans.

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