Raiders-Jaguars could be shootout of young guns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One third-year quarterback has his team tied for first in the AFC West.

Another has an opportunity to put his team squarely into the thick of things in the AFC South.

The development of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will be on display Sunday at EverBank Field in a game between two teams trying to take a step toward snapping long playoff droughts.

"We'll always be tied together because we were in the same class," Bortles said. "Derek's an awesome guy, obviously an awesome quarterback. (He's) been doing a good job."

Both Carr and Bortles were selected in the 2014 draft by teams needing a fresh start after years of losing -- and losing big.

Carr went 36th overall to a Raiders franchise that hasn't achieved a winning record since losing Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season.

Oakland was 29-51 in the five seasons prior to drafting Carr.

Bortles went third overall to a Jaguars franchise that had been even worse during that time frame.

Jacksonville was 26-54 from 2009-2013 and hasn't made a trip to the playoffs since the 2007 season.

So far in their young careers, Carr and Bortles have given their franchises reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Carr has the Raiders (4-2) tied with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos for first in the AFC West and is proving to be a dependable quarterback who limits turnovers and can take advantage of the dynamic players he has around him.

He is tied for fifth in the league with 12 passing touchdowns and has the fewest interceptions (three) of any quarterback with at least 225 attempts.

Carr is completing 66.5 percent of his passes and averaging 7.1 yards per attempt.

"He is impressive," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "We had him at the Senior Bowl. "His demeanor, his competitiveness. He is very, very accurate. He has the ability to extend plays.

"We watched him today extending plays, making big plays down field. You talk about a guy that is playing with a lot of poise and confidence right now. He is playing at a real high level."

The season hasn't been as smooth for Bortles, but he managed to play well enough during victories over Indianapolis in London and at Chicago in the last two games to keep the Jaguars (2-3) within 1.5 games of the Houston Texans.

Bortles has eight passing touchdowns with seven interceptions this season while being sacked 14 times as part of an offense that has seemed to regress.

The Jaguars were 14th in the league in scoring last season (23.5 points per game) but have tumbled to 21st (20.2 points per game) with inconsistent play.

Jacksonville has season a big improvement from its revamped defense, led by a pair of rookies.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey knocked away a pass from Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery in the fourth quarter to seal a victory for the Jaguars last week. That came after defensive end Yannick Ngakoue earlier notched his fourth sack of the season -- joining Terrell Suggs as one of two players in NFL history to register at least four sacks and an interception in the first five games of their career.

Jacksonville's defense has gotten fourth-quarter stops against Green Bay, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Chicago this season. The Jaguars will need another strong effort defensively against Carr and his talented receivers.

Second-year receiver Amari Cooper surpassed 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie and is on pace to be even better this season. In six games, Cooper is fourth in the league with 585 receiving yards (97.5 per game) and is averaging 16.3 yards per catch.

Michael Crabtree has also been strong and is tied for the league lead with five receiving touchdowns.

A shootout could be ready to unfold between Raider coach Jack Del Rio's current and former team.

Oakland is last in the league in yards allowed (444.8 per game) and 24th in scoring defense (27.2 points per game) this season.

That could mean more big plays for Bortles and his own pair of talented receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

Each team should be mostly healthy heading into Sunday. Let the best third-year quarterback win.

"I love the culture that we've built here," Carr said. "Whenever you have four wins and two losses and you feel not very good about how you've been playing as a team, that's a good thing because you know that there is more out there for your team.

"You know that there are bigger possibilities. But we are what we've earned, and we hope to earn some more."