JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Wednesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field Sunday
1)Growing and growing.We begin this Wednesday takeaways with quarterback Blake Bortles, whose second-year growth continued with a five-touchdown, no-interception performance against Tennessee Sunday. Bortles' three touchdown passes to wide receiver Allen Robinson highlighted the day, as did five red-zone touchdown passes and six offensive touchdowns in as many red-zone possessions. The Jaguars entered the game 30th in the NFL with 15 touchdowns on 36 red-zone possessions. Bortles called Sunday's red-zone efficiency a confidence builder and Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson called the game overall an example of Bortles' continued "steady" growth. "When you watch it, there weren't many decisions that you could question," Olson said. "There have been times throughout the season where maybe he got away with one, where he felt like, 'Boy, that ball could've possibly been intercepted.' You didn't see any of that on Sunday. He's just getting better and trying to get better and feel more comfortable within the system."
2)A big (potential) loss.Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny missed practice with a fractured hand Wednesday after undergoing surgery Tuesday. He has not been ruled out for Sunday, and while his history makes it foolish to assume he won't play, his uncertain status is a worry. While Posluszny struggled at times in coverage against Tennessee, he remains key for more reasons than just his stoutness and awareness against the run. He also is critical to getting the defensive assignments called at the line of scrimmage and ensuring players around him are lined up correctly – key on-field roles that if he doesn't play Sunday would fall to his replacement, second-year veteran Jordan Tripp. "Poz is an awesome player, and I've had the privilege of playing with him at Penn State and here," defensive end Jared Odrick said. "He does a lot for any defense, especially ours."
Check out images from Wednesday's practice.
3)Help on the strong side.While Posluszny's status is in question for Sunday, the run defense could be bolstered by Otto linebacker Dan Skuta's return. Out three of the last four games with a groin injury, Skuta practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and said he plans to try to play. "It gets to the point where it's like, 'What the heck,''' Skuta said. "I definitely want to get out there as soon as possible.'' Rookie Thurston Armbrister played Otto the last two games in his place, but was benched for ineffectiveness Sunday and replaced by Tripp. The Jaguars, after playing effectively against the run much of the season, allowed 210 yards rushing against Tennessee. Although 87 of those yards came on a scramble touchdown by quarterback Marcus Mariota, Titans running backs were more effective than many Jaguars running backs in recent weeks, rushing for 98 yards on 26 carries. "He's an integral part to our defense," Odrick said of Skuta. "Just having him there, his attitude and on the field, I like seeing it. I like seeing Skuta fired up. I think it adds an extra dimension to our defense."
4)Smart, savvy, veteran.The Jaguars appear unlikely to play Colts quarterback Andrew Luck this season, with the fourth-year veteran missing the teams' October 4 meeting with a shoulder injury and expected to miss Sunday's game with a lacerated kidney. If that's good news for the Jaguars, the bad is that Luck's replacement, Matt Hasselbeck is 4-1 as a starter including a Week 4 victory over the Jaguars. While Hasselbeck's age – 40 – has been constantly referenced this season, more important is the veteran's awareness at the line and decision-making ability in the pocket. "He's a really smart guy," cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "You can see him checking (at the line of scrimmage) at lot, and he usually puts the offense in the best situation to move the ball and be successful." Cornerback Davon House said as was the case when the Jaguars played veteran quarterbacks such as Tom Brady of New England and Philip Rivers of San Diego, Hasselbeck's experience makes fooling him with blitzes and exotic looks difficult. "He's been around the game forever," House said. "There isn't too much stuff that you can do that he hasn't seen before. That's the tough thing with quarterbacks like that: they've seen Cover-2, Tampa-2, Dom Capers' fire-zone blitzing, Seahawks Cover-3 zone like we're in … I don't know what you can throw at him that he hasn't seen. You can tell he's a sharp guy. He came in when Andrew was hurt and has only lost one game." That one loss came last week, when Hasselbeck threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a 45-10 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
5)Moving forward.Jason Myers on Wednesday said he was sure of one thing regarding his extra points this season: whatever the issue may be, it's not mental. Myers, the Jaguars' rookie kicker, has missed six extra points this season. That includes two misses Sunday against Tennessee as well as one the week before against San Diego. Asked if the issue could be in the back of his head, Myers on Wednesday said, "No. I just stay focused on every kick. I don't worry about what happened in the past, good or bad." Myers, who is 24 of 30 on extra points this season, has improved his field goals in the past two months since missing two potential game-winners in an October 4 overtime loss at Indianapolis. After starting the season seven of 10 on field goals, he is 15 of 16 since the Indianapolis misses. Of perhaps getting a chance at "redemption" against the Colts Sunday, he said, "If it comes down to a field goal, I would love to have that chance, but most important is just us getting a win."