JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a look at the week that was around the Jaguars …
Holding up well
Blake Bortles won't say he's perfected anything.
That's partly because you rarely perfect anything as difficult as quarterbacking, and partly because the Jaguars' third-year quarterback knows this offseason remains about improvement.
But as Bortles prepares for his third NFL offseason, he will say without question his fundamentals have improved – and the fact that that's true may be as important as anything he did statistically during what was a statistically impressive, encouraging second season.
"It felt good," Bortles said during an appearance on Jaguars.com LIVE this week.
Fundamentals, remember, were an overriding issue for Bortles last offseason. He spent two months shortly after the 2014 regular season working with passing guru Tom House in California. He then spent organized team activities patiently answering questions about mechanics and footwork.
Bortles set franchise records for touchdown passes and yards passing in 2015, and while he visited House again this offseason – and while he said this week that footwork and mechanics always will be a focus – the topic has nothing of the urgent, crisis-point feel of last offseason.
"I was a little nervous as well," Bortles said. "You can stand there and play catch and go through 7-on-7 in practice knowing you're not going to get hit and it all holds up. It's like, 'What's going to happen in a game when you've got a dude that's going to hit you right after you throw it? Is it going to hold? Or are you going to go back to how you used to throw the ball?'
"For the most part it did hold up. There were little flashes of some old stuff that I'd like to get rid of. I'm still working on that, but it's a work in progress to try to make it as consistent as possible."
Wash: "A beast"
Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks is optimistic about the Jaguars' 2016 defense.
A major reason for that is the free-agent acquisition of defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Another is his own return from a torn triceps that cost him the last seven games of last season, and still another is the return of second-year defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him his rookie season.
Just as big is the faith he has in Todd Wash, the Jaguars' defensive line coach the past three seasons who is now the Jaguars' defensive coordinator.
"I'm a huge advocate of Wash and a huge believer in Wash," Marks said. "I know he can make any situation work. I trust Wash in whatever he says. Wash is a beast."
Marks also noted that while a group with end Jared Odrick, Fowler, Marks, nose tackle Roy Miller and Jackson undoubtedly has talent, it's a group that never has played together.
Using that talent correctly, and finding chemistry, is critical – and not necessarily easy.
"We have additions," Marks said. "We haven't played with Malik and Dante. I haven't played that much – four games – with Jared. We have a lot of great talent. Hopefully, we can get that chemistry. I think we can get that done. I know we're going to have the talent. I just want the chemistry to flow. We've got a lot of people who have played well.
"I'm excited being healthy going into this year. Me personally, I'm excited – and I'm also excited to see Malik coming in and Dante also. I'm excited to see the change and to get Malik into the defense and for everybody to get in there and start molding together."
Around the Jaguars …
*Though the Jaguars' high-profile pre-draft visits this week revealed few specifics about the team's draft plans, it did re-emphasize the offseason focus on defense. Fifteen of the 18 players visiting were defensive players, with the exceptions being Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and Alabama center Ryan Kelly. Tunsil or Stanley would be surprising at No. 5 overall considering the presence of Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum, but Kelly in the second round would give the Jaguars a solid young interior or Kelly, Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann. …
*The breakdown of the week's defensive visits: four edge players (Joey Bosa of Ohio State, Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky, Leonard Floyd of Georgia, Yannick Ngakoue of Maryland), three free safeties (Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, Vonn Bell of Ohio State, Jayron Kearse of Clemson), three defensive tackles (Robert Nkemdiche of Ole Miss, Kenny Clark of UCLA, Chris Jones of Mississippi State), two cornerbacks (Vernon Hargreaves III of Florida, Eli Apple of Ohio State), a strong-side defensive end (DeForest Buckner of Oregon), an outside linebacker (Myles Jack of UCLA) and a middle linebacker (Reggie Ragland of Alabama). Of that group, Bosa, Ramsey, Buckner, Jack and Hargreaves are considered my most analysts to be potential Top 5 selections. …
*This is the first time in Bortles' three NFL offseason he isn't working with a new offensive coordinator. Jedd Fisch was the coordinator in Bortles' rookie season, and Greg Olson was hired as offensive coordinator last season. Bortles on working with Olson a second consecutive offseason: "Last year, it was just trying to learn the terminology and trying to figure out all of that stuff. Now, you know the terminology. It's a second language to you. You're trying to figure out how to correct or tweak little things that make us better." …