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View from the O-Zone: Bortles better each day


JACKSONVILLE – Another week, another good sign or two.

That's really the story as we begin the second full week of Jaguars 2015 Training Camp, isn't it? Isn't that the feeling you get when thinking about Blake Bortles?

Each day that passes …

Each time you see him …

Each opportunity he gets …

Each time any of those things happen, you feel a little better and a little more solid about the second-year quarterback, the guy whose story is THE story of '15 training camp. The Jaguars haven't yet played a preseason game, but when it comes to Bortles …

So far, so good? Yes. Absolutely.

"I feel good," Bortles said Monday after a Day Nine practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. "Obviously still a ways to go, but as far as where we're at right now, I feel comfortable and obviously have to keep working at it and getting better."

Another story on Bortles? You'd be right to wonder that, and if it seems we've talked Bortles a lot on – and everywhere around Jacksonville media, for that matter – it's because we have.

And you know what? We'll keep talking it. That's how much his development matters. And that's why Saturday's scrimmage at EverBank Field was a clear positive for the Jaguars. While there has been post-scrimmage teeth-gnashing over this thing here or this worry there – particularly the early play of the offensive line – one element stood out above the rest:

Bortles looked better.

Not otherworldly. Not perfect. Not where he eventually needs to be. Bortles clearly has a long way to go before the Jaguars know absolutely that he's the franchise.

But he's clearly and undeniably better.

The improvement for which the team hoped throughout the offseason, for which Bortles worked throughout the offseason? That clearly and undeniably has been there, too.

We saw clear, undeniable moments Saturday – touchdowns to Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas, a step-up-in-the-pocket bomb to Allen Hurns. They were passes placed where they needed to be placed, where only the receiver could catch them. They were to players who figured to be playmakers during the regular season. Importantly, the passes to Robinson and Thomas were red-zone plays.

You could envision those passes being thrown in the regular season. You could envision the plays working in the regular season. You could envision points where in the past there were stalled drives. If you can envision those things, then you can envision this offense climbing from the ineffectiveness of recent seasons and moving toward productivity.

"I thought it was good," Bortles said of the scrimmage. "I thought there was a lot of good stuff to learn from. (The offense) came out slow, three-and-out back-to-back series, but I thought the guys did a good job of being resilient and going to the sidelines and making corrections and coming back and doing some productive stuff. There were definitely some good things to learn from."

Bortles covered a few new topics Monday in his conversation with the media in advance of Friday's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said he doesn't yet know how much he'll play in that game – "I'll play until they tell me not to," he said with a smile – and that his goal in that game is to continue taking ownership of the offense. There is a process of going from offseason meetings to training camp practices to the regular season, and preseason games are part of that process.

He said, too, he likes the red-zone offense under new offensive coordinator Greg Olson. The passes to Robinson and Thomas were a good sign because they were touchdowns to players who can be effective in the red zone. Bortles said tight end Marcedes Lewis also can be effective in that area – perhaps very effective.

"Oley (Olson) has done a really good job with our red-zone plan," Bortles said. "The plays we've installed for when we get down there, the guys seem to like them and run all of those routes really well."

Red-zone improvement is important. The Jaguars had moments last season when they moved between the 20s. A notch or two better in the red zone, and the offense improves notably.

But most important, and the reason for yet another story on Bortles as preseason approaches, is he continues to look good. Perhaps most important is he has looked consistent. Very few ups and downs. Very few highs and lows.

So far in camp, what we have seen in Bortles is an improved player doing things that can translate onto the field in games. That's what we saw Saturday, and it's what the Jaguars want to see Friday. Each time you see it, each time he does it, it gives you a more solid feeling about this offense, this team, this season, the future.

Worry about the details elsewhere around the roster all you want. Worry about the offensive line, about finger sprains and hamstring strains and about depth at this position or that. But if you're thinking big-picture, remember what we're starting to see from the quarterback.

As long as we keep seeing those things … so far, so good.

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