If the nearly 2,000 fans in attendance for the Jaguars OTA session on Thursday was not enough to help put a smile on head coach Gus Bradley’s face, the progress made over the week and the improvements in the passing of Blake Bortles made have had something to do with it.
Bortles showed more improvement in front of the hometown crowd than he has since the OTA sessions began last week. This does not mean Bortles – the third pick in the NFL Draft – has secured the starting job for the 2014. Chad Henne will still start the first game of the season, this according to Bradley. It is believed the team wants Bortles to sit and learn the offense during the 2014 season and start for the franchise in 2015.
Here are some news and notes from OTAs this week, with news acquired from Jaguars.com and Jacksonville.com.
A depleted receiving corps
While the fans saw Bortles throw the ball with consistency and the new defensive additions from free agency, there was good and bad news with the receivers on this roster.
Marquis Lee was one of seven receivers who missed Thursday’s open practice. In addition to Lee, the Jaguars practiced without Cecil Shorts (calf), Ace Sanders (hamstring), Mike Brown (groin), Allen Robinson (hamstring), Tandon Doss (calf) and Lamaar Thomas (knee). The time off for these key players meant other youngsters like Allen Hurns of Miami had a chance to show they could work within Jedd Fisch’s passing offense.
Mr. Urlacher goes to Jacksonville
Before he came to the Jaguars to run Bradley’s defense, Bob Babich was up in Chicago, leading the Bears defense and former linebacker, Brian Urlacher. Urlacher was on the Jaguars practice fields this week offering advice and stories about his time and experience in the NFL.
Urlacher was an eight-time Pro Bowler for the Bears, playing in Chicago for 13 years. He announced his retirement after the 2012 season.
“To have somebody of his caliber talk to us and share his knowledge was big,” Jaguars outside linebacker Telvin Smith said. “I asked every question I could to get some enlightenment on what’s to come and how I can get to that caliber of a player. I was locked in and ready to listen.”
Urlacher worked under Babich for nine seasons. Babich served as Chicago’s linebackers coach from 2010-12 and was the team’s defensive coordinator before that.
While all the talk has been about Bortles, let’s not forget about the fact Chad Henne is the one who holds the keys to the Jaguars offense.
Coach Bradley has gone out of his way on multiple occasions during the first two weeks of OTAs to praise Henne. Bradley said the veteran quarterback has looked sharp and he talked Tuesday about Henne piling good practices on top of one another. He said Thursday Henne has done that throughout the first two weeks. That’s what the Jaguars wanted to see when they re-signed him in free agency.
Chris Clemons is finally in town
After missing the first few days of OTAs, free agent signee and defensive end Chris Clemons finally found his way to north Florida.
He arrived Monday. He practiced Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. That meant the sky – contrary to the reaction of some while Clemons missed the first week of OTAs – wasn’t going to fall. This story quieted considerably once Clemons arrived, but he did nothing wrong by missing voluntary workouts -- and as a veteran experienced in Bradley’s defense, there’s a limit to what he’s going to learn in the offseason. The coaches like him being here, but there won’t be many aftereffects of the week he missed.