JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars are willing to live with rookie Blake Bortles' turnovers.
At least some of them.
The Jaguars (1-7) want Bortles to cut his interceptions in half over the final eight games of the season. With 12 picks in five and a half games, Bortles is on pace to tie Peyton Manning's NFL rookie record for interceptions (28) set in 1998.
"If we're at 12 right now and we can have this second half of the year at six, I think we can consider it a win," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "So we just have to continue to build off of that."
Bortles has thrown five interceptions in the last two games, including two that were returned for touchdowns in a 27-13 loss to Miami on Sunday. He also fumbled inside the 30-yard line.
After the game, Bortles made it clear he was shouldering the blame for the turnovers and the loss, saying, "I'm killing us."
"That's how I still feel," he said Wednesday. "Nothing changed. I didn't say that because I was mad or anything. I think it's the way everybody's playing. The defense is playing extremely well. The offensive line is doing well. Our running game is rolling. Our receivers are doing a good job, and now I've got to take it to the next step.
"What's the deciding factor? It's been the turnovers. I think anybody can see that and they've all come from me so something's got to change in order for that to be successful."
Jacksonville plays at Cincinnati (4-2-1) on Sunday.
The Jaguars didn't plan to play Bortles this early in the season. General manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley had hoped he could sit behind veteran Chad Henne a while before making the switch.
But that changed after Henne completed a little more than 50 percent of his passes and was sacked 16 times in the first two-plus games.
Caldwell and Bradley expected growing pains with Bortles on the field, especially since the rebuilding Jaguars have one of the youngest rosters in the league. Jacksonville has two rookies and two second-year players on its offensive line, three rookie receivers and a second-year running back.
All of the youngsters are making mistakes — whether it's dropping passes, missing blocks, making the wrong reads or throwing interceptions — and as a result, Jacksonville ranks 30th in the league in total offense and last in scoring at 14.8 points a game. But Bortles' mistakes, much like any quarterback, have gotten the majority of the attention.
"I guess it's part of it, so I will continue to try and learn from these things," he said. "I will continue to learn from the things I do wrong and try and improve and do more of the right things. .... It's just about being able to move on from it and forget about it."
The Jaguars have raved about Bortles' ability to bounce back from mistakes, saying he's unflappable on the field and on the sideline.
And even though they want him to have better ball security, they don't want him playing scared.
"We all want to help him," Bradley said. "Everybody is like, 'Don't throw any more picks. Be careful.' ... We don't want him to have any fear. Just ball, man. Now, make good decisions. Fear doesn't mean reckless.
"It's just that we trust in him. He has a conscious. It's not that he doesn't care about throwing interceptions. It hurts him, but I think the best thing we can do is to teach him to learn from these difficulties and grow from them. That's really what we're looking for him to do."
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