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Open Locker Room: Fisch sees improvement in offense, Bortles


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JACKSONVILLE – Jedd Fisch isn't ready to look ahead.

Or back, for that matter.

The Jaguars' offensive coordinator's focus this week is on the Houston Texans and the challenge of J.J. Watt, but he did offer one overview about the Jaguars' offense Wednesday:

There's a lot of improvement going on – and while it's happening at more places than quarterback, that it is indeed happening there is significant.

"We just continue to find little things that show improvement areas, and go out there against Houston and play our best game," Fisch said Wednesday as the Jaguars (3-12) prepared to play the Texans (8-7) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Jaguars, after a 1-10 start, have won two of the last four games, and while a young offense has continued to struggle it has shown stretches of improvement.

One such area: the play of quarterback Blake Bortles.

Fisch said the rookie has shown positive strides in several areas since a Week 11 bye – areas that include correct reads and efficiency in the two-minute offense – but perhaps the most tangible area has been interceptions.

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, threw 14 interceptions in his first eight games. He has thrown three in five games since the bye. He has had his first two interception-free games in that span, and one of the interceptions came on the last play of a loss in Baltimore.

"As with everything, it's experience each week – one more game of experience, one more game of studying, better understanding of what we're doing, where to go with the ball, how to get it out of your hands quicker …" Fisch said. "A lot of things go into that stuff.

"I don't get overly concerned when we do throw a bunch of them, but obviously I know it puts us in the best possible position when we don't. We'll just continue to build off of it and see what happens moving forward. But clearly over the course of the last six or seven weeks he's certainly shown an ability to protect the ball."

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Fisch said while he felt the Jaguars' front played well against Watt in the team's previous meeting December 7 the game plan will feature a different approach against the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Sunday. "We'll do some things differently," Fisch said, noting that two of Watt's three sacks in that came on a sprint-out and a quarterback keeper. "Those things never should happen," Fisch said. "He did a lot of good things in the game, but we also battled really hard with him. There were a lot of plays that he wasn't as disruptive as we've seen." Watt lined up across from right tackle Sam Young and left tackle Luke Joeckel on December 7, with Young allowing one sack and Joeckel allowing none. "He's a great football player," Fisch said of Watt. "You have to account for him on every single play with one, two or three guys. However we're going to do that, every play will probably be a little bit different. We know he's going to make plays; we just want to try to minimize it." …

*Defensive coordinator Bob Babich said this of rookie linebacker Telvin Smith: "He's an instinctive player who has the ability to make plays." While there were initial concerns early this season over whether the fifth-round selection could be an every-down linebacker, Smith has started the last five games at weak-side linebacker since the bye. He had a career-high 15 tackles against the Titans last Thursday.  "For a lean guy he's a lot more physical," Babich said. "He doesn't get banged around in there like you would think if you look at him on the hoof. If you look at him he looks really lean, but he gets in there and he plays physical and he's fast. … You would always like a guy to get bigger and stronger, especially a young guy like that, but he's proven that he can play at this level with how he is right now.'' …

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