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Open locker room: Freeing it up


JACKSONVILLE – The bye week was a time for self-assessment.

To hear quarterback Blake Bortles tell it Wednesday, a few things stood out pretty quickly and obviously when assessing the Jaguars' offense through the first four weeks of the 2016 regular season.

That was part of what Bortles discussed in his first public comments since the Jaguars returned from their Week 5 bye, and Bortles said the good and bad offensively from the season's first month were pretty clear.

"We wanted to talk about what did we do well, what did we not do well and where do we go from here?'' Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-3) began preparing to play the Chicago Bears (1-4) at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, Sunday at 1 p.m.

"For us as an offense we had some explosive plays, we were good in two-minute and our red-zone scoring was pretty good. Obviously, the negatives were the turnovers, the penalties and we wanted to find ways to improve our running game."

Bortles committed seven turnovers in the first three games of the season, all of which the Jaguars lost. The Jaguars won his lone turnover-free game – a 30-27 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in London in Week 4 – the week before the bye.

"Obviously, the turnovers are on me – and how I deal with that and the decision-making," Bortles said.

The Jaguars' offense – like the defense – has been hurt at times by penalties that Bortles called "pre-snap self-inflicted wounds that we've got to try to stay away from."

Bortles, who set franchise-records with 4,428 yards passing and 35 touchdowns with 18 interceptions in 2015, completed 98 of 160 passes for 1,050 yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions in the first four games of the season.

He completed 19 of 33 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against Indianapolis. The Jaguars' 30 points in London was their highest offensive output of the season.

"I went into the game and wanted to play free," Bortles said. "I wanted to go have fun, enjoy it, play football, go through the reads and progressions – and if nothing was there just take off and run."

Bortles was asked if not playing free had been an issue in the first three games.

"I was maybe a little tight, trying to do too much," Bortles said. "I think there were a number of things that went into that. For us as an offensive unit, I think we play good when we're playing free and having fun and get the run game going and when we're staying on track.

"We have to continue to work on eliminating penalties and shooting ourselves in the foot, but against the Colts in London was a good start for sure."



Tight end Julius Thomas absolutely expects to play against the Bears Sunday, though he said he will do so playing with a brace protecting the elbow injury that kept him out of a Week 4 victory over Indianapolis. "I'm comfortable playing with it," Thomas said. "I don't that it encumbers your speed [how fast you play]. It's just something you have to get used to. I'm sure if you ask any offensive lineman – being in a brace isn't ideal for athletes, but you want to make sure you're protected and make sure you play with an ease of mind." Thomas had 11 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown in the first three games of the season. The team had said last week that both he and tight end Marcedes Lewis likely will play against Chicago. Lewis sustained a hip injury against Indianapolis.

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"It would be really cool if they would deem me the Otto. I think it's really cool. I'm going to try to make the most of the opportunity and make the most of the position."

---LB Myes Jack on the possibility of making a second consecutive start at Otto linebacker Sunday


Take a look at all of the Jaguars offensive touchdowns as they return from the bye-week to take on the Chicago Bears.



"There were some things he can get better at – obviously not playing that position very long. We had a couple of busts and we still have [Dan] Skuta who's battling some injuries. We feel like we have two good players. We'll see how this week goes."

-DC Todd Wash on Jack's first start at Otto linebacker and the position moving forward

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