Bortles solid in preseason debut as Jaguars top Bucs
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t putting pressure on Blake Bortles to win a starting job in training camp.
The rookie quarterback was solid in his preseason debut Friday night, throwing for 117 yards and leading a second-half drive for a field goal in a 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"There was some good stuff, some bad stuff, things that I’ve got to overcome," Bortles said.
"It’s a process, it’s not going to happen overnight," he added. "The chemistry felt really good with the second unit, we’ve been working really well together during camp. I thought the offensive line did a really good job of protecting up front."
The third overall pick in the draft completed 7 of 11 passes, including a 31-yarder down the middle of the field to Mike Brown to set up a 26-yard field goal that gave the Jaguars a 10-3 lead late in the third quarter.
The Bucs were penalized for a late hit on the rookie from Central Florida, tacking on another 15 yards.
Tampa Bay drove 85 yards to make it 10-10 on Mike Glennon’s 6-yard scoring pass to Tommy Streeter, but dropped its first game under coach Lovie Smith when a defense that had done a good job of keeping Jacksonville’s offense out of the end zone faltered in the fourth quarter.
Denard Robinson’s 23-yard TD run put the Jaguars ahead for good with under seven minutes remaining. Jacksonville also scored on Winston Guy Jr.’s 68-yard interception return in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay’s first-team offense sputtered while playing into the second quarter. In addition to throwing the interception that was returned for a TD, Josh McCown was sacked twice and lost a fumble.
"The defense did a good job of keeping them out (of the end zone). But we say it’s defense versus defense," Smith said. "Their defense scored a touchdown, we didn’t. We’re playing hard, but we’re still not where we need to be on the defensive side either."
Chad Henne started for the Jaguars and played four series before being replaced by Bortles, who has yet to take a snap with Jacksonville’s first-team offense in training camp.
The rookie received a nice ovation from the announced crowd of 59,100 at EverBank Field before completing his first pass for 24 yards to Allen Hurns.
Two plays later, he rolled out of the pocket to his left and showed he has a sense of when he needs to take a little off his throws with a nice flip to fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou for a 12-yard gain.
"I thought he did a nice job, showed some good poise. We felt like we could protect him," Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley said. "Just the poise factor, we wanted to see that in him, and he did a nice job."
So when might Bortles begin to get some practice time with the starters?
"Our philosophy is to try and get these rookies in with the ones. Somewhere you’re going to see it, we want them to feel the speed of the ones," Bradley said. "We do that with all our guys, I’m sure we’ll do that with Blake as well. We’ll see how things go as to when we get him in there. I just think he’s progressing nice."
Smith and first-year general manager Jason Licht spent in free agency to bring in four new starters for Tampa Bay’s defense and also rebuild an offensive line that did not protect McCown well Friday night.
The 35-year-old quarterback, a career backup who began training camp as a projected starter for the time in a decade, was hurried into a couple of bad throws and also took a hard hit at the end of a 9-yard scramble.
Henne completed 4 of 7 for 30 yards. The Jaguars hurt themselves with a pair of bad snaps that sailed over the quarterback’s head in shotgun formation. The second one rolled 21 yards on fourth down, helping set up the 44-yard field goal for Tampa Bay’s first points of the game.
McCown finished 2 of 4 for 20 yards with one interception. He rushed for 13 yards on the two plays Jacksonville’s pass rush forced him to run.
Glennon, who started 13 games as a rookie a year ago when a 4-12 finish cost coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik their jobs, was 11 of 19 for 140 yards and no interceptions.
"We’re not ready yet. … This first game, we kind of see where we are a little bit," Smith said. "Had some protection issues, didn’t protect the quarterback well enough. That’s pretty much it."
Notes: The Jaguars played without starting RB Toby Gerhart and WRs Cecil Shorts III and Allen Robinson. … S Dashon Goldson and CB Alterraun Verner, one of Tampa Bay’s key offseason acquisitions, did not dress for the Bucs.