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View from the O-Zone: Bortles has the right feel

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles throws a pass during an NFL football practice Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles throws a pass during an NFL football practice Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

JACKSONVILLE – The details matter less than the feel.

That's how it is sometimes – and it sure felt that way listening to quarterback Blake Bortles Thursday on the first day of Jaguars 2018 Training Camp.

If you parse through quotes from the 10 minutes he spent talking to the notably-large Day 1 media swarm following a two-and-half hour practice at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex you'll find a lot of the expected.

*He feels good. Really good.

*He, like his teammates, embraces expectations around this team.

*His time working on mechanics in California early this month went well.

What's more important than what Bortles said is how he looks.

As was the case late last season – and as remained the case throughout an impressive offseason – Bortles looks like a more confident, more-poised, more-aware, more-prepared quarterback than at any time during his first three NFL seasons.

That remains an important thing for the Jaguars.

It may be the most important thing.

Of course, we can't write 800 words on Bortles on Day 1 of training camp and not talk about what he said. So, for the record, some highlights:

*On newly-signed wide receiver Donte Moncrief: "He's been awesome; he's been incredible."

*On second-year running back Leonard Fournette, who reported to camp about 15 pounds lighter than last season: "It's easy in his situation to take an offseason off. Him losing weight and coming back in really good shape shows you how important it is to him."

Another notable detail from Bortles' availability Thursday came when he was discussing how his right wrist feels following February surgery compared to last season when he was listed on the injury report each week.

"It kind of became normal for it just to hurt all the time," Bortles said. "That becomes the new normal and it's not that big a deal. It's definitely a relief to be able to throw a ball and there's no pain at all."

Bortles called the situation "way better."

"There are no restrictions," he said. "When you don't have to worry about going to rehab or going to get treatment … you have to make sure you're warming up the right way, you're taking anti-inflammatories and do a lot of stuff.

"To be able to go out and do what you should be able to do is pretty awesome."

Bortles since his surgery shortly after the AFC Championship Game has downplayed the effect the wrist had on his play, and he hasn't speculated much about how playing pain-free could benefit him. Still …

Being pain-free can't hurt, and it's a topic worth watching as '18 approaches.

Maybe the most significant part of Bortles' presser Thursday wasn't what he said about his confidence, his wrist or anything about himself. It came when he was discussing the offense in general.

Bortles was praised often last season by coaches for his knowledge of the offense. In his first full season under coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Bortles reportedly showed a deep scheme knowledge comparatively quickly. Bortles said during the offseason his knowledge of the scheme has grown, and all reports are that is correct.

Just as important along these lines, though, is something Bortles said late in his press conference Thursday – that his teammates also now fully grasp the offense. While many observers believed the Jaguars scaled back the offense last season because of a lack of faith in Bortles, it was far more often the case that a lack of experience around Bortles caused the team to be more cautious with the playbook than would have been ideal.

Bortles on Thursday said there were times last season he would call plays and get a blank look from receivers. Asked what he would do in that situation, he smiled.

"Take a timeout," he said. "Let's talk it over."

Fast forward to Thursday. Bortles described a dramatic difference in players such as second-year wide receivers Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole and fourth-year wide receiver Rashad Greene Sr.

"It's been impressive," Bortles said. "There were times last year you kind of got that look in the huddle, 'Hey, I have no idea what you're talking about. Looking at them this year, they're running out of the huddle before I can finish saying the play because they know what they've got.

"We haven't done signals in months. We threw a couple out there today and Dede knew them all immediately. It's impressive what they've learned and what they've retained."

The guess here is that will be a major factor for the offense this season, and the guess here is Bortles will continue the development he showed late last season. Yes, Bortles as camp opens has the feeling of a guy ready for his closeup. He has the feeling of a guy ready for the most important season of his career. He has the feeling of a guy ready to take a confident team where it believes it can go.

He has the feeling of a guy continuing to grow into the role the team needs him to play.

And there's nothing more important around the Jaguars than that.

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