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Jaguars love Bortles' toughness and diving for a TD in preseason game goes with that

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles didn’t think his diving touchdown run last Friday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a big deal.

It was fourth down and the Jaguars needed 3 yards for a first down and 4 yards for a touchdown, so when he couldn’t find anyone open he took off for the end zone.

However, he dived headfirst, took a pretty good shot from a defender, and bounced a couple times on the turf at EverBank Field. That is a big deal, especially since it was the second quarter of the first preseason game.

It was a big deal to the fans, who seemed to hold their breath until Bortles popped back to his feet. It also was a big deal to head coach Gus Bradley, who knows the Jaguars’ success in 2015 largely depends on the second-year quarterback.

But he also knows that’s Bortles’ personality. It’s also one of the things the Jaguars loved about him and what makes him a good leader.

"One of the things that we were committed to is that one aspect of his game where it’s a strong suit is his toughness," Bradley said. "He has great toughness. You can do two things; you can coach him out of that or say that’s an asset. The team rallies around it and we don’t want him to change who he is, but let’s be smart.

"If it’s first-and-10, slide. If it’s a third down and 3 and you’ve got a chance to get it you’ve got to pick and choose, so it’s that play smart again."

It never entered Bortles’ head that it was only a preseason game and he should avoid contact to ensure that he’s healthy and ready for the regular season. He probably could have just run out of bounds and gotten the first down, but the pylon was right in front of him and the team needed the points.

"I think any time you get in the red zone, a big thing on any team is the quarterback running," he said. "I think that kind of adds another dimension. I was able to get out of the pocket and make it to the corner of the end zone."

That was the only kind of negative thing (depending on your viewpoint, anyway) about Bortles’ performance against the Steelers. He had just four incompletions, including three drops, and threw for 118 yards.

Granted, the Steelers probably didn’t spend much time game-planning for Bortles and some of the first-team defenders were on the sideline by the second quarter, but under those circumstances you expect a quarterback to play well. If he hadn’t, that would have sounded some alarms.

"Pittsburgh probably didn’t scheme. We didn’t go in there looking at matchups," Bradley said. "What you’re looking for is a quarterback that understands his progressions, keeps his poise and takes advantage of what the defense gives us. I thought in those areas Blake did a good job. I was really pumped for him because in practice we saw that poise.

"It’s a little bit easier to develop that in a calm environment. When the environment became heightened, he did the same thing and his competitiveness showed off. I was very pleased with that. Timing, accuracy, decision-making, all a pretty good start for him."

Tight end Marcedes Lewis was impressed -- but he also was worried when he saw Bortles diving for the touchdown.

"I don’t need that out of him, you know what I mean?" Lewis said with a laugh. "I’m proud of him because I know how he works at it and he has such a great attitude about it. If he misses a throw or if he makes a throw he still has the same face. He’s one of those guys that you want playing with you out there."