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The Day After II: Offensive line improving, Bradley says


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JACKSONVILLE – The numbers tell one story.

But Head Coach Gus Bradley says you must look beyond numbers when assessing the Jaguars' offensive line.

Yes, the Jaguars allowed eight sacks on Sunday.

And no, that number is not acceptable.

But Bradley said the number is not all attributable to the line. He also said when he looks at a line that has come under criticism this week and throughout the season he doesn't see an area regressing.

He said he actually sees the opposite.

"I would be honest with you: I don't if I would look and say, 'The offensive line is getting worse,'" Bradley said Monday, a day after the Jaguars allowed eight sacks in a 20-12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Our perception is the offensive line is getting better."

The Jaguars have allowed a league-high 62 sacks this season, including four in the first half Sunday and four more in the second half.

Bradley said there were plays Sunday when linemen got beat on one, citing rookie center Luke Bowanko getting "walked back" to the quarterback on one play. But overall, Bradley said a couple of the sacks were on the line, with two or three on quarterback Blake Bortles, others on the running back position and others when the defense made an effective play.

"I've said this before where it's sort of spread out amongst them," Bradley said, adding of the offensive line, "For the most part, I think overall we've seen improvement by those guys."

Bortles after the Ravens game said he needed to do a better job throwing the ball away to avoid sacks. Bradley expanded on that Monday, discussing the line Bortles must straddle between using his ability to extend plays and making good decisions in the pocket.

"In Blake's defense, he has made some plays happen after there has been a breakdown and he gets outside the pocket," Bradley said.

Bortles made such a play on Sunday on a completion to rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns, but Bradley said the approach can have negative results.

"I think at times when it's not right there, he'll try to extend the play," Bradley said. "A couple of times yesterday (Sunday) that got us in trouble with the sacks."

Bortles has been sacked 46 times this season in 12 games. Veteran backup quarterback Chad Henne – who was sacked 16 times in two and a half games this season – said while that's "never easy," trusting the offensive line remains critical for a young quarterback.

"The biggest thing is to trust those guys, because sometimes that pocket is good," Henne said. "You need to sit in there and make the throw."

Henne also said learning when to throw the ball away is critical for Bortles.

"If nobody's open, start throwing the ball away … take hits off your body," Henne said. "I think that's where the learning curve comes. In Blake's mindset, he's a playmaker. He thinks he can make a lot of plays and get out of a lot of things. The NFL is different. You have studs up there on the defensive line that get paid, too.

"It's not always easy, but if you can get a chance to avoid a 10-yard loss or a turnover and be able to throw the ball away, that's a smart thing to do."

Bradley said Bortles also appeared to leave the pocket more quickly in the second half Sunday than in the first.

"Maybe he became a little bit more impatient, and tried to get out of the pocket," Bradley said. "At times that's where we got into trouble with some pressure. I think that's learning trust and to have the poise to stay in there. I can't say at times I don't blame him because of his competitiveness, trying to extend the play and make a play and make it happen.

"One time we're clapping our hands excited when he got out of the pocket and made a play to Hurns. Then, we're saying, 'Why are you doing it on a three-step drop when we're cutting everybody?' In his mind, he's trying to make things happen.

"At the end, particularly in the second half, he was trying to do maybe a little too much of that."

Bradley said the biggest area Bortles needs to improve with two games remaining in his rookie season is quicker decision-making.

"I would say that's probably the biggest thing – is to know where he wants to go with it and then make the decision and do it quickly," Bradley said. "If he can get to that point I think that would be a very good step in the right direction.

"You see it at times. He'll go back and fire it and he knows right where he's going, but I think sometimes that happens when you're trying to own the offense. That would be the biggest area."

Also around the Jaguars Monday:

*Bradley said opportunities missed continue to hurt offensively, citing a play in the first half when rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee beat coverage to the corner of the end zone. Bortles overthrew him by about a foot. "Those are the things we have to own, and we're not doing it consistently," Bradley said. "Guys have to step up and we have to execute." …

*Bradley also said running back Toby Gerhart played well Sunday, gaining 23 or 24 yards after contact. "That's what we kind of anticipated with him is that after contact he's a guy that's going to run really hard, so I thought he did a nice job," Bradley said. Gerhart rushed for a season-high 54 yards on 13 carries. …

*Bradley also said the first-quarter blocked punt for a touchdown by the Ravens was on defensive tackle Abry Jones – who lined up at guard on the play – and not fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou. Jones moved to the inside after the snap, and Ravens safety Darian Tucker ran free. Ta'ufo'ou tried to get over after Tucker ran through the line of scrimmage, but Tucker blocked the kick and Kamar Aiken returned the block for a touchdown. "He needs to just keep his depth," Bradley said of Jones. "He got distracted by it and Will tried to correct him but it was late." Bradley added of Ta'ufo'ou, "He tried to adjust. The guard made a mistake." …

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