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Open Locker Room: Important days for Bortles


JACKSONVILLE – One more week, one more Sunday.

That means one more game week, a few more days of preparation and one more game that counts – and that's what Blake Bortles said matters this week.

Not Christmas, and not the upcoming offseason.

Bortles, the Jaguars' rookie quarterback, has made strides in recent weeks -- some big, some small; some noticeable, some subtle – and when the Jaguars close the 2014 regular season Sunday he'll get a chance to make a few more.

"You don't want to sit here and go through the motions these last few days," Bortles said Tuesday as the Jaguars (3-12) prepared to play the Houston Texans (8-7) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

"You've got months until you do stuff like this again, so you want to use these next couple of days as learning opportunities like they are and continue to learn and grow and try and get better and progress going into this weekend."

Bortles on Sunday will make his 13th NFL start, and his support within the locker room has grown stronger in recent weeks, with veteran end Red Bryant saying after a victory over Tennessee last week, "Blake is our future, and the team is going to go as he goes."

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on Tuesday agreed.

"Blake's going to be a special guy down the line," Shorts said. "He did some good things this year, especially early on. He's going to continue to get better. He's a hard-worker and very humble. He'll be very special very soon."

Bortles has completed 266 of 442 passes for 2,791 yards and 11 touchdowns with 17 interceptions this season. He has thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions in the last four games, a span over which the Jaguars are 2-2.

He completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards against Tennessee last week, rushing for 50 yards and five carries. He did not throw an interception for a second time in four games, and led touchdown drives late in the first half and early in the second half to turn a 10-point deficit into a 14-point lead.

"You're learning from everything that's going on – it's a positive, good or bad," Bortles said. "You're learning from it and you move on and you make corrections. I'm as confident as everybody in here is with me and I'm looking forward to finishing the season off and getting out there on Sunday."

Bortles has started the last 12 games, and after throwing 14 interceptions in his first eight games, has thrown three in the last five. Bortles said the difference has been repetitions, seeing more situations and becoming more consistent.

"When you get the same look and the same play called, you want to do the same thing over and over again so that everybody has a feel for what you're going to do," Bortles said. "That was kind of the biggest thing, just becoming consistent with decisions."

Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley earlier this week said Bortles recently told him that when he was seeing different looks on the field he was "coming up with more answers."

"Not necessarily more answers, but I have my answers," Bortles said Tuesday. "I have the answers that I know and that I can get to versus certain looks that I see that are good for what we do."

Bradley said he liked how Bortles had progressed, particularly balancing risk-taking with making smart decisions.

"We have challenged him to make good decisions, play smart, but it hasn't affected his mentality," Bradley said. "He's willing to take chances and risks and he has been ultra-competitive throughout the whole thing."

But while Bortles is nearing the end of his rookie season, the end doesn't come for five days. And until that time comes, Bortles said self-reflection and deep self-evaluation can wait.

"I kind of want to go through this week like any other week and really prepare and get ready to go play Sunday," Bortles said. "After the season, it's a time I'll definitely go through and reevaluate every game and every experience and sit down and make a big list of things to work on, things to improve on and things to stow away in the memory."

Take a look at images from the Jaguars Tuesday practice as they prepare to take on the Houston Texans in their season finale Sunday.

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