Jaguars want Bortles to 'step up' as starter

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Blake Bortles is treating his first career start just like any other game.

He isn't showing up early, staying late or doing any more than normal.

About the only thing that's changed is his role in the quarterbacks meeting room. Instead of sitting in the second chair and watching Chad Henne run the game-tape remote, Bortles has taken over.

"It's his responsibility to step up," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Wednesday as the Jaguars (0-3) prepared to play at San Diego (2-1). "He has to take control of those meetings because it's really not that important what any of us know. What's important is what he knows and what he can grasp and what he believes what he needs from them.

"He's going to run those meetings, and it will be a learning curve for him."

The Jaguars can only hope Bortles keeps improving at his current pace.

The former UCF standout has made steady strides since Jacksonville selected him with the third overall pick in May's NFL draft. He struggled at times in offseason drills, but was sharp in training camp and the preseason.

He was even more solid against Indianapolis on Sunday, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Granted, he played in a blowout and against a defense that surely wasn't playing with the same effort and energy that helped it build a 30-point halftime lead. But he showed poise, pocket presence, accuracy and scrambling ability.

He made a few mistakes, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but the Jaguars are willing to take the bad with the good while he gets a better grasp of the figuring out what it takes to be a full-time starter.

"Learn from it, move on and try not to make that same mistake again," Bortles said.

Asked whether he's ready for his first start, Bortles said "I don't know."

"I'm going to go out there and prepare this week and do everything that I've done — go over everything I possibly can to get ready and I'm going to go play football," he said. "We're going to play Sunday whether I'm ready or not, so I might as well get as ready as I can possibly be."

The Jaguars had planned to bring Bortles along slowly this season, even suggesting that they might keep him on the sideline the entire season. That became more and more unlikely the more Henne struggled and the losses mounted. The Jaguars rank 31st in the league in total offense and have been outscored by 75 points through three games.

They're counting on Bortles making a difference.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Floridian has enough speed to be effective in zone-read plays and a threat when chased out of the pocket. He also hasn't hesitated to change plays at the line of scrimmage, throw deep or take more chances than Henne.

"He's ready," Henne said. "You don't get drafted No. 3 overall not to be ready. It's always going to be a learning experience. Is he going to be Andrew Luck or is it going to take some time? We'll take it one day at a time and he'll go out there and do what he's supposed and make some plays."

Bortles expects to make a few against the Chargers, even if it's his first career start

"It's just another game, it's another opportunity, no bigger than any other moment," Bortles said. "You're not going to remember your first game. You're going to remember moments of it, but you're not going to remember the whole thing. Hopefully there will be many more after that."


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