JACKSONVILLE – Improvement is great.
And not only has Blake Bortles without question improved in his brief time as a starter, the rookie quarterback has given the offense energy – and given the Jaguars more hope.
All of that's true, and all of that's great for the future, but as the Jaguars approach midseason without a victory for the second consecutive season, Bortles – preparing this week for his fourth NFL start – said the focus isn't on simply gaining yards, or moving first-down chains.
Now, the focus is finishing.
"(Jaguars Head Coach) Gus (Bradley) has been big all week on the attention to detail and the little things," Bortles said as the Jaguars (0-6) prepared to play the Cleveland Browns (3-2) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
"Those are obviously the things that finish drives – a missed block here, a missed throw here, a whatever … those things stick out when you start getting close. Those are obviously the things we have to tighten up and improve on."
Bradley, the Jaguars' second-year head coach, emphasized details and missed chances in the wake of a 16-14 loss to Tennessee Sunday, and that theme has extended into the week as the Jaguars began preparing for a Cleveland team that has improved since last season.
For the Jaguars' offense, that means finishing drives and reducing mistakes.
The two objectives are intertwined, with two costly turnovers in the second half last week ending drives in Titans territory. The Jaguars produced a season-high 379 total yards, but just two touchdowns against the Titans.
One of the turnovers was an interception thrown by Bortles in the direction of rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns. That ended a third-quarter drive at the Titans 16, and was the seventh interception thrown in 14 quarters since Bortles moved into the starting lineup in Week 3 against Indianapolis.
The Jaguars' other turnover Sunday was a fumble by wide receiver Cecil Shorts III at the Titans 10 with just under five minutes remaining. The Jaguars also missed an opportunity at a touchdown when running back Jordan Todman dropped an accurate long pass from Bortles on the drive that ended with cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson's interception.
For a young team with an inexperienced offensive line and three rookie wide receivers playing extensively, those opportunities are key.
"We have to finish," Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "We talk about it every day. We talk about it more and more and more."
Fisch said there have been too many situations this season when the Jaguars driven into opponents' territory only to settle for field goals. While Fisch said the offense has been good once it has reached the red zone, he said overall the team must score more touchdowns when opportunities arise.
"You can't be 53 percent, 64 percent on third downs – what we've been two of the last three weeks – and not finish more drives," he said. "We're getting close. When we get inside the 20, we've done a really good job there excluding a week ago. We just have to get in there. We can't walk away with field goals, like we did against Pittsburgh (two weeks ago).
"We've got to walk away with some touches (touchdowns)."
Bortles said the game overall has slowed in his three starts. He has completed 97 of 143 passes for 1,004 yards and four touchdowns with seven interceptions, completing 32 of 46 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown with an interception against Tennessee.
"I think that comes with the more and more reps you get," Bortles said. "The more game-time reps and exposure you get, the better job you'll do of getting those checks you went over on the board and in the film room."
Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:
*Running back Toby Gerhart said he won't practice Wednesday, but also said he has not ruled out playing Sunday. Gerhart, who missed Sunday's loss to Tennessee with a foot injury that had been an issue since Week 1, said the idea behind not practicing is to get a full week's rest for the area. He worked last Wednesday, then did not practice Thursday or Friday. …
*Wide receiver Marqise Lee said the hamstring that kept him out three games responded well to playing against the Titans. Lee, a rookie second-round selection, caught two passes for 26 yards on Sunday and said he felt good coming out of the game. "That was the main focus, was seeing if it was going to hold up," Lee said. "It actually did, so now we're planning on going for the next week." Lee said his involvement in the offense will depend on the coaches, with Fisch saying Wednesday the team can start getting Lee more involved now that he is returning to practice on a full-time basis. …
*Defensive end Andre Branch said while he didn't know his exact status for practice Wednesday, he will play against the Browns Sunday. Branch was evaluated Wednesday after sustaining a groin injury Sunday. The third-year veteran has three sacks this season, tied for the team lead with Chris Clemons. …