Sam: Keep improving & Jags have a chance

By Sam Kouvaris - Sports Director
Headline Goes Here (AP Photo/Andrew Nelles)

CHICAGO - From the opening series, the Jaguars were looking to get different players involved in the offense and use their up-tempo look to move the ball down field.

Both were evident as Marqise Lee, Toby Gerhart and Marcedes Lewis all had touches for considerable gains right away.

The "no-huddle" started paying dividends right away, keeping the Bears base defense on the field for the first nine plays of the game, culminating in a Josh Scobee field goal and a 3-0 lead.

While the team has worked on the stretch running play during training camp, the Jaguars haven't had much success with it. Against the Bears on third-and-1, Gerhart failed to gain a yard.

Starting on the offensive line, Luke Joeckel, Zane Beadles, Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and Austin Pasztor gave Chad Henne good protection but didn't provide a lot of room to run.

Luke Bowanko was in the game in the second series at center for a few plays before Brewster returned. Center is an area of concern for the Jaguars' coaching staff as they're looking for the right combination.

Meanwhile, Henne showed good leadership and patience, finding open receivers both down field and coming out of the backfield. He has a good command of the offense and is finding the open man better than in the past.

Getting into the red zone is a big emphasis for the Jaguars this year, but scoring touchdowns is also what coach Gus Bradley is looking for. Again, they had a false start penalty near the goal line (Brewster failed to snap the ball on time) and settled for another Scobee field goal, 6-0.

Will Blackmon is one of those players you need around for a lot of reasons and on special teams, he continues to make an impact. A strip and a fumble recovery on the kickoff gave the Jaguars the ball back.

Henne continued to answer the bell, converting a key 10-yard pass on third down en route to a short flip for a TD to Lee and a 13-0 lead. With Chad playing well, he'll solidify his spot at the starting quarterback and quiet some of the critics. Kind of.

There continue to be calls for Blake Bortles to start NOW and take his lumps, but the Jaguars are pretty confident in their plan of Henne playing until they think Bortles is ready.

I will say Bortles has been impressive in the preseason, if only in his demeanor and his execution of what they're asking him to do. I like the Jaguars' plan, but if Bortles has to play for some reason, it won't be a disaster like putting Blaine Gabbert in the game was.

As the preseason progresses, it's obvious the league is trying to subtly change how the game is played. The illegal hits and leading with your head penalties have been minimized, as the players understand that's now illegal.

This year, it's the "illegal hands to the face" and a "crack back" block that are the points of emphasis for the officials. Flags got plenty of work calling those penalties and will continue to do so until the players figure out what's legal and what isn't.

Another solid performance across the board for the Jaguars.

The offensive line still needs work with some decisions in the middle but overall, a better game than last week.

Next week will be the Jaguars' second straight road game. They'll face Detroit, and the starters will probably play through three quarters.

We'll see if Bortles gets any late time with the 1's in the third quarter. And lots of decisions are to be made shortly as the first cuts are due after the trip to the Motor City.

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