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Open Locker Room: Closer and closer


JACKSONVILLE – The midway point is at hand, and there's little talk of playoffs this week.

The postseason talk … well, that was for last week around the Jaguars. Having lost five of six games, the talk in the Jaguars' locker room Wednesday was about more immediate concerns.

The Jaguars at the 2015 season's midway point are still dealing with many issues that have ailed them much of the season – inability to close games, too many key mistakes and not enough critical plays at critical times.

Those have been season-long concerns, and getting some of those things right is the key to turning close losses into victories.

"If you're getting blown out every week, you have a lot to work on and a lot to improve," quarterback Blake Bortles said as the Jaguars (2-6) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (2-6) at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Jaguars have lost five games this season in which they have led or been within a score in the fourth quarter.

"When you're as close as we are, I think it's a small step away," said Bortles, who has thrown for 2,193 yards and 17 touchdowns with 10 interceptions this season. "I think it's developing that consistency, and being able to do it week in and week out. It is frustrating, but we give ourselves through Monday. You have to be over it and ready to start game planning on Tuesday."

Bortles talked on a day that wide receiver Marqise Lee remained a key storyline for the Jaguars, with Head Coach Gus Bradley saying on a Wednesday morning conference call with Baltimore media that he was hopeful the second-year veteran could play Sunday.

Lee, who has missed the last five games and six of eight games this season with a hamstring issue that began three days into training camp, said while he has not been cleared he remains hopeful.

"I'm just taking it a day at a time still," Lee said, adding, "I'm going to give you guys the same comment every day: I want to play every week. How I feel right now I feel like I'm able to go. I told you last week I felt like I was able to go, but then again, it's not up to me. I just have to sit back and wait."

Lee practiced limited last Friday, his first practice since a Week 3 loss to New England. He is expected to work limited Wednesday.

"I'm taking it slow," he said. "The things they've been doing have been working thus far. So, as far as me staying on track and doing what they want me to do, I don't feel a negative into that. They know the right protocol."

The Jaguars, despite being three games under .500 at the time, entered this past weekend a half-game back in the AFC South. The 28-23 loss to the Jets and the Indianapolis Colts' victory over Denver left the Jaguars a game and a half out.

That margin in no way eliminates the Jaguars from the division chase, but before the Jaguars worry about standings they must worry about winning. They have been within a touchdown or leading seven times this season. They have lost all but two of those games, losing to the Jets Sunday when they committed three turnovers in the game's final 5:19.

The Jaguars had a minus-four takeaway-giveaway ratio – 0-4 – against the Jets, and are tied for last in the AFC with a minus-7 turnover margin. They have forced seven turnovers and have turned the ball over 14 times.

"You turn it over and it's never good," Bortles said. "You want to kick at the end of each possession, whether it's a field goal, extra point or a punt. You don't want to turn the ball over and give them a short field, which we did a couple of times."

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Wide receiver Allen Hurns, who wore a walking boot Monday following a foot sprained sustained Sunday, said he believes he will play against the Ravens. He has yet to miss a game in a season and a half with the Jaguars. "He's as tough as they come, for sure," Bortles said. "Mentally and physically, he's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around. I expect him to do what's right for him and his body. If he can go, there's no doubt he will go play." Hurns has caught a touchdown pass in a franchise-record six consecutive games. …

*Rookie safety James Sample said he expects to work more extensively this week and that he could be a game-time decision. He has missed the last four games with a shoulder injury.

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