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Jaguars QB Blake Bortles enters training camp with an uncluttered mind

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the first time since he entered his final season at Central Florida, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said he is heading into fall camp with a clear head.

He isn't worried about transitioning from college to the NFL or staying with a revamped throwing motion and fundamentals. Bortles has to worry only about becoming more proficient in coordinator Greg Olson's offense, and though that is an important task, it isn't nearly as mentally taxing as what Bortles dealt with the past two offseasons.

"It definitely feels good," Bortles said as the Jaguars prepared for their first training camp practice Thursday. "It feels good to come in and have a bit of a foundation on both sides, physically and mentally. We were in a system for a year last year, and not to say that we have it or anywhere near that mastering of what we're trying to do, but I think having a bit of a foundation, physically and mentally, helps definitely for me. I think it allows me to feel more comfortable about things, for sure.”

That should be good news for the Jaguars' offense. Bortles had a rough rookie season in 2014. He threw for 11 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions, then spent the entire offseason reworking his throwing motion (he shortened his windup and lengthened his follow-through) and cleaning up fundamentals. That helped him make a significant leap in his second season, when he set franchise records in attempts (606), completions (355), passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35).

Earlier this month, Bortles spent six days in California with throwing coach Tom House, who helped him the previous offseason, but only to fine-tune a few things. He spent the rest of the offseason throwing with receivers in town, seeking advice from quarterbacks such as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and trying to gain a deeper understanding of Olson's offense.

"I've said it before: I want to know the offense better than anybody in the building, including Oly [Olson], and it's just going to take time. It's going to take reps," Bortles said. "Last year, we learned a lot. We were able to do a lot and felt good with it.

"This year, we want to be better at it. The decision-making should be way better, the crispness, the time it takes to get the ball out, the anticipation and all that stuff -- should expect it to be better after going through it for a year."

Although Bortles' mind wasn't cluttered by a new throwing motion or the transition from college to pro football this offseason, he set a goal of becoming a more efficient passer in his third season. Bortles wants to raise his completion percentage above 60 -- it was 58.7 through two seasons -- and cut down his interceptions (35 in two seasons). The best ways to achieve that are being better with shorter passes and making smarter decisions with the football.

Quarterbacks coach Nate Hackett has a system in which he puts passes into three categories: short passes, passes down the field and deep shots. The ideal completion percentages for each category are 80, 60 and 40.

Bortles was not very good at the first category last season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bortles completed 61.5 percent of passes (313 attempts) that traveled up to 10 yards in the air, which ranked 31st in the NFL. His 21 touchdown passes on those short throws were third, but his 88.0 passer rating and 55.9 Total QBR ranked 21st and 23rd, respectively.

"Accuracy is a part of it. I think decision-making is a part of it," Bortles said. "I think timing, getting balls out when they're supposed to be out and on time [is important], but I think going into that second year [in the offense] that 1/100th of a second of a decision that gets made quicker helps out a lot."

Those decisions are easier to make when you aren't trying to adapt to the speed of the game or worrying about mechanics.