Jaguars won't make excuses for Bortles' struggles
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars aren't making excuses for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.
Coach Gus Bradley said Monday they expect more from Bortles, who played his worst game of the season Sunday in a 23-3 loss at Indianapolis.
Bortles completed 15 of 27 passes for a season-low 146 yards, with 107 of those coming in the fourth quarter. He also threw an interception on his first pass of the game.
He was 4-of-10 passing for 34 yards in the first half, and his third quarter was even worse as the Jaguars (1-10) fell behind by double digits. He completed just two passes for 5 yards in the third, was sacked twice and fumbled.
''My hope is that fear hasn't entered in the equation for Blake, where he gets in there and he's going, `Oh, I made an interception' and, `Oh, I've thrown a couple interceptions. Boy I need to make good decisions and I'm going to hold onto the ball,''' Bradley said. ''We don't want that from him.''
Bradley added that Bortles' confidence remains high heading into this week's game against the New York Giants, saying don't confuse the first-round draft pick's frustration with anything else.
''I think he wants to get more and wants to produce more and that part is frustrating,'' Bradley said. ''But (lack of) confidence, I don't see that. He's confident going into it, game plan and things like that, but it's just the execution.''
Bortles continues to be plagued by interceptions. He has an NFL-high 15, including at least one in each of the nine games he's played. He has eight touchdown passes.
''I don't want it to be where every throw he makes he's worried that if he gets a turnover and we have to be perfect,'' Bradley said. That's not how he operates best. ... We don't want to take away his freedom to make big plays.''
Receiver Cecil Shorts III believes Bortles is ''handling things just fine.''
''You kind of get the same Blake each and every day,'' Shorts said. ''He's calm, he's cool, he's not down on himself, at least that we can see. Blake will be fine. I really like him and his game. Blake is a confident guy, that's his nature. I don't see any fear with him. We're just facing a lot of adversity right now. As an offense, we've got to find a solution.''
Bortles threw 12 interceptions in his first six games, including four returned for touchdowns, and Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch have asked him to be more careful with the ball in recent weeks. The Jaguars don't have enough playmakers to overcome turnovers, so Bortles is playing with a small margin for error.
Still, he seems to be holding the ball too long and hesitating on throws.
''There's got to be a heightened sense,'' Bradley said. ''You can't sugar-coat it. It's the game of football and it's the NFL and you're expected to play at a high level.''
Bradley also had concerns with his special teams. Josh Cribbs returned five punt for 48 yards and two kickoffs for 64 yards. Even on Jacksonville's lone score - a 28-yard field goal by Josh Scobee - the kick was partially blocked. It made it through the uprights, barely clearing the crossbar.
''Let's get this corrected,'' Bradley said. It was still a make, but it's happening too many times, a couple times over the course of the year.''
Bradley had kinder words for his defense. Jacksonville matched a season-high with five sacks and recovered three fumbles.
''Defensively, I thought we played very well. I was very pleased with our effort,'' Bradley said. ''I think some guys really stepped up, especially in the first half. Five fumbles, they lost three of them, we gained three. They were 0-for-3 in the red zone and sacked five times.''
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