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What We Learned: Jaguars-Bears


JACKSONVILLE –* *What We Learned from the Jaguars' 2014 preseason game against Chicago Thursday and the third and final week of 2014 training camp

1. Blake Bortles is still really, really progressing.The news is big and it's obvious – and it's very good news for the Jaguars. The news is rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is progressing rapidly, and very much passing the eye test early in his first preseason. He looked good in a controlled scrimmage two weeks ago at EverBank Field, looked good again the preseason opener against Tampa Bay and looked good again Thursday in Chicago. That's a lot of looking good. The Jaguars like how Bortles approaches preparation and game-planning, and he has progressed quicker than many around the organization expected. All good signs.

2. Blake Bortles … wow!OK, the exclamation point is a bit much … and maybe the wow is, too. But the national media got a glimpse of Bortles on national television Thursday – and the national media took notice. Bortles is showing a lot of people he has a chance to be very good, and the chatter and buzz around this story isn't going to get quieter.

3. Bortles is really good on the run.He has shown skill in a lot of areas, but after two preseason games it's obvious Bortles is very good throwing on the run. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has created situations to allow him to get outside the pocket, and Bortles has shown big-time accuracy outside the pocket.

What a throw! @BBortles5 to @KerryTaylor15 gain of 29. #JAXvsCHI updates: — Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) August 15, 2014

4. Bortles still hasn't faced a lot of blitzes or complex coverages.As was the case in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay, Bortles on Thursday against Chicago didn't see a lot of five- or six-man rushes. He didn't see a whole lot of complex coverage from the secondary, either. This may not happen during the preseason, and it's one reason the Jaguars' decision-makers aren't in a mad rush to start the rookie No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft immediately. The other reason, of course, is …

5. Chad Henne is still very much the starter.The Jaguars are still planning to start veteran Chad Henne at quarterback. Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell have said as much since drafting Bortles in mid-May. Bradley has reiterated that throughout training camp and did so again on Saturday. While you do get the idea that Bortles may be playing well enough to work his way into the lineup this season, it doesn't appear that it will be immediately.

6. Bortles will get work with the ones.This was Friday's major news. The Jaguars' approach under Bradley is to work rookies with the first team at various times for evaluation and so the rookies will be prepared to play if necessary. Bradley said the team will follow the same protocol with quarterbacks, and that by doing so, Bortles will work with the starters for about a quarter on Friday against Detroit. Look for Henne to start and play much of the first half with Bortles perhaps playing the entire third quarter. …

7. The plan is working.The Jaguars wanted to create an environment in which Bortles could develop without the pressure of expectations. They like how he is developing and believe the environment of Bortles working with the backups and Henne the established starter is working.

8. Brandon Linder's probably going to start somewhere.This has become more and more apparent throughout camp, but Bradley confirmed it Friday, saying it appears that Linder – a rookie third-round selection – probably will start at either right guard or center.

9. Linder's spot will have a domino effect.If Linder starts at center, Bradley said it's likely that veteran Jacques McClendon will start at right guard. If Linder starts at right guard, it's likely veteran Mike Brewster will start at center. The team has been searching for an effective combination of those three players, and determining Linder's spot will be the trigger step.

10. There will be some early juggling on the offensive line.Starting right tackle Austin Pasztor appears to be out at least the first two regular-season games with a fractured right hand. He will be reevaluated after that, but for now, fourth-year veteran Cameron Bradfield will be the starter at the spot. …

RT Austin Pasztor (fractured right hand) expected to undergo surgery Tuesday. More info: — Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) August 15, 2014

11. The run defense looks solid.This area was dominant against Tampa Bay in the preseason opener, and while it wasn't quite as dominant Friday, it was still strong. The front seven won't hold every opponent under 40 yards rushing this season. This group won't be dominant on that level, but it continues to look like it will be stout against the run. If so, it's automatically a better unit than last season.

12. Tyson Alualu is valuable.The veteran defensive end has two sacks in two preseason games. He's active and he appears as healthy as he has been in his NFL career. That's good news for the depth along the front.

Alualu with the sack. That's his 2nd in as many games. #JAXvsCHI updates: — Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) August 15, 2014

13. Cecil Shorts III is coming back …The fourth-year veteran wide receiver has been out since the first day of training camp with a hamstring injury. He's expected to practice Sunday, and while he'll be brought along carefully this week – as are all injured players – Bradley said Friday the hope is for Shorts to get some limited snaps against Detroit.

14. … and so is Dekoda Watson.Watson, a free-agent signee in the offseason, has yet to practice with the Jaguars because of a groin injury. The Otto linebacker is expected to practice Sunday after coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list. He also will be worked in carefully, but the goal is to get him ready for the regular-season opener.

15. The Jaguars are better.Through two preseason games, there's little question about that. There are issues to resolve and holes to fill, and the best may still be a few years away. But for the present, it appears the Jaguars have a chance to take a significant step forward.

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