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Bortles haunted by pick-six

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The pass Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles intended for T.J. Yeldon that was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Carolina’s Josh Norman in Sunday’s 20-9 loss to the Panthers was a game changer.

Or at least it seemed to change Bortles.

He simply wasn’t the same quarterback the rest of the game. The play that occurred on the Jaguars’ first drive of the second half was a back-breaker for a team that desperately wanted to open the season with a win. Bortles played well in the first 30 minutes, actually outplaying his counterpart, Cam Newton.

Bortles was 15-of-24 for 125 yards and a touchdown and had a QB rating of 89.8. Nothing spectacular, but better than Newton’s 87 passing yards and 65.0 rating.

When Norman stepped in front of Yeldon to pick off the telegraphed throw by Bortles, however, it had an obvious effect on the Jaguars’ second-year quarterback the rest of the day. Jacksonville had the ball for five more series after the pick-six, gained just 59 total yards and made four first downs the rest of the game. Bortles’ numbers were terrible. He completed 6-of-14 passes for 47 yards. Four of his five sacks in the game came after Norman’s score.

What should be of concern to Jaguars fans and others is Bortles’ comment on Wednesday when talking about the play of his offensive line.

“Mentally, guys were unbelievable,” Bortles said. “They didn’t bring anything at us that we didn’t pick up or weren’t in the right spots to protect. I thought they were awesome there. I think we have to continue to grow, continue to study, because it was a really good week of preparation. Talking to some of those guys, it was the most prepared for a football game they’ve ever been, so we’ve got to continue that and make sure it carries over week to week.”

However, Jaguars receivers are not giving Bortles the help he needs to direct the offense down the field. During the first three preseason games, the Jaguars’ main receivers dropped numerous balls. That trend continued last Sunday when the top three receivers dropped a combined four passes.

Coach Gus Bradley pointed out that three of the four drops would have resulted in explosive plays. Bortles took the dropped passes in stride. He was asked about it again this week and how he handles the situation when the receivers are dropping the ball.

“All of those guys are awesome. . . . unbelievable football players and they’re good people,” Bortles noted. “They take a responsibility and great pride making plays. They’re not yelling at me when I throw a ball five yards over their head out of bounds, so I’m not going to do the same thing to them when they drop one. Those are things that were addressed and we’re going to continue to work at it.”

And now Bortles will likely have to play without his starting left tackle, Luke Joeckel, who suffered an ankle injury in the game. He was replaced by Sam Young, who was beaten twice, resulting in two of the four sacks in the second half.

Bortles says he isn’t concerned about Young replacing Joeckel, that he won’t worry about Young making his first start at left tackle for the Jaguars. Young started six games a year ago at the right tackle spot.

“You can’t worry about it; you let losing your left tackle affect how you think, you’re going to play differently whether you want to or not,” Bortles said. “I have all of the faith in the world in Sam Young. I think he’s a great player. It’s an opportunity for him to step up and I’m excited for him. But I’ll play like it’s Luke or Sam or whoever back there the same.”

Sunday’s loss was especially disappointing for the Jaguars, who lost their opener for a fourth consecutive season. The next three opponents appear to be better than Carolina, with the third and fourth games at New England and at Indianapolis, where the Jaguars will likely be double-digit underdogs. It puts added pressure on Bortles and the rest of the team to win Sunday or face the likely prospect of starting 0-4 for a third consecutive season under coach Gus Bradley.

For Bortles, this Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins can’t get here soon enough to put last week’s disappointment behind him.

“Yeah, I think for a lot of guys (it’s that way),” he said. “For me, I have a little bit of that feeling. Gus talks about when adversity or something strikes that doesn’t go your way, you’ve got to have the mindset to wait and see what you do next time. As a team and as an offense, we have that.

“With kind of a lackluster performance, we want to get out there and kind of show that wasn’t who we are and be better. I think there’s a little bit of a sense of that, but we’ve got to stay true to who we are and go through the process just like we did last week.”

NOTES: LT Luke Joeckel was in a walking boot on Wednesday and is expected to miss Sunday’s game. … SS Johnathan Cyprien wore a cast for a broken finger last Sunday, then sustained a calf injury in the game and did not practice Wednesday. … LB Thurston Armbrister (back) did not practice Wednesday. … WR Marqise Lee (hamstring) practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday. … WR Rashad Greene was knocked out of the Carolina game on the final drive but has passed a concussion test. … CB Aaron Colvin (shoulder) did participate in Wednesday’s practice with the team.


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