JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser prepares you for the week ahead with five quick questions for Jaguars-Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday …
1.Is Blake Bortles ready for his close-up?Rookie Blake Bortles is the Jaguars' starting quarterback now – and for the foreseeable future. He looked good in the preseason and threw for 223 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the second half against Indianapolis Sunday. So far, he has been calm, poised and productive every time he has been on the field professionally. The Jaguars did everything possible to create an environment in which he could improve and develop without the pressure of expectations. That was a huge reason for him starting training camp and the regular season as a backup to Chad Henne. That's in the past. Now, the focus will be on Bortles.
2.Will there be defensive changes?Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Monday in the wake of a 44-17 loss to Indianapolis said defensive changes were possible, speaking specifically of linebacker and secondary. The Jaguars signed safety Sherrod Martin and linebacker Jeremiah George Tuesday, but there could be more front-line changes Wednesday or Thursday. Stay tuned.
3.Can the quarterback make a significant difference?The move to Bortles as a starter has created an excitement among Jaguars followers. Such is the nature of change at the quarterback position. Improved quarterback play can benefit all areas, from pass protection to more holes for the running game to improved defense if the offense is on the field more. That's a lot to ask of a rookie quarterback starting his first NFL game, but the possibility of a Bortles Effect will remain an enticing one to many.
4.Can the Jaguars stop the tight end?This is a big question this week, and not just because of the presence of Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, a former Pro Bowl player who remains a reliable, productive target for quarterback Philip Rivers. It's also a big question because the Jaguars have struggled to cover the tight end in the last two seasons, with the defense making several errors Sunday to allow the Colts a big passing day. Rivers is more than experienced enough to have seen that in the Jaguars' defense, and it would be a big surprise if he doesn't test the area.
5.Can the defense get fixed?Bortles' debut will be the offensive focus, and will set the tone for other areas on that side of the ball: an offensive line that has struggled, a tight end group that lacks experience, a wide receiver corps that has shown signs of explosiveness despite a similar lack of experience. As big a question is the Jaguars' defense. The unit is allowing more yards and points than any team in the NFL, and it often has been a player out of position here, or a missed mental assignment there. That indicates it can be fixed quickly, but it hasn't happened yet. Until it does, the question will remain key.