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CAMP REPORT: Bortles a focus

Posted Jul 25, 2014

A daily look around Jaguars 2014 Training Camp, with an emphasis Friday on rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.


JACKSONVILLE – The cameras were on, and aimed at him.

This is how it was for Blake Bortles on the first day of Jaguars 2014 Training Camp, and in a very real sense, it’s how it will be for a long while.

That’s the game for a quarterback selected No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft, and it’s why even though Bortles is the Jaguars’ backup – and even though the plan is for him very much not to start this season –the rookie was still very much Storyline No. 1 Friday as camp opened in downtown Jacksonville.

“It’s pretty cool,” Bortles said following the first day of camp at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. “This is the real deal.”

There was a limit, of course, to how much insight Bortles had into Bortles on Day One of his first training camp. The things he said to the reporters and cameramen from Jacksonville and Orlando – where he played high school and college football – were about what you’d expect.

He understands his role for now is to be a backup to Chad Henne. He’s going to keep working to improve.

There also wasn’t too much in the way of on-field analysis into the quarterback position Friday. The Jaguars worked in shorts and helmets Friday, and it wasn’t a day for extensive statistics. Henne was the only quarterback who did not throw an interception, with Bortles, veteran Ricky Stanzi and rookie Stephen Morris all throwing one.

But there was insight into Bortles to be had around the Jaguars Friday, and that came from General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley.

Caldwell, who drafted Bortles in the offseason with a clear idea that he was not ready to start immediately, said he continues to believe Henne will be the starter entering the regular season. He said ideally that will remain the case throughout the season.

“I do believe Chad right now gives us the best chance to be successful on the field,” Caldwell said.

But Caldwell also clarified on Friday that Bortles almost certainly will be the backup to Henne to start the season, and said that status will be very real – real enough that if Henne is injured early in the season Bortles will play in his place.

“I would think so,” Caldwell said. “We would have to make that decision. I haven’t thought about it. I would say, ‘Whoever gives us the best opportunity,’ but hopefully that doesn’t happen.”

Insight into Bortles came, too, from Bradley. Bortles impressed Bradley during organized team activities and minicamps with his ability to respond to a difficult practice, work to improve and show progress thereafter. Bradley said Bortles did something similar Friday.

“Here’s what I appreciate about where Blake was,” Bortles said. “I saw him take some risks. He threw an interception in practice and came back and threw a seam route with two guys on him and he put it right between them.  He made a great throw.  That tells me something right there.  He has no fear of failure and that’s a really cool sign for a quarterback.

“We are going to make some mistakes and I have said that before, it’s how you respond to it.  I really saw first-hand that competitive spirit.”

Bradley went on to say he likes a lot about Bortles, and that the young player is still in the learning process. He talked about Bortles throwing a bad pass later in practice and following that with bad body language.

Those are the kinds of things Bradley wants to see less and less from Bortles as camp goes on, and those will be the storylines that surround Bortles now and until he starts. He was the top story Friday, and he’ll be a big one for a long, long time.

That’s the game for a No. 3-drafted quarterback.

 

EARLY TIGHTNESS

This wasn’t the start to training camp Cecil Shorts III wanted.

Shorts, a four-year veteran wide receiver, left practice Friday with tightness in his hamstring. This came after an offseason in which Shorts missed significant time with a calf issues, but Shorts – expected to be a starter and veteran leader on a young receiving corps – said he’s not overly concerned.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

 

PLAY OF THE DAY

The Jaguars weren’t in pads Friday, so key players were scarce – until the very end of practice that is. Then, a soccer player turned in something memorable.

The player was Hugo Rodallega, who will be captain of Fulham Football Club – the team owned by Jaguars Owner Shad Khan – against D.C. United in the teams’ friendly at EverBank Field Saturday.

Rodallega worked with Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee toward the end of practice Friday. Scobee said Rodallega converted about five of seven kicks before lining up for a kick at the end of practice from about 35 yards with Fulham and Jaguars players looking on.

Rodallega converted the attempt and was cheered by players from each team.

“He came over and hit a few on his own,” Scobee said. “It took him a couple of times to get used to the difference between kicking a soccer ball and a football. The first two, he hit the right upright. I told him, ‘The good thing about kicking footballs is there’s no goalie.’ He said, ‘Oh, I see.’ I said, ‘Just aim right down the middle.’ He drilled the rest of them.’’

LOOKING ON . . .

*The Jaguars’ young wide receiver group will hear an additional voice of experience during 2014 Training Camp. That voice belongs to former NFL wide receiver Johnnie Morton, a four-time 1,000-yard receiver who is in Jaguars camp as part of the NFL’s minority coaching internship program. Morton played 12 seasons in the NFL, including 1994-2001 with the Detroit Lions. Jaguars wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan was the Lions’ wide receivers coach from 1997-2000, and Morton had his 1,000-yard seasons in 1997-1999 and 2001. “He can give us a hands-on to what Coach Sully is talking about,” Jaguars rookie wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “He’s out there to show us some stuff and take us through some detail stuff.”

*Safety Josh Evans is starting training camp limited after offseason foot surgery, but said Friday he expects to be full speed soon. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed,” he said. “I understand the process. I’m two months out of surgery and progressing to get back in.” Evans, who is expected to compete at the free safety position with Winston Guy upon his return, said he was limited to two reps per period Friday and expects to increase that as camp progresses. “I’m assuming right around the corner I’ll be back at it,” he said.

*Outside linebacker Geno Hayes will begin camp on a pattern of practicing one day and taking the next day off. That’s an effort to reduce wear and tear on the knee that kept him out of the last two games of last season. “I trust our training staff wholeheartedly,” Hayes said. “You don’t want to grind yourself out and get into the season and have things start to fall apart. It’s not bad at all. It’s good.”

 

BRADLEY SAYS

“I was really impressed with how the guys came out.  We challenged our guys from the last practice we had in June to now, to really compete and come in ready to go and in-shape.  We challenged them right from the start.”

--- Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley

 

QUOTABLE

“It feels great. You see a lot more communication out there, especially on the defensive side. When you have that continuity with guys from last year going into this year it should be an easy transition in terms of installing the playbook. Guys know each other, and you can see it.”

--- Jaguars outside linebacker Geno Hayes

 

SEXTON SAYS

A daily training camp thought from Jaguars.com Senior Correspondent Brian Sexton …

“I’m looking for Young Lions. I want to see those battles like (wide receiver) Allen Robinson versus (cornerback) Demetrius McCray. Those are two young guys the Jaguars are developing to be their future.”

 

LAGS SAYS

A daily training camp thought from Jaguars Radio Analyst Jeff Lageman …

“Offensive efficiency. I’m confident in the defense with veteran additions, but on offense there are so many new parts. Offensive line. Wide receiver. Everything. That’s why having (quarterback) Chad Henne in there – that’s a must. There are so many new parts.”

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