Young Jaguars piecing together key building blocks
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley stepped to the center of a raucous postgame locker room and started screaming out names.
Bradley called out four rookies and two second-year players, as well as a few veterans, who made notable contributions in Thursday night's 21-13 victory against the Tennessee Titans.
The Jaguars (3-12) might have little to show in their second season under Bradley, but the NFL's youngest team has found several building blocks for what appears to be a bright future.
''We're trying to develop these guys and trying to create a mentality of making it highly competitive so we can get the most out of everybody,'' Bradley said Friday.
Here's a look at some of the key pieces:
- Bortles: The third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft leads the league with 17 interceptions, but the Jaguars are 2-0 when he plays turnover-free football. Those two victories, against the New York Giants and the Titans, were gritty performances in which he made plays in crunch time. He delivered a game-winning drive against the Giants and scrambled for 50 yards against the Titans despite playing on a sprained right foot.
''You know you're going to have games like this and you're going to win,'' Bortles said. ''I couldn't be happier to be a part of it. Some things are going to happen and you're going to win games when you throw for 400 yards and you lose some as well. So it's part of it. I'm just glad we won.''
- Lee, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns: Jacksonville's trio of rookie receivers has a chance to make history. If Lee has five receptions in the season finale at Houston, the Jaguars would become the first NFL team to have three rookies catch at least 40 passes in the same year.
- Telvin Smith: The rookie linebacker has double-digit tackles in three of Jacksonville's last five games. He finished with a career-high 15 stops against the Titans, continuing to show he has a knack for getting to the ball. The speedy defender has four passes defended, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.
- Chris Smith, Davis, Jones: Each of the young defensive linemen recorded a sack against Tennessee. The fourth one of the night, which Sen'Derrick Marks got on the final play of the game, received way more attention because it triggered a $600,000 bonus in Marks' contract. The youngsters didn't have quite as much to celebrate, but they provided a glimpse of the depth the Jaguars have built along the defensive front, which has been the team's best unit all season.
- Brandon Linder: A third-round draft pick from Miami, the right guard has been the lone bright spot on an offensive line that has allowed a franchise-record 66 sacks this season. The Jaguars can only hope rookie center Luke Bowanko and second-year left tackle Luke Joeckel start making the strides that Linder has this year.
- Aaron Colvin, Demetrius McCray: Cornerbacks Colvin and McCray look like draft-day steals for general manager Dave Caldwell. A standout at Oklahoma, Colvin expected to be a first-round pick in May. But he tore a ligament in his right knee at the Senior Bowl in January and fell to the fourth round. McCray, a seventh-rounder in 2013, continues to get better every week. Together, they could give the Jaguars a formidable cover tandem for years.
''With our draft picks, obviously, there's going to be some that mature faster than others,'' Bradley said. ''Those guys will continue to improve. We're very pleased - not with the results, obviously; we wish our record would be better - but as far as how they have progressed and how they're competing and those things.
''There are a lot of check-marks in our favor.''
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