"Behind Enemy (Side)Lines" is an ongoing series with the opposing team's reporter. This week, J.P. Shadrick of Jaguars Radio and Jaguars.com gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent.
Blake Bortles is wrapping up his rookie season, what's been the consensus on how he's progressed this year?
"The first few weeks he was out there playing free and on the run and making plays. But then, you have to learn to play quarterback in the National Football League and stand back in the pocket and that's been an issue for this team this year. The offensive line has not been consistent from week to week, a lot of changes in that lineup which, in turn, have affected him.
"Early in his season, he was very positive but it was very green, if you will. As the season went on, you develop a little bit, face adversity with the offensive line, and some receivers being injured. Over the past few weeks, I think you've really seen him take a step – maybe not statistically because that's not going to be the case with so much youth around him.
"For example, last week (Bortles) had a sprained foot and was a question mark to even play. In fact, he ran through a workout in the pregame to see if he was even going to be active or not with a mid-foot sprain. Not only did he play through it, he won the game pretty much on his legs. He had 50 yards rushing on 4 or 5 carries and they weren't just scrambles, they were bootleg carries where he just took off, got yardage, and he led three touchdown drives when they needed it, when the Jags haven't scored touchdowns most of the season. A lot of that was in the huddle and the way he played rather than the statistics and I think that's something that's really starting to come out with him."
How does Bortles look health-wise and is it still a concern? He's taken more sacks than any other QB in the league, 66, and was in a walking boot a few weeks ago.
"Yeah, thanks for reminding me! I think he's not going to let you know how bad it really is. He's not going to complain – he could have used last week to complain because there was some rumbling that he wasn't going to play at all. He put that out of everybody's mind on Monday when he said, 'Hey, I'm playing no matter what. They're going to have to drag me off the field' and this and that.
"I think he's ok to play. I don't think that's going to be a question this week. He's out there practicing again and he's going to go as long as he can go. I don't think there's a concern for the future either, if there was, then he wouldn't be out there. They would overrule him. I think he's healthy enough to play this week and finish out his rookie season."
What's Chad Henne's role been in that quarterback room? Does he take more of a backseat or is he more of a mentor to Bortles since he became the starter?*
"They talk often. Chad Henne is still the team captain so he's very well-respected in that locker room. They saw what he did the last couple of years in this organization and they respect the changes that he's been around, and the way he's had to step back with Blake coming in as the draft pick and all that. He's there when Blake needs a question answered. (Bortles) can go to Chad if he's not comfortable going to the offensive coordinator. It's a different kind of feel and Jedd Fisch the offensive coordinator has said that. It's a good thing to have somebody in your corner like that.
"The way Chad has handled that, you wouldn't expect anything less. The guy is a true pro and has really fought through the league in a couple of different spots and has found a place here. I think that's been a great thing for Blake's development, no doubt."
Jacksonville's front seven gets a lot of praise for how it's played despite the record this season. What's been the key to their success this year?
"Those guys are absolutely veterans on this young team. The front four, especially, is the most veteran group of the team. It's all free agents for the most part. (DT) Sen'Derrick Marks had a 'Prove It' deal last year, proved it with a new contract this year, exceeded expectations with the highly-publicized bonus getting past eight sacks last week, an extra $600,000. He's been above and beyond anything that anyone expected for a second or third-tier free agent a couple of years ago. (DT) Roy Miller III, same thing, they just extended him. There's a question of whether he'll play or not this week but he's already been extended for four more years. (DE) Chris Clemons is a veteran guy who's been in the league 11 years being rotated in and out of the lineup. (DE) Tyson Alualu is a guy who's been a starter his whole career until this year, and he's taken a backseat. That's the thing, they're deep now up front so you're getting to a point where you have starters but you can bring the second-line guys in and not miss much of a step.
"The one thing they are missing is one elite outside pass rusher that you have to game plan for. You might have to game plan for Sen'Derrick inside, but there's not that guy on the outside that's going to give you 15 sacks. They just don't have that yet but as a group, it's not bad and they'll take that and that's been the real key to this defense, no doubt."
The (8-7) Texans will host the (3-12) Jaguars in the final game of the regular season on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. CT on CBS KHOU-11 and SportsRadio 610.