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View from the O-Zone: Not bad at all


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Final score aside, this outing had much in common with the first.

And you know what? Within the context of the Jaguars 2015 preseason, that's OK. In fact, when you look at the Jaguars' 22-12 preseason loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium Saturday, it was more than OK. It was pretty good.

The reasons:

Blake Bortles looked good. Again.

The offensive line looked good. Again. (And maybe a bit better than the preseason opener.)

The first-team running game was effective. Again.

And while the defense didn't get the pressure it wanted on Giants quarterback Eli Manning, this was unquestionably better defense than early last week against Pittsburgh.

So, if the preseason opener was a good start, then Friday was a continuation of that – and Head Coach Gus Bradley said that absolutely was true of the quarterback.

"I think he took another good step," Bradley said of Bortles afterward. "To go on the road and to stack up another good performance, he's learning. … What I'm pleased about is he's seeing some benefits of playing some pretty consistent quarterback. We just need to add to it."

If it's true of the quarterback right now, then it's true for the entire franchise, so if Bortles played well? If he progressed?

If that's true, count Preseason Week 2 as a victory.

What else to emphasize Preseason Week 2? Not the "loss." The Jaguars led 9-3 when the starters left, and more went right early Saturday than wrong.

If there was a low point Saturday it remained the time to throw for opposing quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger had plenty in the preseason opener, with Manning having too much Saturday. That the Jaguars' defensive front was playing without tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and end Chris Clemons is one reason, but this remains an area that must improve.

Another concern Friday: Injuries.

The Jaguars in no way have been waylaid by injuries this preseason. In fact, considering T.J. Yeldon, Johnathan Cyprien, Marqise Lee and Julius Thomas all have a chance to play in the regular-season opener or soon thereafter, the injuries have been more than sustainable.

But cornerback Demetrius McCray left with a knee injury in the second quarter Friday, and five other players left with injuries. That included wide receiver Arrelious Benn, who left with a broken clavicle. This still isn't a team with enough depth to dip too, too deep at too, too many positions.

Those are concerns, but if you're dwelling on those after two preseason games you're nitpicking. The big picture is when this preseason opened eight days ago you wanted to see if the pieces that were building the offense were coming together in a way that made you optimistic about the future.

It felt after the Pittsburgh game that those pieces were looking good, so this week you wanted to see it again.

In Bradley vernacular, you wanted to see Bortles and the offensive line "stack them up," because only with consistency can something be trusted, and one preseason game doesn't qualify as consistency.

To be fair, two preseason games doesn't qualify as consistency, either, but two preseason games is what we have from Bortles and this offensive line. And so far, so good.

Bortles didn't match his Pittsburgh numbers (11-of-15 passing) Friday, but he looked comfortable in the pocket again. He ran the offense efficiently again. And his 8-of-16 passing performance for 98 yards would have looked better if not for a couple of catchable drops from Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson.

As significantly, the first-team offensive line looked good again, too.

Left tackle Luke Joeckel was called for a holding penalty early that looked iffy, but he looked better in pass protection at first glance. Overall, the first-team offensive line as a group kept Bortles clean except for one play on the second series when he had to scramble. Often – most of the time, actually – he had ample time to throw and receivers had ample time to complete routes downfield.

The line also got traction in the running game for a second consecutive week, and three times late in the starters' stint Toby Gerhart picked up first downs on 3rd-and-short situations running behind defensive end/fullback Tyson Alualu.

That's what Bradley envisions from this offense – effective running to help give Bortles time. You saw it early – and that was enough to send the Jaguars from this game with a positive feeling.

"We did a good job," Bortles said.  We put two or three drives together. It's important to get six in the red zone instead of three. We shot out ourselves in the foot a couple of times with a penalty and missed opportunities, but overall I think the guys did good."

That's two positive feelings offensively in as many weeks. Does it mean as much as if those feelings were in the regular season? No. Of course not.

But for now, it's a couple of good steps back to back.

And in that sense, from the Jaguars' perspective, a Preseason Week 2 outing that matched the opener isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's pretty good.

Check out second half images from the Jaguars preseason game against the New York Giants.

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