JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Wednesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the Houston Texans at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1)Playing through it.We begin Wednesday takeaways with quarterback Blake Bortles, who again displayed a veteran's grasp of the intangibles of his position – i.e., the ability to know how a quarterback must act and think. Bortles, who sustained a Grade 1 AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder against Tampa Bay Sunday, practiced Wednesday. He said beforehand that it never occurred to him he wouldn't practice – that despite Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley saying on Monday there was a chance Bortles could miss practice Wednesday. Bortles said he considers practice important – and not simply in terms of preparing for the next game. "I think it's part of the game," he said, adding that while quarterbacks don't get hit often, it's important they respond with toughness when they do. "It's important to me that those guys (offensive linemen) have faith that I'll be in the huddle every play and I'll be at practice every day working as hard as I can with those guys."
2)Sudden impact?Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on Wednesday was more upbeat about the possibility of playing Sunday than he had been this season, comparing Wednesday's practice to game day. Marks, who has yet to play this season after January reconstructive knee surgery, had an intense workout last Wednesday. But while he thought he was ready at the time he said trainers and coaches saw enough hesitancy that they opted to not play him against Tampa Bay. Marks was determined before practice Wednesday to fully trust the knee and to plant, push off and accelerate without hesitation. Bradley said after practice that it appeared Marks made progress in that area. As for Marks' impact on the defense … will he be as effective and quick as a pass-rusher as he was before the injury? That may not be realistic immediately, but Marks' presence on the interior should help significantly. "I think the leadership will be an impact, and as far as my physical play – hopefully it will," he said.
Images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars begin preparations for the Houston Texans.
3)Ready for anything.Texans defensive end J.J. Watt thus far this season has lined up mostly on the left side of the defensive line. In theory, that would mean Watt – one of the most disruptive defensive players in the NFL – would match up mostly with Jaguars right tackle Jermey Parnell. Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson said that's not a theory on which the Jaguars will rely this week. Watt historically has moved all around the defensive line, and while the presence of linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has allowed Watt to play mostly on the left, Olson said the team will prepare for Watt moving. "He was all over last season, so we're kind of ready for that," Olson said. "We have to always be aware there's a chance he could move to another side. It's a game of matchups all of the time. A lot of it is probably based upon that as well."
4)The little things.The statistics have improved, and this past week, the Jaguars made necessary improvement in the red zone. When it comes to the Jaguars' offense, there are many positive signs. That's particularly true of Bortles and wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Still, Bortles said on Wednesday that there are plenty of improvements to be made beginning with "attention to details. We had a big play taken away (against Tampa Bay) by a misaligned formation; had a false start. I think things like that are things we have to continue to pay attention to eliminate … obviously, a turnover – two turnovers – that really both led to points. I think we have to continue to eliminate that stuff."
5)Seeing red.An important offensive improvement against Tampa Bay was red-zone efficiency, with the Jaguars scoring on 5-of-5 possessions inside the 20. That had been a point of emphasis after struggling through the first quarter of the season Robinson caught a pair of red-zone touchdowns, with Hurns and running back T.J. Yeldon each catching one, but Robinson and Bortles said the presence of tight end Julius Thomas helped significantly. "I would say for sure," Robinson said. "He's a person you have to account for if you're a defense. At any point in time when he's on the field – whatever position he is on the field – you have account for him." Thomas missed the first four games of the season with a hand injury after catching 12 touchdown passes in each of the past two seasons for Denver. "He's a special player – super-talented and a really smart guy," Bortles said, adding that he missed Thomas on a potential touchdown when Thomas was wide open near the end zone.