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Open Locker Room: Bortles welcomes challenge


JACKSONVILLE – Five games remain in his rookie season.

And if it may seem to some as if the Jaguars' 2014 season is over – with a 1-10 record and with playoff hopes long since out of mind – Blake Bortles doesn't see it that way.

Those five games are a chance to keep reducing interceptions.

They're a chance to keep improving.

He said they're also a chance to start showing he can succeed where many before him have failed. He said on Wednesday he is well aware that young, highly drafted quarterbacks have struggled before him, and that he is aware of the difficulties of recovering from a difficult rookie season.

"I think there are a lot of guys who have struggled with it, and it's ruined guys' careers by starting young and not doing well," Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-10) prepared to play the New York Giants (3-8) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

"I kind of take it as an opportunity to say, 'OK, we're not doing well: watch how I can handle this and bounce back and continue to grow from it.' That's how I look at it and I know that's how (Jaguars Head Coach) Gus (Bradley) looks at it."

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, through 11 games remains the primary storyline for the Jaguars for this season and beyond. He has started the last eight games, completing 191 of 305 passes for 2,067 yards and eight touchdowns with 15 interceptions.

He remains the primary focus of fans and observers – and on Monday, he was the focus during part of Bradley's day-after press conference.

Bradley, speaking in the wake of a 23-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, said the previous day hadn't been Bortles' best game, and that the rookie "can play better." He also said Bortles could be playing faster, and that at times he has held the ball too long – and that his decision-making needed to be quicker.

"I know you can say he's young, but we expect more," Bradley said.

Bortles on Wednesday said he didn't disagree with the assessment.

"There are passes I could get off quicker, and make a quicker decision, so that's all part of it," said Bortles, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 146 yards and no touchdowns with an interception against the Colts. "That's all part of it. It's a part of getting reps and continuing to learn from it."

Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on Wednesday said the offense as a group can help Bortles by avoiding long-yardage situations such as the Jaguars faced often in the second half in Indianapolis.

"There were just too many times we didn't have really an opportunity to help him execute," Fisch said. "Then there were a couple of second downs that he wasn't as sharp as he needs to be, and some plays where he didn't help himself with – some blitzes that he could have got the ball out of his hands and not get hit.

"I think we have to help him with experience and understanding this is the way this process is going to go. … Each week he's going to have to continue to realize that it's not just about what you practice and what you see on tape, but can you find good answers."

Bradley also added on Monday that he hoped fear hadn't entered Bortles' equation, and that Bortles needed to play with confidence without fear or interceptions or being perfect.

"You want to go play, and I know I feel like I'm playing my best when I'm playing carefree and running around and not thinking a whole lot," Bortles said, adding that he doesn't feel he has lost confidence this season: "I feel the same now as I've felt throughout my whole career, so nothing's really changed there."

Fisch said he hasn't seen signs of Bortles being afraid to throw interceptions, though he said situations against Indianapolis did call for more conservative play-calling.

Bortles was asked if he believed he would play better in up-tempo, no-huddle situations.

"Throughout the season when we've done that we've been successful at it, so I think that will continue to be a part of the game plan and something we try to implement," he said.

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Rookie cornerback Aaron Colvin said his knee responded well after Sunday's loss to the Colts, and that he could play more snaps against the Giants Sunday if needed. Colvin played 45 snaps against the Colts, 37 on defense and eight on special teams. He could get more time at nickel Sunday, and could open the game there, but he's not expected to push to start on the outside. Colvin missed the first 10 games of the season after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the Senior Bowl in January. …

*Middle linebacker Jeremiah George said he expects to practice limited Wednesday after missing the last two games with a high-ankle sprain, and that he remains hopeful he can play Sunday. "We're going to take a look at my ankle, and how I'm moving around today in practice," he said. "I'm confident, but we'll see what happens today in practice and go from there." …

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