SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The Blake Bortles era begins Sunday.
And while there are more storylines and areas of concern around the Jaguars than a rookie quarterback, when a rookie Top 10-drafted quarterback makes his first NFL start, the topic dwarfs all others.
Sunday, then, is the time for dwarfing around the Jaguars.
And indeed Bortles was the focus all week as the Jaguars prepared to play the San Diego Chargers, with the topic overshadowing concerns about an inexperienced offensive line, a young receiving corps, an injured group of tight ends and a defense ranked last in points and yards allowed.
That's the situation as Bortles makes his first start.
Bortles said this week he felt good with the game plan, and when asked if he felt ready for his first start, he said he would prepare as normally as possible to be as prepared as possible.
"We're going to play Sunday whether I'm ready or not, so I might as well get as ready as I can possibly be," Bortles said with a smile as the Jaguars (0-3) prepared to play the Chargers (2-1) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
That has been Bortles' approach this week – low-key and generally downplaying the idea that his debut as a starter marks the beginning of a new era.
Still, that's what it does, and the era begins with the Jaguars' struggling.
The Jaguars not only rank last in the NFL in yards and points allowed, they have struggled with mental errors and missed assignments in recent weeks. Since leading the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles 17-0 at halftime of the regular season opener, they have been outscored 119-27.
The team trailed Indianapolis 30-0 at halftime when Bortles entered the game Sunday, and after he threw for 223 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley shortly after the game named him the permanent starter over veteran Chad Henne.
Bortles is far from the only lineup change as the team negotiates the early part of the schedule. Rookie Luke Bowanko on Sunday will make his second career start after moving into the lineup against Indianapolis, and tight ends Clay Harbor and Nic Jacobs each will play for the first time this season for the Jaguars. Jacobs was signed off the Saints' practice squad Tuesday and Harbor hasn't played this season.
The defense underwent more significant changes this week, with second-year veteran Josh Evans moving into the starting lineup at free safety and fourth-year veteran J.T. Thomas moving into the starting Otto linebacker role.
The team is healthier than it has been at any point this season, with tight end Mickey Shuler (illness) and wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee) the only players ruled out for Sunday. Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou practiced full Friday after missing two practices with an ankle injury and is listed as probable.
Here's a look at the Jaguars-Chargers coverage this week on jaguars.com