Foot injury puts Jags QB Blake Bortles' status in doubt for Thursday

BY foxsports • December 15, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's not just a figure of speech to say the Jacksonville Jaguars are limping into the final two weeks of the season, particularly in the case of Blake Bortles.

The rookie quarterback needed a walking cast to get around Monday after sustaining what the team is calling a right mid-foot sprain during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 20-12 loss at Baltimore. Bortles hobbled off following back-to-back sacks by the Ravens, who got to him eight times. But he returned for both of Jacksonville's final two possessions.

The injury is similar to the one that caused running back Denard Robinson to be placed on season-ending injured reserve last week. Bortles is expected to be listed as questionable for Thursday night's home game against the Tennessee Titans. Chad Henne will likely take his first snaps since the end of the first half of the third game of the season.

"It feels OK," Bortles said. "I've been in all morning doing rehab, doing all kinds of stuff trying to get back and ready as quick as possible. A couple more days, and hopefully it will be fine."

Even if he is healthy enough to play in the nationally televised matchup of 2-12 teams, things are far from fine for an offense that has produced only two touchdowns in the last four weeks and 20 the entire season. Bortles has been sacked 46 times in his 12 games, which is more than all but two NFL teams (Washington Redskins -- 53, San Francisco 49ers -- 49).

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said "two or three" of the sacks by the Ravens were a result of Bortles holding on to the ball too long. He called the speeding up of the quarterback's decision-making process an area where he needs to improve most.

"He'll try to extend the play," Bradley said. "And a couple times (Sunday), that got us in trouble."

Henne, who was sacked 10 times by the Redskins in Week 2, knows of the ongoing challenges facing his teammate.

"It's a learning process," he said. "Because Blake's a playmaker, he wants to make plays down the field, get outside the pocket. He's very mobile, so for him, it's difficult to throw the football away at a young age."

That mobility was seldom on display against the Ravens. After entering the game second on the team in rushing (306 yards) behind Robinson, Bortles had just one carry for two yards. It came on the Jaguars' second possession.

Bortles completed nine of his first 12 passes for 98 yards, with one of his incompletions being a drop by tight end Marcedes Lewis. But he was 8 of 16 with four sacks during a second half the Jaguars mustered just 68 total yards.

"In college, you can run around and do more stuff," he said. "But in the NFL, guys are a lot faster and stronger."

"I can't say at times that I don't blame him," Bradley said of Bortles' occasional lack of patience in the pocket.

Whether it has been Bortles or Henne at quarterback, the Jaguars have given up 62 sacks this season, one shy of the franchise record set in 2001. The line includes two rookies in center Luke Bowanko and guard Brandon Linder, as well as second-year tackle Luke Joeckel, who hardly played on the left side last season before sustaining a fractured right ankle.

Except for Cecil Shorts III, Jacksonville's four leaders in receptions are rookies -- wide receivers Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.

"Individually, I see growth," Bradley said. "I see Marqise getting better. I saw Allen Robinson get better. I've seen Hurns get better. I've see Linder getting better. I see Bowanko getting better. I see some mistakes with Blake or Bowanko or Luke Joeckel, but I see them improving."

It's as a group where the offense continues to struggle. The Jaguars settled for five field-goal attempts in the first half against the Ravens, including one after they had a first down at the 9. Fittingly, that drive ended with consecutive sacks of Bortles, one of which came when he escaped the pressure of Terrell Suggs only to be hauled down by Elvis Dumervil.

"It's something I guess we haven't figured out yet," Joeckel said. "We're stalling when we get down there and just not making the plays we need to make. And that's all 11 of us. We're not doing our jobs to the best of our ability."

The Titans recorded six sacks in a 16-14 victory over the Jaguars in October and could post comparable statistics against a less-than-100-percent Bortles working on a short week.

"It's obviously more challenging than having a Sunday game," Bortles said. "But it's part of it. It's kind of the hand we were dealt."

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.



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